The title might be a bit misleading. The piece still largely talks about how not to be angry by providing us an understanding of the factors that drive anger in the first place, how we can manage them so we avoid the adverse consequences of rage. However, the piece also talks about how it is human to go through the emotion of anger and may not be completely avoidable for most of us. Given this, the author Ryan Martin, a professor of psychology and the author of Why We Get Mad: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change, also talks about how to channelise our anger productively. He begins by identifying three factors of anger:
“People often attribute their anger directly to external events: ‘I got mad because of the traffic.’ ‘When my boss undermined me, it made me so mad.’ In fact, a better explanation is that anger emerges from three interacting factors: a provocation, the person’s interpretation of the provocation, and their mood at the time.”
He says being aware of these three factors gives context to our anger and helps deal with it on most occasions. And then goes onto the interesting bit about using anger productively:
“I think of anger as a fuel that can energise you to solve problems. Like any fuel, though, it can be unstable. If it gets out of control, you can blow up in a way that’s dangerous to yourself or those around you. For this reason, the first step to using your anger productively is knowing when it’s become a problem for you.
Anger can be expressed in a near-infinite number of ways, and some of them have serious and potentially catastrophic consequences. People who are chronically angry are more likely to get into physical and verbal fights, drive recklessly, damage property, and abuse alcohol and other drugs. If you experience such serious negative consequences because of your anger, you should seek professional help and advice.
However, though you might be tempted to categorise expressions of anger as either good or bad, or healthy or unhealthy, there is never a single right thing to do when you’re angry. For instance, there are certainly times when holding in your anger is the best option because expressing it might be risky or unsafe, but suppression can have mental and physical health consequences if you gravitate towards it too often. The best thing to do when you’re angry always depends on context.
At its core, your anger is telling you that there’s a problem. One way to productively express it is to use the energy it provides to solve that problem. This might include addressing relatively small issues in your life that lead to frequent frustrations: the mild irritation you feel when you frequently misplace your wallet might encourage you to develop a better system to track it; the leaky tap in your kitchen might annoy you into fixing it. Or there might be bigger issues: using your anger might also mean asserting yourself by having a meaningful but maybe difficult conversation with someone in your life. If you feel ignored at work, or are treated poorly by a family member, your anger might help you stand up for yourself. Being able to communicate your anger to people in productive ways is an important skill. It can be challenging to maintain professionalism and stay on topic when you’re angry, but communicating how you’re feeling, along with listening to others in those moments, can be another valuable way that your anger can serve you.”
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