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How do you express your anger? Why anger is such an important emotion

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Just like everyone else, you probably prefer being happy over being angry. Anger is an unpleasant feeling. Besides, others often don’t appreciate it if you express your anger. Should we ignore our anger then? No, never. Because anger is a helper. 

Clenched fists, a reddened face, a deep frown: in animations, it’s always very clear when a person is angry. But whatisanger, how can we define it? According to Dutch psychologist Steven Pont, who wrote the book ‘Goed kwaad!’ about it, anger is an emotional state. It’s a functional feeling, because anger tells you someone has crossed a line for you – it’s a signal that you have to do something about it. 

Guarding your boundaries

Some people get angry very quickly, others hardly ever do. People who hardly ever get angry, probably let others get away with everything. According to Pont, they ‘are so bad at guarding their boundaries, they have lost almost their entire territory.’ 

Anger in: bad idea

Why is it so hard for some people to experience their anger, let alone express it? That’s simple. Anger is functional, but there’s a risk in expressing it. If you get angry at someone, they might reject you. If you fear rejection, this might cause you to do whatever you can to get a hold of your anger. That’s what Steven Pont calls anger in: you bottle up your anger. 

The problem is: this doesn’t make your anger go away. Research shows that people who suppress their anger, feel it just as intensely –and unpleasantly- as people who do express it. Besides, chances are people are taking advantage of you – because, after all, you never complain, right?

The anger plan

Steven Pont created a step-by-step plan that helps you to express your anger in a controlled manner

Wait 

If you react immediately when you feel angry, you’re most likely to damage something – a piece of tableware or a relationship. The longer you wait, the more sensible your reaction will be. 

Explore

Think about what it is that makes you angry, and how you might respond to it. What do you want to achieve? What do you hope to change by expressing you ranger? Is there a pain behind your anger regarding something else – could it be that you’re not so much angry about what’s happening now, but rather about something that has happened before? 

Eliminate

According to Pont, exploring your anger (step 2) should help you to realize that there are different ways to react. There are responses that have a short-term effect, others have an effect in the long run, and some are more focused on a solution than others. Try to pick out the one that helps you to really solve your problem. 

Act

Now is the time to react. Despite taking the steps, you might still choose to react by getting really angry with someone. After all, you’re only human. Don’t blame yourself – just make sure you’ve made a conscious decision, because that’s how you take responsibility for your reaction. 

Evaluate

How do you feel about your reaction, and was it helpful? It’s always wise to evaluate for a minute, because it will help you the next time you get angry. 

Want to read more about anger? 

‘The Dance of Anger. A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships.’ Harriet G. Lerner, HarperCollins.  

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Eddy Kopp