Is there such a thing as healthy anger?


Is it acceptable to use anger as a way of being effective?

Is anger a good way to release tension?

Some theorists believe that anger is always a poor or 'unhealthy' attempt at coping with a stressful situation, resulting in increased conflict and personal discomfort (1).

However, other studies have suggested anger could be a 'healthy' method for releasing stress and useful as a tool to 'get the job done' (2).

“I will agree that if a violent group of people attack you then a form of defence driven anger could be useful and you might fight aggressively to 'do the job' of protecting yourself (3).”


So is it as simple as saying there is 'healthy anger' and 'unhealthy anger' in terms of how well anger serves the purpose of getting the job done or not (4)?

For example, if a manager shouts aggressively in an angry response to an employee's bad time keeping and that employee is never late again, the anger response could possibly be seen as healthy.

If the manager punched the same employee for being late the anger response would probably be deemed unhealthy (5).

My opinion is that both forms of this intimidation method are a crude shortcut, or even cunningly underhand - just to get the job done.

“I've manipulated people, but now I’m not sure I could live with being likened to someone associated with bullying and something similar to dishonesty?”


Some say that becoming angry allows a release and calms the angry person. It is conceivably true that this aggresive 'letting off steam' may be cathartic in the short term, but it's likely that the person will get angry again and then calm and then angry again and then calm and…so on (6) (7).

This is like 'letting off steam' from a steam engine while the boiler man keeps fuelling the fire, building more pressure. To reduce the pressure it might just be an idea to find out where the pressure comes from and cut off the initial source... or stop the stoker from shovelling on more coal.

“For prolonged escape from anger I believe understanding the deep seated root cause within each individual and easing the pressure at source is the key.”


How stress comes and goes is unique in each individual. Most of us have shouted at someone in frustration and using anger systematically is a complicated topic. However there could conceivably be a correlation or mutual thread between anger tension and anger manipulation.

“By understanding the deep root cause of why an individual behaves in a certain aggressive manner and then reducing that person’s specific ‘anger pressure’ that person could cultivate a new way of 'getting the job done' without bullying or punching people. ”


Anger cannot easily be described as healthy or unhealthy, but my experience is that anger can usually be described as painful and disruptive.

By changing their 'way of being' (8) angry individuals can develop a new lifestyle, minimising external conflict and easing internal upheaval and discomfort.

There might just be a better way of reducing pressure and getting the job done, without any sort of anger at all.


Footnotes

  1. Cox, Stabb & Bruckner (1999) Novaco (1975)
  2. Cox et al., (1999) Stein & Levine (1989)
  3. Cannon (1927)
  4. Grieger (1986)
  5. Lench (2004)
  6. Green & Quanty (1977)
  7. Berkowitz (1975)
  8. Rogers (1980)

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