The benefits of anger: the good side of doing things with anger


By CAPosts 31 July, 2020 - 05:30am 34 views

© Getty Images In everyday situations you can also take advantage of anger.

A red face, a beating heart, the tendency to avoid saying the right words: these symptoms will be painfully familiar to anyone who has ever felt anger.

Seneca came to describe anger as a "short madness" that puts us in the path of self-destruction, "much like a rock that falls and breaks into pieces on the same thing it crushes."

In the opinion of the Roman philosopher, it is our "most horrible and savage passion" and "fundamentally perverse". And he argued that "no plague has cost the human race more expensive" than anger.

If so, we should be worried.

How to manage your emotions in the middle of the pandemic:: two experts answer your questions

Our helplessness in the face of the global pandemic and the frustrations of quarantine may be leading many to feel angrier than usual.

This has led, for example, to a 40% increase in divorce applications in the UK. Or in the least case, a conflict with our colleagues or a discussion with a family member can lead us to actions that we then regret.

But it doesn't have to be like this.

© Getty Images Uncontrolled anger, or manifest aggression, rarely has a positive result.

While manifest anger is clearly a destructive force, some recent experiments suggest that anger and related emotions, such as frustration or irritation, can also bring some advantages, as long as we know how to channel the energy that comes from those feelings.

In fact, experts point out that taking advantage of our feelings of anger can be far more effective than simply repressing them.

3 powerful skills that people with high "emotional intelligence" manage at work (and what's the most common trap they should avoid)

"Suppression simply leaves you exhausted," explains R. David Lebel, an organizational scientist at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. "Then, for me, it's about where we're going to direct that energy."

So what are those benefits? And how can we take advantage of them?


As a first example of the potential benefits of anger, let's begin with fitness.

© Getty Images Channeling anger can enhance troubleshooting.

It makes sense that the emotion, which evolved to prepare the body in the face of a fight, can result in an explosion of force. And now there is a lot of evidence that this can give an advantage in many sports.

"Anger is a kind of mobilizing emotion that is physiologically triggered," explains Brett Ford of the University of Toronto, Canada. "And you can use that activation to meet a physical goal."

In an experiment first published in 2009, UK sports scientists asked participants to imagine an annoying scene.

They were then subjected to a test of force in their legs, in which they were asked to kick as hard and fast as they could for five minutes, while a machine measured the strength of their movements.

4 tips to increase your emotional intelligence

Anger led to a significant increase in performance, as they channeled their frustration into exercise, compared to participants who felt more neutral.

Later studies found similar benefits in ball throwing and jumping: the angrier they felt, made faster pitches or jumped higher.

© Getty Images An investigation suggests that getting a foul before a shot could make basketball players more accurate in their shots.

In addition to providing an explosion of energy, anger can also increase accuracy, as a review of NBA players recently revealed.

Researchers examined the free throws of players' responses after a "clear path" foul in which an opponent deliberately makes contact with a player who goes alone and unhindered to hit the basket.

It is believed that this is a particularly annoying foul because the basket would have been very easy to achieve.

If the traditional explanation of the effects of anger were true, the sense of frustration, after the fault, would be expected to destroy the accuracy of the affected during the free-kick.

But the truth is exactly the opposite.

© Getty Images Michael Jordan is considered a player who used anger to his advantage.

Players were more likely to score after the blatant foul, compared to other free throws that had not arisen from such frustrating circumstances.

To make sure this result wasn't just a quirk in basketball, researchers also examined scores in the U.S. National Hockey League.

Analyzing 8,467 shots, they found that players who were angry about a foul are more likely to score after receiving a penalty than during a decisive shootout at the end of a game.

Investigators emphasize that free kicks and penalty kicks are well-practiced and relatively direct moves. And you may not see the same benefits in more complex tasks.

But at least in these circumstances, the sense of injustice sharpened the athlete's resolve and increased his performance.

David Lebel, who recently analyzed the documentary The Last Dance sN about Michael Jordan, points out that the basketball player managed to put his anger in his favor in the same way.

"I took any snubs from an opponent or coach, and channeled it completely and used it in the next game," he says.

The Spark of Creativity

Away from the sports field, anger seems to improve persistence and perseverance in the face of cognitive challenges.

In a frustrating experiment, Heather Lench of the University of Texas A&M and Linda Levine of the University of California, Irvine asked their participants to first solve a set of 21 five-letter anagrams, which were presented as a verbal intelligence test.

© Getty Images An outburst of anger can be a spark to have more creativity.

The first seven anagrams in the experiment seemed real, but were impossible to solve.

