A graphic with the words " know this difference " and " good vs. Misused anger ".

How to Use Your Anger For Positive Change

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I meet lots of people in different stages of healing from their traumatic issues. One common issue or sticking point is about the use of anger. 

Some of us are completely disconnected from it, while others are defined by the intensity of this emotion. 

To help you grow emotionally and spiritually, there has to be a part where you can use this core emotion to help, not hurt you. 

In this article, we will discuss how to use your anger for positive change for yourself and your current environment.

First, I would like to share my personal experience with you regarding anger. The reason why is for you to understand that I am human and that I struggle with this emotion at times.

As I reflect on our lives, it's clear that we're all just pieces of the puzzle that our parents began. It's fascinating to see how much of who we are today was shaped by their influence, both positive and negative.

My relationship with anger

For the longest time, anger was my primary way of expressing myself.

When I wasn’t feeling angry about the dysfunctional relationship with my parents, I was irate about the direction of my life. This shouldn’t be a shock as anger was the primary emotion displayed by my relatives in my childhood home.

It was only when I began my emotional journey that I learned that my anger was a choice. This means that I chose to let my anger overshadow my ability to be curious, hopeful, or inquisitive about why my parents were emotionally disabled. Moreover, my anger covered many other emotions that I was not comfortable sharing with anyone, including myself. 

For many of us, the uncertain, unpleasant, uncomfortable and unfamiliar were easier to sweep under the umbrella of anger. 

During my recovery journey, I discovered that feelings like fear, anxiety, shame, or insecurity were often uncomfortable for my parents due to their own issues. So, it was easier for them to threaten, intimidate or avoid difficult emotional issues.

What was your parents’ relationship with anger? Was it good or bad? Why? You might discover that you may be relating to yourself and others in a similar way to them.

All emotions are designed to help you!

Before you read further, please understand that anger is a good thing. Yes, it is! 

Anger is a tool that helps you identify other sub-emotions that enable you to protect your boundaries, manage your energy levels, and enhance or refine your self-care routine.

Anger can also be a tool to help us express yourself. In the Pixar movie “Inside Out,” the character Riley and her emotions discover that the way to connect with her parents on a more intimate level was to express her sadness about moving from the Midwest to San Francisco.

Moreover, anger helps us protect others who might otherwise be mistreated or abused. Our society has utilized anger to safeguard women, children, and individuals in minority communities. Without anger, no one would be motivated to recognize and rectify injustices.

Nevertheless, I believe that responding to our anger in our current culture has taken a bizarre and twisted form.

Anger, Activists and the Age of the Karen

In our current, hypersonic insta-news age, where news cycles in and out within 24 hours, we are reinventing our use of anger.

Yes, as I mentioned anger is a good thing. It helps us to wake up people to important issues. However, just like there is good in bad, there is a bad in the good.

Profit minded journalists know that they don’t get paid unless you click on their articles. And what better way to get your attention and to tap into your need to feel fueled by things which threaten your worldview or value?

To make matters worse, power-hungry politicians and their allies also play the same game each and every election cycle. They know that you won’t go and vote unless you feel motivated to cast your ballot.

If you were raised in a home filled with pain like me, unfocused anger can do more harm than good.

The misuse of anger

Anger can take on several forms of misuse, and using it to deflect or avoid personal responsibility is one of them. 

The Blame Game

When we use anger as a defense mechanism, we might be tempted to attribute our shortcomings, faults, and mistakes to something or someone else outside of ourselves. 

Instead of owning our actions, we may blame others, circumstances, or external factors, perpetuating the cycle of repeated mistakes and misplaced emotions.

Furthermore, relying on anger as a distraction mechanism from our own issues can be detrimental to our personal growth and development.

I’ll get you! You dirty, rotten scoundrel 

Another misuse of anger is using it as a form of vindication against harms done to you or others. You may judge, be the sole juror, and execute punishment for crimes left unpunished. 

The main problem with that energy is that you may fail to see how you may have contributed to the behavior of others. Remember, most people do not want to harm others. Seeking punishment only will cause an emotional stoppage of growth.

A welcome distraction from the real issue 

Rather than addressing important issues head-on, we may use anger to sidetrack us from confronting difficult truths or decisions that we would instead avoid. Such behavior can prevent us from learning necessary lessons, growing as individuals, and reaching our full potential.

Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge and manage our emotions, including anger, properly to avoid misusing them and causing more harm than good. 

Let us now discuss the cost of unfocused and misused anger.

The cost of unfocused and misused anger

Delighting sadistic people

As I reflect on my life and the stories I’ve heard from survivors of abuse, I think about how our abusers keep coming back for more shots to destroy our self-worth. 

