Anger is a primary human emotion, just like shame, fear, and sadness. In our society, we often confuse it with aggression. However, anger is the emotion and aggression is something that we do with that emotion.
It is possible to be angry without becoming aggressive.
Anger often signals that what’s happening matters to us. When we stay connected to that feeling, we don’t only feel heated, we also feel vulnerable.
Healthy expression of anger is always vulnerable, regardless of how fiery it may be or may have to be.
Imagine your best friend, close family member, or life partner is being disrespectful to you, they shame you every now and then in front of everyone without taking any accountability for doing so.
You try to talk to them about this once and then one more time, they shut you down with defensiveness as they add, “You’re just too sensitive!”
The fifth time this happens, you cannot hold yourself back and you say, “Stop doing that! We talked about this and it hurts me!”
You are very clearly upset and angry, but you are also feeling your vulnerability and hurt. Perhaps you are close to tears. This is healthy anger.
Healthy anger says, “Stop!” however loudly or quietly, without dehumanizing the other.
We all have been shamed and humiliated in the past by even those who care about us. We each carry this type of wounding. Unhealthy relational patterns don’t go away just because we know someone cares about us. Sometimes, these patterns need to be directly confronted and challenged.
The “no” at the core of healthy anger is an invitation to a deeper, more life-affirming “yes!” where respect, sensitivity, and integrity can function as one.
So don’t trash it. Don’t think it’s primitive. Don’t try to repress or swallow it in the name of kindness. Anger has a message.
Anger vs Aggression
Aggression is not so much misuse of anger, but more so the abuse of it. When we are being reactive, we have lost touch with our pain, and we have already abandoned ourselves.
In healthy anger, we stay connected with the reasons why what’s happening really matters to us. We stay connected to our humanity or our needs for safety and trust in relationships.
Practicing both receiving and expressing it in our closest relationships creates a truly vital and awake connection with those we love. The more we practise this, the easier we can stay with it instead of repressing it or letting it mutate into aggression, reactivity, and hostility.
Anger is the guardian of our healthy boundaries. It’s our righteous “no” that we need to express to make space for our humanity in our relationships. It doesn’t only burn, it also illuminates what must be seen so that we can have truly healthy and fulfilling relationships.
Learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger, and honour it without letting it mutate into reactivity and without expecting perfection from yourself.