Is Anger Always a Bad Thing?

While posting on the Christopher and Dana Reeve webpage the other day, a gentlemen I’ll call John, says he is a quadriplegic who calls himself an angry person. Whether or not that’s true, he wondered if anger is always a bad thing.

Here is my response, but I would love to hear yours:

Yes, anger is not always a bad thing. Anger is actually two things: it is an emotion, and it can be a behavior.

Anger is a reaction to injustice. That’s our first reaction when we feel we or someone we love have been treated unjustly. We even feel that in the wake of death.

Anger is also a reaction to shame. When we feel judged or embarrassed about our behavior, our words, or even our emotions, can turn to anger. As a matter of fact, when we feel ashamed or exposed, we either withdraw and hide or lash out.

Our brains are hardwired to remember what has harmed us and how we have been harmed. When we were in the wild, we needed that information. We needed to be able to either run away or attack.

Not so much now. There are no more mastodons that we have to worry about. The problem is, when we feel attacked or judged, we react as though…

I don’t want to suggest that anger is not a good thing. Sometimes it protects us from deeper pain. Sometimes it carries important information or it helps us to make a change in our lives.

The problem happens when we attack. Inevitably when we attack we are either looking for justice or fairness or we aren’t looking for revenge-our “ounce of flesh”. However, more often than not when we attack, we hurt someone and we don’t feel any better. Then we have to deal with the other persons anger or judgment and things get worse. We can see this working on the world stage right now. Injury-attack. Attack invites attack. And that’s what happened in our relationships.

Anyone who feels anger or ashamed is suffering. It’s just that simple. We are hurt or embarrassed and we feel deeply wounded. We suffer. And we suffer terribly sometimes.

My advice?

First take care of the one who is suffering. If you and I could talk face-to-face, I might ask you where it hurts and what you need to reclaim your sense of well-being. I don’t want to know what your mind wants, I want to know what your body and heart wants in order to feel better.

I sign many of my letters with the phrase “please take care.”

I mean that.

Please take care.


1 Comment on Is Anger Always a Bad Thing?

  1. Simrita Gopal Singh // October 30, 2015 at 3:07 am // Reply

    Dear Dr. Gottlieb, Greetings from India! This is to thank you for this very clear explanation of anger. I found it very useful. I have just finished re-reading your Voices in the Family and it is one of the best books I have ever read on healing. I look forward to exploring and learning from your website. Do take care, you too and best wishes, Simrita

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