By “our,” I mean my story and the stories of those I know. I don’t know your story. 

Abusers are emotionally disabled people who feel validated through controlling and manipulating others. 

Moreover, abusers get their power from weak minds. Those who are fixated on unproductive anger are weak-minded. And once your abuser knows you feel pain from their behavior, they will keep pushing your buttons because it reminds them of their power over you.

I think about an old, passive-aggressive boss I had when I worked for the government. 

He delighted in being overly critical of people, especially those he disliked (including me). 

I’ll never forget the moment I had a joint meeting with him and another manager. 

In anger and rage, I said, “But he did it! He was wrong!” And I saw my old boss flash a smile. People want attention in all forms, and for some people, any attention, even negative attention, is worth it.

My boss was emboldened to continue mistreating me because he knew it hurt me emotionally. After trying to fight him to no avail, I ended up being briefly hospitalized due to stress.

Despite all my efforts, it costs me sleep, energy and distracted me from my primary goal of healing from the childhood trauma.

But we fight back!

Everyone has their own story of dealing with angry, malicious, and vindictive people.

You may have fought and won, even when you were the underdog trying to teach others to behave better.

But here’s the thing – if you try to train people to change their behavior without addressing their motivations, will it really cause the long-term change you want?

And if they do comply, is it out of love for you and your relationship or fear of repercussions and punishment?

I’m not telling you what to do, but I can share what I’ve learned from trying to fight people who take pleasure in others’ pain and misfortune – which is called Schadenfreude.

Your brain is shrinking!

Are you:

  • a fighter,
  • strongly opinionated,
  • rough n’ tumble, and
  • don’t take any sh*t from nobody (including strangers like me blogging about anger)? 

If so, here’s something to think about: When your anger is not utilized to improve a situation in a mutually positive way, or alter how you view yourself, it can become destructive – not to others, but to YOU.

This can result in many problems such as migraines and inflammation-related issues. 

When speaking of inflammation, it is not just referring to joint pain, headaches, or arthritis, it can also cause a reduction in brain size.This reduction in brain size is linked to decreased productivity, focus, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease

Love, why are you trying to put yourself in a horrible, early grave by letting your anger take you to places where it was never intended to go?

How to Use Your Anger – The Right Way!

After all this talk of sadistic bosses, manipulative journalists, and shrinking brains, you must be thinking, “Okay, Denise, how do I use my anger constructively?”

Great question! Here are some recommendations:

Address your sub-emotions

For example, I have discovered with my clients suffering from anger management issues and depression that they are often disconnected from their feelings of sadness or have not been able to fully grieve through some type of loss. 

Explore those unaddressed needs from the past and/or today.

Deciding whether to leave or stay

I am no punk, and I don’t think you are either. There comes a point where you have to stand up for yourself, your needs, and your emotional, physical, and financial boundaries.

If the relationship is worth saving, I suggest you use that powerful energy of anger for your own good. 

Note: Most people don’t even know you’re feeling hurt and abused by their behavior. Unless they are sadists or have some form of personality disorder, they will work with you to remedy the situation.

Use your anger for good within a relationship. That involves doing the following:

  • Being clear about your boundaries,
  • Asking yourself if the person or your participation in this relationship is even worth the effort, 
  •  Speaking clearly about your need(s) and why it is important to you. 

Use your anger to forgive yourself or others 

Finally, you can use your anger to help you forgive. Now, that may seem a little counter-intuitive, but let’s break it down another way. 

Anger is related to passion, and passion is connected to feeling invested in the person and the time you spent with them; it can also be related to a past event from an unresolved issue. 

You better say, “Good morning!”

For example, Steve gets triggered every time someone doesn’t say “Good morning” to him at the beginning of the day. Sometimes, he may feel borderline anger. 

What is the real reason behind the anger? It is his unspoken or unrealistic expectations on others. 

Steve grew up being chastised by his mother if he didn’t greet her in the morning. The unspoken rule he developed as an adult is that everyone greets each other in the morning, no matter what. Steve now needs to understand and respect that others have a choice whether to greet him in the morning or not.

In the similar way to your situation, use your anger to help you understand some unspoken assumption or need, with yourself and, as necessary, with others. 

This will help you get more realistic and practical in your social interactions with others. Below is an image that summarizes the key points of this article.

A graphic with the words " know this difference " and " good vs. Misused anger ".

Final thoughts

All emotions, including anger, are designed to help you learn more about your needs, resolve problems, and grow, not just go through difficult issues.

When you use your emotions as one of many ways to express yourself and your needs, then you are one step closer to living an authentic and fulfilling life.

If you need more help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me

Click here to dig deeper by listening to this episode from my podcast.