What is Anger?

Anger is a completely normal valid, usually healthy human emotion. It’s a warning signal that something is wrong – just as physical pain can be a warning, “the stove is hot – move your hand now”. Anger is a natural adaptive response to threats and can warn you of imminent danger and trauma and as such is necessary to our survival. The energy of anger can be put to good use. But when it gets out of control it can become dangerous and can have devastating effects on your and other’s life. Our inability to manage this fiery emotion causes it to intensify and spread to anyone or anything that gets in our way, often hurting those we love the most. Anger is at the root of many personal and social problems including physical and verbal abuse, domestic violence and community violence. Left unchecked anger can cause problems at work, depression, anxiety, stress, the breakdown of relationships and destroy the overall quality of your life. Anger also affects our physical health. For example, it can tax our immune system; contribute to headaches and migraines, severe gastrointestinal symptoms, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. It can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

In Irish culture many of us learned from a very young age, that anger is a negative emotion. We’re taught that it is all right to express other emotions but not to express anger, as it can be dangerous and destructive. In the words of anger management guru John Lee, “anger equals pain”. As children, it is vital that our caretakers accept our angry feelings. If these feelings are not heard and respected, we carry our resentments into adulthood and project them onto others, especially loved ones, work colleagues and those in authority. As grown ups, most of us fall into two distinct categories of dealing with our angry behaviours, affecting both our mental and physical well-being: imploder or exploder? See dealing with anger.