Table of Contents
Why Not Anger?
I once left a school I otherwise loved because they thought and taught that anger was bad. Their idea, it seemed to me, was that anger is an emotion we should work to get rid of, as if that is even possible, which I do not believe it is.
In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin argued, and many psychologists agree today, that certain emotions are universal, namely: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness, and sadness.
I read the original Darwin that was written ~150 years ago, and remember his noting that human hair gets weird when we are depressed, which I actually think I have seen on my own head, but I digress.
Back to anger. Just the other day I noticed that my primary response to current events was to cry a lot, while other people I know were just ripping mad. This made me curious about what would happen if I changed the channel from sadness to anger and, lo and behold, I not only felt better but began to take action that made me feel even better still.
I am reminded of the Disney movie Inside Out, in which things got so much better for little Riley when she finally acknowledged to herself and her parents how very upset about moving she was.
There is a new study strongly suggesting that anger is great for getting us to goal success. The more challenging the goal the better. The study is based on a premise called “the functionalist theory of emotion…all emotions, good or bad, are reactions to events within a person’s environment and serve the purpose of alerting that person to important situations that require actions.”
I like that because it fits with the notion that there is no such thing as a bad emotion, but rather that what we do or don’t do with the emotion can be good or bad.
Still, there is a lot of hype about the so-called positive emotions so let’s take a look at this.
The Happiness Hype
What is happiness? Here is an excerpt on happiness from an earlier post:
Happiness is something that happens in the brain involving the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulated cortex, and insular cortex, and neurotransmitters such as endorphin, dopamine, serotonin, nor-epinephrine, and melatonin.
It has been defined from an evolutionary perspective as “a feeling of contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure that is linked to behaviors and experiences that are beneficial for our survival and the continuation of our species.”
No surprise then that happiness is good for our health, likely why so much is written and recommended about how we can get it. That and because it just feels so good.
…. This year’s UN International Day of Happiness theme was: Be mindful, be grateful, be kind.
The theme did not include ‘be angry’, nor did it say anything about how anger can be good for us the way the study above does. That’s okay, two things can be true. And, I would submit that, since emotions are data not directives, the capacity to use the data from any and all of our emotions to help guide us would be a plus.
Some people call this emotional health.
Emotional Health “refers to how well people are able to accept and manage their emotions and cope with challenges throughout life.” Notice the definition does not distinguish between positive and negative emotions; it is more to accept the emotions whatever they are. And, while it does specify to accept and manage the emotions, why not add to leverage the emotions too — to use the emotions to our maximum advantage wherever we can.
The first step is to accept that we have them at all. Let’s hear this from Rumi:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens. But then what, you say? Once we accept the emotions, then what? For help with this or something else Contact Me at email@example.com