If you are incapable of expressing anger, then your emotional repertoire is incomplete. Every emotion has a place and both healthy and unhealthy modes of expression. Love can be contorted into lust or lead to infatuation or codependence. Anger can motivate change, inspire independence, or dispel illusions.
Some feelings are much more enjoyable and popular. Anger, like sorrow, is an emotion many shy away from because it’s uncomfortable. However, it is that discomfort that gives it power. If nothing made us anxious or angry, what motivation would we have to make big (perhaps frightening) changes? Sometimes we chase the positive, but other times we need those more difficult emotions to guide us away from something dangerous, inadequate, stagnant, or destructive.
Emotions are neither good nor bad at their core. Sadness is as healthy as happiness. Every feeling has its appropriate season. To deny an emotion because we’re afraid or embarrassed to express it, or because we think it’s wrong, is to deny a part of ourselves. It’s dishonest.
We are emotional beings. We can’t pick and choose our feelings. We hope to be happy more than we are morose or mad, but one mood isn’t enough. Life is more complicated than that.
Why is the importance of anger often underrated? Why do certain emotions have such bad reputations? It’s usually because they’ve become synonymous with certain acts. Even emotions can be stereotyped. However, it isn’t the feelings themselves we need to renounce. It is the immorality these feelings tempt us toward that we must be wary of. Anger, for instance, is often confused with a lot of other (much less productive) things.
Anger is a wholly internal experience. It is not license to impose your wrath on another human being. Anger is not hatred or prejudice. It is not an insult or a judgment. Anger is not slinging words of ridicule or throwing a punch. It is not an excuse for abuse, though it often plays the scapegoat. Anger is the feeling, not any act it may motivate. At most anger is an accomplice, though it sometimes takes all the blame.
Anger is important. It’s informative. When I peel back the layers of my ire, I often find a whole ecosystem of emotions that I might have overlooked. For example, when I see a car driving recklessly, my anger is really a shield for fear. Anger can also be a bully sent to fight battles for insecurity. Sometimes anger is a cloak worn by jealousy. When someone’s actions anger me, it is my job to look inward for the reason. Is something (or someone) I value being threatened? Has one of my boundaries been disrespected? Am I really just angry? Or are other emotions at work—perhaps more subtly?
It isn’t fruitful to fight a feeling. If we spend too much energy avoiding an emotion then, in reality, that emotion owns us. All obsessions are dangerous, whether they are preoccupations of pursuit or avoidance.
Face your feelings. Each one has something important to relate. Enjoy what is enjoyable. Endure what isn’t pleasant. However always, when it comes to an emotion, take a probing look at it. Everything you feel is a lesson about yourself.
While it is true that every emotion has a level of importance, I can’t conclude without conveying one caveat: Just as it’s unhealthy to extinguish an emotion, it’s also ill advised to let it burn beyond your control. A feeling isn’t carte blanche to act however you want to. Emotions can be teachers or motivators, but they are not excuses.