But I’m So Angry!

Sometimes it feels good to be angry, especially when we let it show.  There’s something satisfying about letting our feelings out: having a good rant, shaking our fist at the driver who just cut us off in traffic, writing that snappy put-down in response to someone’s idiotic Facebook post, and even, when we feel the occasion warrants it, letting loose with a string of good old-fashioned curse words.  Giving voice to our bottled up frustrations and finally expressing our self-righteous indignation can feel liberating and even empowering.  And if we’re not careful, being angry can turn into a habit, and then turn from a habit into an actual lifestyle.

DSC01440 2We seem to be living in a time when there is a lot to be angry about, and we are reminded of it daily.  The news media is full of stories of all sorts of injustices, and even if we turn off the news, we see plenty of injustice in our day-to-day lives.  Too often good manners are replaced with rudeness and discourtesy, and who hasn’t spent far too much time on hold with what some company laughingly refers to as their customer service department?  The Presidential campaign is heating up, generating plenty of anger on both sides, and it seems as if just keeping our heads above water in a struggling economy is becoming more difficult by the day.  Any way you look at it, there is plenty to stoke our anger.

But the problem is, being angry doesn’t solve anything.  It may be a natural response to provocation, and it may even provide a sense of immediate gratification (“Boy, did I tell them!”) but in the long run, it accomplishes nothing.  When we yell at someone, all we do is alienate them, making them feel attacked and resentful.  Ditto for shaking fists, cursing, “take downs” in someone’s comment section, etc.  Ultimately, expressing our anger is more about pleasing ourselves than about solving a problem, and it usually makes things worse.

I think the key is to use our anger as the inspiration and motivation to deal with a problem.  Being angry because I was on hold for twenty minutes over an inaccurate phone bill can give me the stamina to stay on the line until I get an actual manager who can help.  My anger over neglected and abused animals gives me the strength to keep going back to the local humane society each week, which means I can be a (very small) part of the solution to animal abuse.  And my anger over our current, incredibly cruel and divisive political scene gives me the strength to do my best to treat people who believe differently than I do with respect and common courtesy.  Because I never want to believe that any group of people deserves to be beaten down.

IMG_0066Of course there will always be times when I lose my temper and say and do things that I shouldn’t.  But I don’t want to revel in those times, fooling myself into thinking that just because my anger is justified that it’s actually helpful.  I’ve seen far too many people get stuck in that unproductive and unhappy “angry at the world” mode to want to be a part of that.  Instead, I want to apologize to whomever I snapped at, and then take some deep breaths, go for a run around the block, call a neutral friend who is kind enough to let me vent, or do whatever it takes to calm myself down.  And then I want to look at the situation with fresh eyes and the question, “Is there something I can do to make this better?”

28 thoughts on “But I’m So Angry!

  1. So well said Ann. Anger, if expressed properly, can propel us forward to make positive change but it’s never good when it becomes a habit. I get angry in the car at idiot drivers and when I see injustices but at the end of the day we have to let go. It’s not healthy for anyone to stay permanently angry.

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  2. You’re right, Ann. Anger can be destructive in so many way, from words that are spoken to our actions, both of which we can’t undo. We’re much better off walking away, not writing that email, keeping our thoughts inside and not reacting until we’ve had a chance to gather our emotions and react in a positive way. Easy to say, harder to do in the moment but as you say, it only makes us feel better for an instant. The damage lasts much longer.

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    • Yes, the instant gratification that comes from expressing our anger just isn’t worth the damage we do when we lash out. And I think it’s so easy to get stuck in that “angry” mode, rather than trying to do something about whatever it is that is making us angry. Sometimes I think one of the main measures of personal maturity is the ability to control our temper. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. There are SO many angry people where I work and seemingly where I live now! It’s really strange! I wrote a blog post about it recently. It’s a very stressful environment to work in and really makes me upset. I don’t get it and I don’t think people apologize. It’s suppose to be mature people (Doctors/ RN’s) that act this way…cursing and raising their voices, belittling others….it only serves to make those of us that this behavior is turned on to do our jobs less effectively rather than better. It reminds of working in a child care center some days, except the kids don’t seem to forget things and act OK the next minute…??

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  4. You are so right, Ann. Unmanaged anger is so destructive. Let’s all take a deep breath, shall we?
    Thanks so much for following my blog, Ann. Looking forward to reading more great posts!

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  5. Anger can probably be a very useful tool when it’s well directed. You mentioned that you sometimes lose your temper but that you don’t want to revel in those times. I think this is a very wise attitude, but it is good that you can get angry sometimes. I think it’s probably necessary for our psychological health.

    Unfortunately, anger and I have a difficult relationship. I virtually never lose my temper, which may sound great, but in fact can sometimes be a problem. For one thing it means that because I don’t have the safety valve of venting, when I encounter serious hardships I sometimes react only with despair. This is an even less helpful response than anger, I think.

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    • Good point. I was raised in a household with too much anger being expressed, so I make it a point to try not to express mine, at least in a way that can be harmful to others. But I can swear with the best of them at times, and I am lucky enough to have friends who will let me vent when I need to.
      I can see where being unable to express your anger would be a problem, because, as you say the only alternative is despair (or perhaps indifference, which is not much better). And that makes sense, because I read somewhere that depression is simply anger turned inward. I hope you get to the point where you are comfortable expressing your anger when you need to!
      I think the trick is to know how to “let off steam” safely, and then use the anger as a motivation to change whatever situation is making us angry. But that, of course, is much easier said than done.

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    • Thank you Kim! I think anger can be almost addictive, or at least become our “go to” emotion when we are presented with something we don’t like. It’s an emotion that always needs to be acknowledged, and sometimes needs to be expressed, but often needs to be controlled. Otherwise, it damages both us and the people around us.

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  6. I spent a lot of time being angry when I was younger. It was only as I got older that I realised how utterly draining it can be to reside in that state perpetually. Nowadays I have a good vent when it’s required (usually in my blog!) and once it’s vented, it’s no longer allowed to have any further power over me. I’ve also been lucky enough to find a way to vent without directing it at everyone around me. That was a hard lesson to learn but I’ve found the middle-aged Zen me rather liberating 🙂

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