Bret A. Moore Psy.D., ABPP

The Camouflage Couch

Anger: Not All Bad?

Anger can be helpful

Posted Jul 06, 2015

Similar to SUVs, canned cheese spread, and guys who ask to split the check on the first date, anger has gotten a bad rap.  Nearly every article on this often misunderstood aspect of the human psyche is portrayed in a negative light.  Without question, anger is a very powerful emotion that often bothers service members after deployment.  It can negatively impact your relationships with your friends and significant other, hurt your chances for promotion, increase your chances of getting sick, and cause you to pick a fight with someone twice your size at the local bar. 

But, anger is not all bad.  Research has shown us that if expressed in a controlled and socially acceptable manner, anger can be quite beneficial.  Specifically, it can promote productivity, effective communication, and sound mental health.

One specific example of how anger can benefit you is that it provides motivation to do better.  Think back to basic training or boot camp when you were struggling with some aspect of your physical, educational, or military training.  It is quite possible that anger at your Drill Sergeant or Drill Instructor motivated you to run faster or do more push-ups, spend an extra hour at night studying for an exam, or practice the steps of breaking down and reassembling an assault rifle in your head before you passed out from fatigue on your cot.  Therefore, in these situations anger motivated you to perform at your highest level.

Experiencing anger is a way our bodies signal us that something is wrong and that we need to “adjust fire”. When we angrily snatch up our child just as they’re about to run behind a moving car, stand up to an abusive superior, or rush to the aide of an injured comrade under fire, anger spurs us to action in an effort to overcome a threat or right a wrong.

Anger is also a very effective way of helping you learn to be more assertive in your interactions with others.  Assertive communication is a non-aggressive way of letting people know how you feel, what your needs are, and what you expect of them.  Actually, assertive communication is expected of you in the military.  Unfortunately, many people do not learn this skill and either just come off looking angry and hostile. Turning anger into assertiveness is not that difficult.  The first step is to acknowledge that you are angry.  As with acknowledging any problem, this can be the hardest part.  Second, take a few minutes to let the intensity of the emotion decrease.  Third, determine what it is that you really want to say.  Fourth, practice what you want to say.  The final step is to say what you want to say. 

Remember, anger can lead to a variety of health and social problems.  However, if properly managed within the right context, anger can be a valued ally.

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