Anger can get a bad rap. It's not always bad to be angry. Getting angry in certain situations is understandable, and learning to figure out what is going on with yourself when you feel angry is useful. While you don't want to act out with anger, or take it out on other people, you do want to recognize it, and channel the anger towards constructive action if at all possible.
It's not good to let anger marinate inside you. Internalizing anger can make you feel sad, powerless, and depressed. There are gender-based differences in the expression of anger. Women are more likely to not recognize anger, and turn it inwards to self-blame and sadness. Men are more likely to express anger, and less likely to express vulnerability.
Sometimes recognizing what you are REALLY angry and frustrated about takes some thought, meditation, quiet time to reflect, or a good workout. Underneath strong anger there is usually some hurt. The next time you get really angry, you might stop and ask yourself what you might really be hurt about.
Anger, once identified and reflected upon, can be channeled.
I have known people who got so frustrated with supervisors, meetings, and unnecessary bureaucracy at work that they made a plan and became an entrepreneur. That’s good use of anger.
There are people who figure out that when they are uptight and feel like picking a fight with their partner or children that they need to go for a run to release that keyed up feeling and be ready to be relational again. Again, that’s excellent self-awareness of tension and anger building.
It's so important not to project your unexamined anger out on others. It's been said that “I'm never really upset for the reason I say I am.” There is some truth to that saying. Each person is responsible for sorting out their own anger and frustration, and figuring out what it means. Perhaps you hate your job and are taking it out on your loved ones, when you really need to address the career issues. Maybe you are holding on to unspoken resentment with your partner, and need to assertively claim more equity in the relationship.
In her classic book, The Dance of Anger (Harper and Row, 1985), Harriet Learner beautifully addresses the unique issues faced in expressing anger. The feminine archetype often doesn't include anger. Many women are conflict avoidant, and are so focused on keeping harmony in their relationships that they don't even recognize when they are being stepped on, taken advantage of, and need to speak up on their own behalf. In relationships we need an 'I' and a 'We.' Women are socialized to be nice, sweet, and relational. Women are afraid at times to assert their own needs and desires for fear of being thought of as bitchy or demanding.
Anger can be a guide to understanding more about our authentic self, and what we need in life and in relationships. While we don't want to act out and hurt others with our anger, or blame others, we do need to understand it and have our anger help us understand that we need more of a partnership, more consideration and caring from a partner. Anger can be a signal we have some negotiating to do. Anger can tell us we need to do something different, at home or at work.
It takes courage to break out of the relationship dances we get into, but if you are noticing that you're angry, it's time to reflect about changing your dance steps. Learning a few new dances could be fun, and surprise a few people. It's never too late to learn a few new dance steps with regard to how we grow from our anger.