The last line before Zack de la Rocha spits the words “freedom, yeah right freedom” in his song of the same name, is “Anger is a gift.” This line sticks in mind even after more than two decades, as does the rest of Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled debut, because of its power. The way in which the words are propelled by de la Rocha’s mouth says more than the meaning of the words.
But a gift? Anger wells in the pit of your stomach as a mixture of fear and frustration. We get angry at our children, our bosses and ourselves for different reasons. Some of the following facts about anger may surprise as well as impress you, but all told anger’s gift is one that can damage the body or soul of the angry host, so recognition and control of anger is the key to using the emotion effectively.
1. Anger is not inherently bad.
While anger pits in the stomach, the emotion itself is not inherently bad. Men, women and children experience anger differently. Whereas children most often feel anger from the perspective of frustration–they can’t have what they want when they want it–adults get angry when they feel out of control. Anger itself isn’t a bad or even a dangerous thing, but it always needs consideration. As with any emotion, understanding why it is felt is the first step to reaping its benefits.
2. Anger is an emotion with physiological effects.
We all understand the feeling of a rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and burning stomach as our muscles tighten and we feel anger. The “fight or flight” system engages as we decide how best to deal with our anger. According to an article in Psychology Today, expressing anger is always the best thing for you. When anger feeds off itself, your release of anger causes you more damage. Be wary of the cycle that wreaks havoc on your nervous system.
3. One benefit of anger is motivation.
When we feel that emotion that riles us up, we also feel motivated. At first, knowing how best to act is difficult, but in time the emotion of anger can drive us to create something innovated to solve a problem. While we can all relate to anger as a result of injustice or pain (like when a lover cheats or a boss promotes another worker), we don’t always realize that stress and taking on too much can cause angry outbursts. The body and mind sometimes work together to tell us we need to cut back at work or find more time to relax. Motivating ourselves to enjoy life more and stress less is one of the best benefits of anger.
4. Humor can diffuse anger.
Realizing that life is stressful is only the first step. Actually, the realization is more like lacing up the shoes than even taking that first step. The first step comes from the understanding that anger is an emotion that men and women feel differently, and anger does not have to control us. The simple act of laughing at anger can diffuse it.
In an argument, one person can defeat the mounting anger with a joke. I wouldn’t recommend a stand-up comedy act to diffuse a dangerous hostage situation, but when your coworkers can’t agree on a project, trying to diffuse the situation with office antics can help everyone get focused.
5. Uncontrolled anger and angry outbursts are linked to stroke and heart attack.
When you just can’t shake the anger and it feeds off itself for too long, you will either find yourself making yourself physically sick or your outburst can land you in jail. An article published by CNN shows a link between angry outbursts and increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can exacerbate the effects of anger, putting you at an increased risk for cardiovascular events.
6. People are not always the triggers of anger.
When our environment causes stress and frustration we experience anger, just as we experience anger with people who cause us stress and frustration. People are not always the trigger, unless they are the drivers on clogged highways contributing to road rage. Noise pollution, such as what one living in a construction zone would hear, triggers anger and sometimes we don’t even realize it.
If you find yourself getting angry and you’re not sure why, listen to your environment and recognize whether or not you get enough peace and quiet. Rushing around after kids or running from meeting to meeting in the corporate world can leave you stressed and angry. In this condition, you aren’t angry with anyone, but your environment is making you angry.
7. A plan for relaxation can combat anger.
In an attempt to benefit from anger, you should plan to relax on a regular basis. Along with eating well and exercising, planning time to relax by taking the kids to the park or enjoying a show with a friend can combat anger. We plan as much as we can for work, for our families and for our futures, but when we forget to plan to relax we give rise to anger.
8. When you feel the anger emotion, something needs examination.
Again, anger itself is not a bad thing. The motivating power of anger can act as an incentive to release pent-up aggression at the gym. When we first feel that anger, we need to examine it and understand its origin. What does the emotion mean? Are we distrustful of our partners? Does our body need to release tension and stress?
Only by examining the underlying issues and significance of anger can we understand how best to act. Sometimes, screaming into a pillow, pummeling a cardboard cutout of a boss or writing a nasty letter we don’t intend to mail can help us express the anger in a healthy manner, but we won’t know until we know why we feel the anger.
9. Aggression is anger in action.
Feeling the anger, and choosing to take a deep breath or choosing to verbally assault a cheating lover is the difference between anger as an emotion and anger in action. Aggression is when we act on our anger, and aggression can land us in jail. Men often feel like showing anger in public or in the workplace is a sign of weakness. Hiding feelings of anger can cause outbursts at home in these situations. Accept when you feel angry and try to understand its root.
When anger must be released in a physical form, try mixed martial arts or boxing lessons to control the aggressive instinct. The benefit from anger in this scenario is that you can express your aggression and exercise at the same time. Sometimes, this physical exercise is what the body needed when the mind felt the anger emotion.
10. Anger teaches us about our ability to cope
We all experience anger from time to time, and even when we repeatedly feel frustrated and irritable our feelings may not indicate anything abnormal. Anger teaches us about our ability to cope because we can easily and objectively look at ourselves and answer a few questions. Am I feeling angry? Sometimes, we feel pressured or rushed and that leads to anger. Solving the underlying problem in this situation means planning and being more organized.
When we realize that we are having a hard time managing anger, we might need to look more closely at how our lives are structured. While we can’t always knock off work and take a weekend trip to a quiet beach, we can work on the controlling biggest stressors in our lives. When we find we can no longer control our emotions, cope effectively or express aggression, we need to consider anger management. Sometimes, anger is a gift we’d best return.
Featured photo credit: morguefile via Morguefile
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