7 Surprising Situations Where Anger Can Be Useful

This week I had an interesting conversation, which started very normal but turned into argument and eventually ended with Anger and stomping feet.

From a behavioural analysis point of view, it was fear promoting arguments without logic, when those arguments were understood to be counter-productive. The protection of oneself (and his thoughts) was done by anger.

So the story was like this.

I’ve a relative, who is avoiding to drive car for a while (almost a year). He knows how to drive when there is less traffic but the fear shows up when things get busier. As with anything you need practice, a lot of it if you want to become proficient. So I was suggesting him to keep practising.

The highlights of the conversation was like….

A: But there is no car available for me, when I want to drive.
Me: But you’ve 3 cars, why don’t you take any of the other two.

A: But I don’t feel comfortable on the other cars. And the car I prefer is available only few hours a day.
Me: So why don’t you practice in the hours it is available? Did you ask to have the car at home for you to practice?

A: No, I didn’t ask. And when it is available, I have other things to do.
Me: If you really want to become better at this, you’ve to put effort. Significant amount of it. Do you want me to ask your dad to keep your preferred car at home?

At that point, the conversation started heating up. The tone of voice changed and frustration was clearly visible on facial expressions.

A: You don’t understand. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. You are just not trying to help me.

Eventually, I let it go. When someone is angry or frustrated, The logical part of their brain is over taken by the emotional side. The emotions take over and any logical argument is wasted effort.

While that conversation ended in bitterness, I thought how can we make anger stop turning things into a disaster. Here are few thoughts…

1: See and Feel the Anger

A mindfulness technique. Observe the warning signs before it gets too late. As soon as anger signs like body heats up, muscles get tensed, and breathing shortens. You know something is triggering this emotion or feeling. Take a pause and see what is causing the Anger. Is there a logical reason behind this anger? If I’m speaking or defending myself in this angry state, am I making sense?

2: Measure your Anger

Based on the Brief Solution Focused Therapy

Assess whether your anger is increasing, decreasing, or stable in the given situation. You could rate it on a one-to-10 scale, for instance, with one being a peaceful saint and 10 being an explosive warrior going to battle. If you see yourself going towards the 10 mark, ask what I can do to bring myself closer to 1.

3: Don’t bring the past

This is one of the rules for living of Dalai Lama. He says “In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past. The past is constant, unchanging. Bringing it up can only bring more pain to the current situation. This is a problem especially with loved ones because relationships with them go so far back into the past and are so fuelled by emotion. Forgive any past actions and focus on the present.

4: Get Out

Just walk off the situation, if that helps. If you realise that the other person is getting angry and you both are not going to end up in a fruitful conclusion, walk off. Walking off and taking time out would be the best option, till the emotional arousal has gone down.

Personally, I feel we should avoid anger and also the world around us portrays Anger as the negative and bad emotion.

I started searching for situations where anger can be productive. Here’s

7 Surprising Situations Where Anger Can Be Useful

1: It creates strong desire:

In one study participants were shown objects they associated with a reward. Some, though, were first exposed to angry faces. Those shown the angry faces were more likely to want objects they were subsequently exposed to (Aarts et al., 2010).

2: It is physically helpful:

When used constructively, anger benefits heart patients who have problems with hostility. According to one analysis by Davidson and colleagues published in Health Psychology (2000), anger helps these patients maintain their resting blood pressure.

3: It is better for getting vote of confidence:

In 2001, Dr. Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology citing four studies that found evidence for people granting more status to politicians who express anger than to politicians who express sadness or guilt.

4: It gives stronger sense of control:

In a study reported in the July 2001 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 81, No. 1), she and Dacher Keltner, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley, found that angry people had a stronger sense of control and certainty than fearful people.

5: It hardly turns into aggression:

In fact, anger seems to be followed by aggression only about 10 percent of the time, and lots of aggression occurs without any anger,” notes Howard Kassinove, PhD, co-author with R. Chip Tafrate, PhD, of “Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practice” (Impact, 2002).

6: It gives self-awareness:

A sample of Americans and Russians were asked about how recent outbursts of anger had affected them (Kassinove et al., 1997). 55% claimed that getting angry had let to a positive outcome. One top of this one-third said that anger provided an insight into their own faults.

7: It improves relationship:

Research has shown that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be detrimental (Baumeister et al., 1990). The problem is that when you hide your anger, your partner doesn’t know they’ve done something wrong. And so they keep doing it. And that doesn’t do your relationship any good.

If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change.

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Mrugank Patel
mrugank.patel@gmail.com