What is Anger?

    An Emotion with a Bad Reputation

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    Ron Artest (he goes by Meta World Peace these days) is a well-known basketball player and sports celebrity.
    You may be familiar with his legendary temper, which in 2004 won him a seventy-three game suspension, the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history. In addition to his anger on the court, Ron was arrested twice for violence against his wife. What you may not know is that this impulsive celebrity is using his star power for good. After winning the NBA title with the Lakers in 2010, Ron told a reporter, “I’d like to thank my psychiatrist. She really helped me relax.” Since then, he has met with U.S. policymakers to advocate for mental health in schools. Instead of leading the game in suspensions due to violence, he is leading the way on anger management.

    All emotions have similar characteristics, but anger, in its simplest form, is the most passionate of them all. An angry person becomes stronger and more energized when the fight/flight response is engaged.

    Have you ever let your angry emotions get the best of you?

    A ubiquitous emotion, it arises from restraint. When we are confronted, many of us will internalize the feelings, rather than outwardly express anger. It also arises when we assess and ultimately interpret that our goals or plans have been interfered with, or a barrier has been placed in the way of an established goal.

    Anger increases people’s sense of control, which is directed at overcoming or righting the restraint we perceive as illegitimate. The anger-based attack can be verbal or non-verbal. Other common responses are to express hurt feelings or avoid the person all together.

    Anger as the most passionate emotion is also the most dangerous. In this form, its purpose is to destroy barriers in the environment. About one-half of anger episodes include yelling or screaming, and about 10 percent of anger episodes lead to physical aggression. When anger prompts physical aggression, needless injury occurs. An anger-fueled temper is also a health and wellness liability, increasing the person’s likelihood of a heart attack.

    Anger is responsible for destroying marriages and relationships. On average, twenty people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their home, which equals 10 million men and women worldwide.

    But anger can also be a productive emotion when it energizes vigor, strength, and endurance. People who express anger positively get more respect than those who express sadness and guilt. Anger has a social function, too. Emotional expressions of one person can prompt behavioral interactions of another. When we bare our teeth, others are placed on warning. When one shows anger, it can be a social deterrent that others will pick up on.

    Not only does anger help us cope, it also energizes and directs behavior to help people around us respond in ways that produce results for the common good.

    It’s important to remember, that despite the reputation anger has, there are no bad emotions. The emotion is not something we should eliminate or suppress. All emotions are beneficial because they direct attention and channel behavior. It is the matter in which we go about it that affects the desired outcome. Utilizing techniques that will calm us down long enough to not act on impulse  if the act is not warranted is how we can tame the angry monster within.

    Three Ways to Deal with Anger

    1. Assess the situation and what it means to us.

    2. Practice calming breathing techniques.

    3. Keep an anger journal to explore situations and their personal relevance.

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    Adina Silvestri
    Adina Silvestri, LPC, EdD, is a licensed professional counselor, researcher, and counselor educator who works with adults and children in her private practice, Life Cycles Counseling.