Is Your Anger Destructive or Productive?
“Anyone can become angry; that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right moment, for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not easy.”
Anger is an emotion we all experience many times throughout our lives. It may be in moments of minor importance, like getting stuck in a traffic jam, or it may come during much more significant matters, such as getting fired from a job.
Anger, just like all emotions, is necessary and has different levels of intensity. Anger is born from a feeling of frustration, of a hope or desire that has gone unresolved.
Why do we get angry?
There are many different causes and triggers that propel us to anger. It depends on each person. What makes one person mad may not necessarily anger someone else, and we may also feel anger and rage in different degrees of intensity than other people.
Anger is produced when we want something that, to us, is important, and we encounter some kind of obstacle blocking our way to obtaining what we want.
For example: You really want to go out to the movies, you have made a plan with your significant other, and have even picked the movie you want to see. Then, that person arrives home very tired and no longer wants to go to the movies. In a moment like this, we become frustrated, and this can lead us to feel anger.
This kind of situation can appear in many areas of our daily lives. The feelings of anger and frustration we are faced with in these situations gives us energy to confront the obstacle we have encountered. However, many of these obstacles are not planned, and it is important to channel this energy so that it does not turn into destructive behavior and torment us later on.
This energy overload is what we call anger, and it serves as an essential function so we can meet our frustration head on in order to secure our need or desire which has been threatened.
What factors determine whether or not our anger is destructive?
Whether the anger we experience is destructive — meaning that our excess energy not only doesn’t allow us to solve things, but actually makes them worse — will depend on our beliefs, how we interpret our anger, and the conclusions we draw from the obstacle that is the source of our frustration.
If we evaluate the obstacle as something that is intentionally hindering us, then we are capable of unleashing enough energy to fight a battle.
Our body will secrete a greater quantity of the neurotransmitters adrenaline and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) to activate our senses of vigilance and readiness to confront and fight.
Depending on the belief that we have about the obstacle confronting us, and whether it is impeding our wants voluntarily or involuntarily, our response will change to suit the type of obstacle we are facing.
When the obstacle is considered to be blocking us voluntarily, our anger is destructive, and we will take our feelings out on the obstacle in the same way we believe that it is affecting us, as if we were entering a battle.
Bearing this in mind, if we are faced with the same scene as before and we believe that our boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse is intentionally denying us what we want, then we turn our anger towards that person, creating a conflict that could lead to strong feelings of unease and discomfort.
Each time we experience frustration, we are given an opportunity to evaluate, consciously or unconsciously, the cause that has created it. Immediately, we are able to give a response regardless of whether or not the intention was negative.
Due to the fact that our reactions depend on our personal experience and the nature of our character, some people live their lives constantly feeling destructive anger. They interpret all of their obstacles and frustrations as forces that are willingly and intentionally against them, whether it is the people around them, or simply their own destiny.
“If our minds are dominated by anger, we will lose the best part of the human intelligence: wisdom, the ability to decide between right and wrong.”
– Levy, N. (2000). La sabiduría de las emociones. Plaza & Janés.