We usually think of anger in negative terms: unhappiness, unpredictability, danger, aggression, impatience, and other feelings or reactions that aren’t considered especially healthy or helpful.

But in certain situations, anger can be a helpful emotion. It might motivate you to leave a toxic workplace or relationship, solve a perplexing problem, fight for a righteous cause, or take other actions that hold at least the potential of being rewarding and satisfying.

Anger and the body

Anger is not just an emotion. It’s a physiological reaction and is part of your body’s natural “fight or flight” response to threats. These include a cascade of changes that naturally occur in the body such as:

  • a flood of stress hormones causes the heart to beat faster and increase blood flow to the muscles and organs
  • increase in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • breathing gets faster, helping the lungs take in more oxygen than usual, which makes you more alert and sharpens your senses, including sight and hearing.
  • an increase of the hormone epinephrine causes blood glucose levels to rise, providing the body more energy to take action—to flee or fight.

What causes anger?

Of course, anger is more than just a physical reaction. In psychological terms, anger is a normal emotional response to a person or situation you believe has treated you unfairly or has otherwise been hurtful or harmful.

Anger emerges when you feel threatened—emotionally, physically, financially, or in other ways. At the root of many angry feelings is a sense of powerlessness. When we are unable to correct or improve a situation—a traffic jam, a job loss, a relationship breakup, a chronic illness—our frustration, sadness, letdown, and other negative emotions often converge into anger. Anger can also be linked to long-held feelings associated with bullying, trauma, neglect, abuse, rejection, discrimination, or other struggles that may date back to childhood.

Channeling anger

It’s important to understand that anger isn’t an emotion to be eliminated, but rather one to be channeled in constructive ways. Happiness and contentment aren’t enough to tackle all of life’s challenges. We need the full complement of emotions to succeed in jobs, relationships, and the dayto-day matters that affect us directly or indirectly. But because of the risks associated with poorly controlled anger, it’s good to know how to manage this emotional response.

Reference: Posted in Harvard Health Publishing (2024), Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-nature-of-anger (Accessed: 21 February, 2024)