I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with the emotion of ANGER! Sometimes I am so angry that I love it and stew in it for a long time, while other times I get angry at myself for getting angry! Let’s take a look at this rather confusing emotion that we all have and need.
Can anger be a good thing, or is always a bad thing? As a child, I was taught that it is better to be nice and considerate and to avoid being angry at people or things. Most children are taught to suppress their anger, which often affects us as adults, because anger is “all bad.”
But is anger always bad? I believe it is a strong indicator that things are not as they should be and there can be very good. I have been challenged by this quote from Harriet Lerner, author of the book, The Dance of Anger.
“Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others.”
Lerner goes on to say that people often underfunction or overfunction in how they relate to themselves and others within relationships. Underfunctioning people are more passive, reactionary, and willing to let things be. Under functioning people allow for other people to make decisions for them about themselves that they should in fact be making. Often there is a fear that people will leave or abandon them if they indeed do start to take responsibility for themselves or state their position clearly. For the underfunctioning person, there is often a strong anxiety tied to their bubbling anger that takes time to burst.
Overfunctioning people are often angry that underfunctioning people don’t function enough! So they take it on themselves to cross the boundaries of others and try and control their environment and relationships to the way they want it.
Lerner says that anger is a tool and I agree with her because it does force us to ask the question, “Why am I angry and who am I angry with?” The temptation is to believe that anger is always about the other person, when in fact anger is also strongly tied to ourselves and our own anxiety.
When we become angry, it is often because we feel threatened, and it is good to reflect on what those threats might be. This type of self-reflection is a helpful start to understanding the roots and the narratives of anger in each person, and helps individuals focus on what they can control rather than what they cant.