The Differences Between healthy vs unhealthy anger

Types of Anger and Strategies for Effective Anger Management

In a particularly emotional client session, Rachel (not her real name) yelled, “How am I supposed to feel then?” We were discussing anger management, and she was utterly conflicted about how she should express her anger. Anger had led her to engage in incredibly destructive behaviors towards herself and others, and now she sought my help to figure out how to process all of her strong emotions.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs and trauma survivor, I understand how messy dealing with anger can be, especially for those who didn’t feel safe as children or faced abuse from trusted individuals. In this article, we will talk about the different types of anger and how to harness healthy anger for personal healing and growth. 

First, let’s talk about why anger management is so tricky for many of us and why we don’t know when or how to appropriately express it.

Mixed Messages on Anger

Anger is a tricky feeling, and everyone sees it differently based on how they grew up and what cultures they’re part of. People get all kinds of mixed signals about anger, making it a bit confusing. Here are some examples of what people might hear about anger from their families and cultures:

Family Messages:

Anger is good! In some families, they might say it’s okay to show anger. It could be seen as a strong or assertive thing to do.

Anger is bad! On the other hand, some families might not like it when people get angry. They think it messes up the peace and quiet.

Religious, Academic or Other Cultural Areas:

Righteous Anger: In religious or school places, they might talk about “righteous anger,” saying it’s okay to get mad when something really wrong is happening.

Activism: Some people connect anger with making positive changes in society, like speaking up against unfair things.

Toxic Positivity:

No Anger Allowed: In some places pushing “positive vibes only,” they might think showing anger is bad for your health. Their version of anger management is suppression, repression or denial. They focus on always being happy.

People into this toxic positivity might ask, “Will being angry really help you?” because they want to avoid anything negative.

You have every right to feel confused about healthy anger if you have received kind of these mixed messages. It’s important to figure out the difference between expressing anger in an unhealthy way and a healthy way to understand how it affects our well-being. Let’s start by talking about what unhealthy anger is.

We aren't trying to eliminate our anger, we just want to use in a way that doesn't make us blaming, shaming or enabling others.

So…What is Unhealthy Anger Management?

Anger is a natural feeling and it is designed to help us, but sometimes it can go in the wrong direction and cause problems. Let’s break down what unhealthy anger looks like:

Accusations Without Resolution – The Prosecutor:

Imagine someone who consistently points fingers and blames others when they’re angry but never attempts to fix the problem. It’s akin to perpetuating the blame game without actually resolving anything. This approach might be satisfying if you enjoy feeling self-righteous and entitled, but it falls short if you aspire to lead a truly authentic life.

It’s not my fault! – Stuck as Victims:

When people get mad in an unhealthy way, they might feel like they’re always the victim. It’s like they stay in that feeling of being hurt and don’t move forward. 

Supports Negative Behaviors – The Enabler:

Unhealthy anger can make someone always blame others, and that supports negative actions. Instead of finding solutions, it encourages more problems. And enablers (who are also codependents) love finding new and never ending list of problems to fix talk about to anyone would listen.

See the image below that illustrates the unholy trinity in drama involving victims, enablers, and prosecutors. Dr. Stephen Karman refers to it as his Drama Triangle.

We can’t trust nobody! Self-Imposed Isolation:

Imagine someone who is consistently angry in a manner that drives people away. They might find themselves exclusively socializing with others who also grapple with their emotions. Yes, this includes spending time discussing their victimhood on social media. It’s akin to participating in the victimhood Olympics, where everyone is attempting to showcase who has endured the worst abuse.

Now that you have an understanding of what unhealthy anger looks like, let’s delve into what healthy anger entails.

A triangle with pictures of people in the middle and a person on top.
Karpman Drama Triangle

Healthy Anger Management

Alright, now let’s talk about healthy anger – the kind that can actually make things better.

Force for Positive Change:

Healthy anger is like a superhero power. Instead of causing problems, it helps make things better. It’s like a force that pushes for positive changes in how things are done.

Understanding the Root Causes:

Imagine healthy anger as a detective. It doesn’t just get mad for no reason. It looks into why someone feels the need for safety, protection, or validation. It’s like figuring out the real reasons behind the anger.

Uncovering Repressed Anger and Healing Depression:

For people who keep their anger inside and feel depressed, healthy anger is like a friend. It helps them express those feelings in a good way. It’s like releasing pressure and feeling better.

Curiosity, Not Excuse:

Healthy anger stays curious about why someone might act in a hurtful way. It’s not about making excuses for them, but trying to understand. It’s like saying, “I want to know why this is happening.”

Preventing Abuse Spread:

Imagine if someone was treated badly, and instead of getting angry and treating others the same way, they use their healthy anger. It stops the abuse from spreading like a chain reaction.

Powerful Teacher of Imperfection:

Healthy anger is like a wise teacher. It shows that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s okay to be imperfect. It’s a lesson in accepting that we’re all human and learning from our experiences.

Embracing Humility and Kindness:

Lastly, when we talk about healthy anger, it’s all about being nice and humble. It shows us that even when we’re angry, being kind and understanding to others is really important for our own growth. It’s like saying, “I can be upset, but I can still be nice.”

Knowing how to use healthy anger is like having a superpower that helps us become better people and makes the world a better place.

There’s a picture below that shows the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger. After that, I’ll share my final thoughts.

The Differences Between healthy vs unhealthy anger

Final Thoughts

Understanding how to handle anger well is an ongoing learning process. Don’t pressure yourself to be calm and collected all the time—it’s okay to feel upset sometimes.

The key is not to avoid anger but to use it in a way that helps you grow and understand yourself and others better. The real strength comes from turning anger into a positive force.

I hope this message was useful to you. If you need more assistance, feel free to ask me. For more insights, you can check out this episode from my podcast by clicking here or pressing the play button below.