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7 Ways to Use Anger for Positive Change

We can’t choose whether or not to feel hurt, betrayed, frustrated, disappointed, or angry. But we can choose what we do next. Anger is a natural emotion and it’s important to understand how to redirect and channel that energy into something good. Sharlee Jeter and Sampson Davis, authors of THE STUFF, share how anger can be used for positive functions.

We all get angry—no question there. It’s a natural emotion, a normal part of the human experience. What counts is whether we master anger or it masters us, and then what we do with our anger, because our anger can be used for either destruction or construction. In the best of times, anger can be caught and tamed, harnessed and redirected. In the worst of times, anger can create barriers and destroy relationships and property; it can put those things and those we love into harm’s way. …

No matter which particular physical reaction we experience when we’re angry, we can’t deny that anger evokes power. This can be a good thing if used positively. Anger can be the tool we use to dig ourselves out of ruts, to counteract feelings of inadequacy or hesitation, to simply “launch.” Anger is a can-do emotion that can allow us to tap into our fighting spirit and become a force of effective change in the world. …

Anger can be used for all sorts of positive functions, including:

  • Achieving breakthroughs over problems and barriers.
  • Producing optimism and reducing fear.
  • Creating or interpreting art.
  • Helping relationships, particularly when anger helps people communicate a sense of injustice rather than venting or clamming up and hiding the anger.
  • Providing self-insight. When we’re in touch with our angry feelings, we can learn where we need to change and improve.
  • Reducing violence. We usually think of anger as producing violence (and indeed it can). But it can also reduce violence, because controlled anger is “a very strong social signal that a situation needs to be resolved.”
  • Negotiating a fair deal.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggest ways to get anger under control so we can be in charge of it, not the other way around: in the heat of the moment, it’s good to take time to pause, breathe, collect our thoughts, then state our concerns and needs clearly and directly.

Spend time in physical activity to help reduce the stress that sparked the anger. Take a time-out if needed. Then, instead of focusing on the anger and the impulses it sends that make you want to break something, work on resolving the issue at hand. Do so without laying blame. Be respectful and specific. Keep in mind the power of forgiveness, which can actually work together with the power of directed anger to change things. Don’t leave out humor as a tool to defuse tension. Now you are prepared to work on the positive changes that your redirected anger demands.


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Excerpted from The Stuff by Sharlee Jeter and Sampson Davis. Copyright © 2018 by Sharlee Jeter and Sampson Davis, M.D. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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