UPDATED 1/22/2019 While anger often has a negative ring to it, given the negative physical, mental and emotional impacts, there’s also an unexpected silver lining. Anger can change the world when channeled the right way. Personally, anger can transform your life and lead to happy outcomes if you find the positive side of it.
How Anger Improves the World
Anger is a signal that something is not the way we believe it should be. Sometimes that anger is triggered by and focused on injustice. The victims of injustice may be ourselves, someone else, or a collective wrong inflicted on a particular group of people or, more globally (literally), on humankind. Anger over injustice can be a catalyst for:
- many social and civil rights movements – people of color, women, the LGBTQ community
- leaving a job with a toxic work environment
- speaking up and speaking out about abuse – physical, mental/emotional,
- the Paris Accord on climate change
The positive side of anger is the action it can trigger, the force for good it can become if channeled constructively, and the sense of purpose it can create or awaken.
How to use anger to improve your life
In your own life, think about what angers you. There must be something!
“The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing.”
– Edward Abbey
It likely involves someone or something you love, a fear of yours, uncertainty about your life, or a regret.
Once you realize what angers you, use it for positive change.
In a TED Talk, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, encourages transforming anger for positive social outcomes. It’s a way to rid the world of evil and injustice. If we all look at our anger as positive fuel, we can make the world a better place.
For Satyarthi, how do we make peace? We get angry! We channel the energy that comes from anger into positive and peaceful solutions.
Transformation rarely happens overnight, nor is it easy. If it were easy to find peaceful solutions to conflict, the world would have no evil. It takes hard work whether you’re advocating for world peace or trying to find peace within your own family or soul.
No matter your goal, whether it’s global or self-centered, there are actions you can take to begin the journey that can ultimately help you convert all your energy into meaningful action.
Coping with anger
Now that you’re ready to cope with anger and channel that energy into positive change, how do you do it?
- First, get rid of negative energy. Recognize why you are angry. What are the physical signals of your anger? How do you react? Do you yell, punch a wall, or storm out of a room?
- Second, identify your anger triggers and chip away at them over time to enable you to respond differently. What drives you to get so angry? Is it love, fear, disappointment, regret, or uncertainty? Track them in an anger log to find patterns.
- Third, develop a tactic to stop anger in its tracks in the moment. For example, you can try deep breathing techniques or agreeing to disagree when it is evident there are irreconcilable differences at play.
- Fourth, speak out. Voice your concerns. It may lead to a snowball effect like the “Me Too” movement and encourage others to say something too. You can’t fix a problem if leaders don’t know about it.
- Finally, learn about the benefits of gratitude. It is difficult in any given moment to be both grateful and angry at the same time, but it’s not impossible. A grateful life leads you to focus on happiness.
- How are you transforming your anger?
(Personal Insight MD, LLC, PeopleTweaker, and Insight MD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are feeling extreme anger with thoughts and actions harmful to yourself or others such as physical/verbal abuse or acts of violence, find yourself self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, etc., expressing your anger in such a way that threaten relationships or your job, etc. seek professional help immediately and call 911 if necessary if you find yourself in an out-of-control situation or have the urge to hurt yourself or others.)