Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls: More on Anger

I was speaking to a woman the other day who was incredibly angry. It seemed she despised her husband for his sheer existence. His comments, general demeanor, personality, any and all of it, just grated on her nerves. She had come to a point where nothing he said or did was right. Her anger had been building for years and had morphed into resentment and distance.

Anger had become a prison for her soul, hijacking her very existence. Does this sound familiar? The truth is, although anger can be productive, it can also be unproductive. Productive anger leads us somewhere. It teaches us something about what we value, what we need, and who we are as people. It’s productive because we grow from it in some way. It’s usually based on productive thoughts that lead to insight and change in our important relationships. This type of anger results in a request for someone else to address something that might bother us, or a decision on our part to consciously accept something we may not be able to change. Paying attention to productive anger and giving it a voice can keep us connected to those we love for years to come.

Sometimes however, our anger is unproductive, it leaves us stuck in bitterness. This type of anger is based on thoughts that are unhealthy, judgmental, negative, or righteous. When we notice anger, our discernment is key.

Unproductive anger comes around in the form of negativity. It’s taking a hostile focus on everything that’s wrong with someone, while forgetting what’s right. It’s losing sight of empathy and choosing not to make room for our individual differences. Its allowing all of our unconscious shoulds about people and the world to drive our expectations. ”She shouldn’t act like that. She has no class.” “He is a lousy father.” “I can’t believe I am married to someone so embarrassing.” “How could she possibly think that the way she acts is okay? Her parents clearly raised her to act like that.”

This is righteous anger. It raises our blood pressure, encourages us to dislike those around us and ends in the type of silent resentment that keeps us stuck on everything that is wrong, without a helpful plan or solution to get to what’s right. This type of anger holds us hostage to unhappiness, negativity, righteous indignation and hostility toward others. Bottom line is unproductive anger only hurts us in the end.

The next time you get angry, ask yourself if there is something that can be done about it? Are you looking for a resolution? Or are you looking to just judge or chastise somebody else in your mind? Is there a positive request that can be made for something you need? Or, are you beating a dead horse? Ask yourself what you are actually looking for in getting upset. With your children, is there a value that can be taught or are you just hung up on the idiosyncrasies of their personality that you simply don’t like. With your spouse, is there something you would like for them to do or change or are you just irritated by the ways that they differ from you? With the world, the president or the election, ask yourself, is there something that can be done to improve the world I live in or am I just looking to spew? Righteousness is unhealthy and can steal precious years from your life. Be careful when you feel angry, discern the difference between productive and unproductive anger. Make your requests, decide upon a goal, or plan of action, or consciously choose to let it go.

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