In our society, the word anger means reactivity and violence. Yet, anger as an emotion is really simply that – an emotion, just like other emotions such as sadness, fear, or shame.
What matters more is not whether we are angry or not, but what we are doing with our anger. Anger can injure, but it can also illuminate. Anger can cut and burn deeply, but it can also shed light to something we don’t want to see. It all depends on how we are using the potent energy that is anger.
When anger is used for enemy-making, we begin to point fingers, shame, and blame people. When we use anger in the service of integrity and accountability, however, our anger becomes an invitation for the other to take responsibility. Healthy anger allows us to challenge or confront other people’s behaviors without forgetting that we care about them (at least we respect their humanity).
It is possible to be direct and kind at the same time!
Once our power and heart function together, relationships become a lot easier. Practicing healthy anger is both an art and a life-long journey of self-discovery. Within this practice, we encounter all the ways we hide from expressing ourselves – maybe we cut too much slack to others in situations that require a firm “no,” maybe we find we are so afraid of conflict that we keep our mouths shut.
On the other end of the spectrum, we might find how at times when we do express ourselves, our anger actually becomes aggression, cutting into the other with edgy, hurtful tone and language. Becoming aware of these patterns in us won’t feel good to our egoity but is truly life changing once we really connect with what healthy anger actually is.
Healthy anger is a vulnerable expression of what matters to us, however calm or fiery its expression might (or might have to) be. Healthy anger is the guardian of our healthy boundaries as well as relational depth. Relationships devoid of healthy anger (healthy confrontation and conflict) often stagnate, becoming zones of dullness and boredom. In these relationships, partners settle for dysfunctional patterns instead of doing the work to have a greatly loving and passionate relationship.
A man who is afraid of rejection and abandonment might never question his partner’s shaming of him, enabling her disrespect and therefore, contributing to a dysfunctional dynamic. Another man might never become aware of his aggression because of his defensiveness each time his partner challenges him to look at the way he’s talking to her. Anger used in the service of defensiveness when there is in fact something we need to see, is anger that is used as a layer of armoring instead of a healthy boundary.
When we can both express and receive healthy anger with at least some ease, we tend to feel less afraid, because we know we can defend ourselves properly if we have to and we also know we don’t need to be hyper-vigilantly waiting for an attack from our partner.
Needless to say, getting familiar with healthy anger takes time yet the work we put into this is well worth the effort. Relationships where healthy anger is practiced by both partners are relationships in which love, rock solid integrity, and deep trust can all exist together, relationships that are truly worth fighting for.