Healthy Anger

March 5, 2009

Let me get this straight-there is nothing wrong with being angry!

I am an angry woman and I have been angry a very, very, very long time. My anger is not the problem. The only problem that comes from being angry is when someone does not know how to handle the anger or even worse, when they think that having anger makes them a bad person. What angers me the most is when I see parents tell their small children not to be angry. I remember one time when I was working at JCPenney's and as I watched a young couple leave with their young, moody child, I started to boil with rage, for I heard them tell him, "Don't be angry! You won't get pizza if you're angry!" I wanted to go over, pull the parents aside, and inform them being angry is healthy, but that telling their son how to feel is not and that they will damage their son's emotional growth if they try to control their son's feelings. But I didn't. The boy perked up and they left smiling, but I was left wondering what will happen to their relationship a few years down the road.

I was reminded of this when one of the facilitators at NAMI told a new person to not be angry. I responded by telling the new person that there is nothing wrong with being angry, but that she needs to find healthy ways of expressing her anger. You see, anger is not the problem-knowing what to do with it is.

I was an angry child-I see that now, but it took me a long time to realize that and I am only now learning how to positively handle my anger. Growing up there were constant yelling matches between my parents and my brother, who is three years older than I am. When I was in sixth grade, my brother was sent to a military academy and I am not mad about that. It made life easier and it did seem to help my brother-he and my parents get along much better now and he's got a great job as an officer in the Navy. But it did leave me angry at the time with no clue as to how to deal with it, so I starved my emotions. Anger, like fat, was designated "bad" in my mind, so I concentrated on how little I could eat, instead of dealing with my emotions. In fact, for a long time, I didn't even think I was capable of anger-just sadness. And that makes me sad.

So let me say it again-anger is not "bad," but not knowing how to deal with it is. Fortunately, that can change! One can learn how to constructively deal with anger. Express it! Talk about it! Don't let it remain stagnate!

Writing about my anger works well for me. Creating art that expresses how I feel works well too. Sometimes I need to do something mindless, like bearing down hard with a red crayon on a piece of paper, over and over and over again. Playing and singing to loud music does wonders. So does humor, so I will leave you with this quote from Stephen Colbert, "I retain all my vitamins, because I am always steamed!"

Remember, it is far better to be angry than apathetic.

What works for you?

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