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Making Anger Your Ally

If you choose to use anger constructively, you'll join the ranks of some pretty notable folks — George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, to name a few. These are just a few people who admittedly were angry — about poverty, racial injustice, occupation of their countries by foreign powers — but who channeled their anger into constructive action that changed the world for the better.

Here are just a few reasons why you should consider making anger your ally in constructing a new healthier, happier, and more productive life.

Anger is a built-in resource

We're born with a capacity for anger. Mothers recognize anger in newborns as early as 3 months of age. Anger isn't something that has to be learned or earned, like money or friendship. It's yours to experience as the need arises. Think of it as your birthright.

Ask yourself: Do I want to use this inner resource to reconstruct my life?

Anger is invigorating

The e in emotion stands for "energy." Anger produces an instantaneous surge of adrenaline, which causes your pupils to dilate, your heart to race, your blood pressure to elevate, and your breathing to accelerate. If you're really angry, even the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! Your liver responds by releasing sugar, and blood shifts from your internal organs to your skeletal muscles, causing a generalized state of tension. You're energized and ready for action. Remember, though, that emotions are short lived — they come and go. So, it's imperative that you strike while the iron is (literally) hot and use the angry energy to your benefit before it evaporates.

Ask yourself: Do I want to quit wasting energy on unproductive anger?

Anger serves as a catalyst for new behavior

The motion part of emotion has to do with motivating behavior. If you're like me, there are things you want to change in your life. But you're afraid, right? You're uncertain about what will happen if you let go of the status quo and move your life in some new direction — maybe a new relationship, a new career, a new city, or a new, healthier lifestyle (joining a gym, starting a diet, giving up alcohol). So, you do nothing — that is, until you get mad enough about the way things are that you spring into action.

Ask yourself: How can I renew my life through constructive anger?

Anger communicates

Anger tells the world just how miserable you are — how unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied, unexcited, and unloved you feel. Anger speaks the unspeakable! Think about the last time you verbally expressed anger. Do you remember what you said? Was it something like, "Get off my back," "You don't care about me," "I'm tired of living hand to mouth," or "I give, give, give, and I get nothing in return." I'm sure others heard what you said, but did you? Did you listen to your anger — listen to what it's telling you about what's wrong with your life and what you need to do to begin correcting it.

The most helpful emotional dialogue you have is the one you have with yourself.

Ask yourself: What is my anger telling me about me?

Anger protects you from harm

Anger is a vital part of that built-in "fight-or-flight" response that helps you adapt to and survive life's challenges. Anger is the fight component — the part that moves you to take offensive measures to defend yourself against actual or perceived threats.

Do you ever get angry enough to stand up for your rights? Do you ever use anger to set limits on other people's rude or inconsiderate behavior? Do you ever get angry and say to someone, "Hey, that's uncalled for!", "Just stop right there — I'm not going to sit here and subject myself any longer to this abuse," or "You may bully other people in this office, but you're not going to bully me." I hope so, because, otherwise, you may be well on your way to becoming a victim!

Ask yourself: How can I use my anger to defend myself in a positive way?

Anger is an antidote to impotence

Impotence — lacking in power and ability — feels lousy. Impotence reaches way beyond the sexual kind. You can be impotent in how you deal with the world around you — your relationships, your job, your finances, your health, your weight, the loss of loved ones, and so on. You feel weak and inadequate, not up to the task at hand.

Then you get angry — and suddenly you're infused with a sense of empowerment, a feeling of strength, confidence, and competence. You're standing straight up to the frustrations and conflicts you've been avoiding. Anger is a can-do emotion: "I can fix this problem," "I can make a difference here," "I can be successful if I try."

Pay attention to your posture the next time you feel down, dejected, and impotent about some important thing in your life. Then notice how your posture changes when you get fired up and begin to take charge of the situation. You'll be amazed at the difference.

Ask yourself: How often do I succumb to impotent anger?

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