Anger Management’s Overrated

Anger has never hurt anyone.

You read that right: Anger has never hurt anyone. “But what about homicide? Domestic violence? Barfights?” you ask. “Those are the results of anger, and people definitely do get hurt.”

People are hurt by aggression and violence, not by anger. Anger is an emotion. It’s a feeling, like love, or regret, or joy. Feelings are internal experiences. They are not the same as behavior.

Unlike anger, aggression is a behavior. Violence is a behavior. People do get hurt by aggression and violence every day. But anger by itself is only a feeling, and like any other feeling, it’s harmless in and of itself.

However, there are people who don’t know what to do with their angry feelings. Some of these people learned early in life that when they’re angry, the thing to do is to lash out at people, things, or themselves. They do damage with aggression and violence because they don’t know what else to do with their anger.

Others who never learned how to express anger in a healthy way, just keep it inside, turning it on themselves and therefore becoming depressed. Or they develop a very negative outlook on life that feeds the simmering anger inside. Feelings that can’t be expressed do internal damage, but they never hurt anyone else. Only behavior is hurtful; and a feeling is not a behavior.

Because so many people have difficulty expressing anger appropriately, our culture has an inordinate fear of anger. There is even research “proving” that expressing anger leads only to more anger, and is counter-therapeutic. The fact is, angry people get more and more angry only when they feel like nobody hears or cares about their feelings. When one’s expression of any feeling is acknowledged, understood and accepted by others, de-escalation occurs naturally.

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