The researchers wanted to measure the effects of these "failures" on mood and motivation, so they questioned participants about their emotions at each stage of the test and measured how long they remained in each puzzle.

Unsurprisingly, each participant responded differently to impossible anagrams: some felt anxious after failure, some felt sad and others were completely unexpressed.

What is emotional work and how it can improve relationships (even in bed)

But it was the angriest people the most persistent during the whole task. Instead of surrendering, the annoyance seemed to energize them, so they were more persistent in each subsequent test.

An outburst of anger can also lead to greater creativity.

In brainstorming, angry people find more original and varied solutions, compared to people who had been predisposed to feel sad or emotionally neutral.

© Getty Images Experts argue that taking advantage of our anger can be far more effective than simply repressing them.

Increased arousal seems to overload the mind, allowing you to make connections that are not available in other emotional states.

The initial burst of creative energy seems to be depleted quickly, but it's worth considering these benefits whenever you face an irritating obstacle at work.

Whether it's unfair comments from others or an unforeseen technical failure, unpleasant feelings of frustration could inspire progress.

Constructive confrontation

In interpreting these types of results, Ford emphasizes that the context of the situation and the intensity of feelings are important. "Moderation is the key," he says.

A sense of perspective will be especially important when deciding to express anger to others.

© Getty Images Cognitive behavioral therapy might be necessary for people who can't control their aggression.

It is rarely advisable to unleash your anger, with manifest aggression or hostility, but there is some evidence that controlled expressions of anger can be effective in changing opinions.

Moderately angry participants tend to perform better in negotiations and confrontations. "If your goal is to confront someone, be firm, and dominate, anger can help you do that," Ford says.

How in Uruguay do thousands of children "for the jobs of the future" teach emotional intelligence

People with high emotional intelligence instinctively know this: by working with Maya Tamir at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ford discovered that people who score high emotional intelligence tests are more likely to cultivate feelings of anger before a confrontation.

Interestingly, this seems to be related to greater overall well-being: knowing when to express anger and how to do it properly can help you recover more quickly from a stressful situation, leading to better psychological health.

So how can we learn those skills? "That's the million-dollar question," Ford says.

© Getty Images Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, express, understand and manage emotions.

In a recent article, Lebel described some guidelines on ways we could channel our anger to bring about positive change.

He advises cultivating patience, planning answers before starting a confrontation, so that there is enough time to articulate feelings.

"Recognize your anger and then wait a few hours or a day, and think about how you can get it out more constructively," he says.

7 ancient emotions that have evolved over the centuries

He also recommends trying to get ahead of the type of answers that can cause you to lose focus and think about an appropriate response.

And it suggests looking at the broader context of the problem.

© Getty Images Getting carried away with anger is not a good sign.

At work, for example, you can examine how the situation influences colleagues or organization, rather than just focusing on yourself, which could also help express feelings in a more constructive way.

"That will reduce the potential disadvantages of talking, if you can take it and apply it to something bigger," he says.

Psychological distance

Feeling overwhelmed by feelings of anger and not knowing how to react may also consider using some psychological strategies to cool thinking.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a counselor guides the person through new ways to rethink emotions, is necessary for those with higher aggressive tendencies.

What revealed the world's greatest intelligence experiment

But new research shows that even relatively simple steps can lead to a significant change in behavior.

An efficient technique is "psychological estrangement".

© Getty Images Emotionally intelligent people know they need to regulate the level of activation of their emotions

This may involve imagining yourself looking to the past to provoke the event from a point in the future, or putting yourself in a friend's shoes and wondering how they might advise you to react.

It's important to note that the psychological estrangement won't completely eliminate feelings, but it can alleviateand help make wiser decisions about how best to respond.

Even the simple act of speaking to oneself in the third person (saying "David feels angry that...") as if a friend is being counseled, rather than oneself, has been shown to encourage a more constructive attitude.

You can also try putting the pen on the paper.

Multiple studies have found that expressing our feelings in the written word can help us understand painful feelings, allowing us to respond more constructively.

Touch and discretion

These techniques can take time and effort, but the evidence so far is clear: a greater appreciation of the effects of anger, both good and bad, is heading towards a healthier and happier life.

One of Seneca's predecessors knew it.

While the Roman stoic described anger as fundamentally evil, the Greek philosopher Aristotle recognized his potential for positive change, provided that he did not undermine reason.

© Getty Images "Recognize your anger and then wait a few hours or a day and think about how you can bring it out more constructively," Says Label.

In his view, the great challenge was "to be angry with the right person and to the right degree, at the right time, with the right purpose and in the right way."

The latest scientific research may bring us a little closer to achieving that wisdom.

*David Robson is the author of" The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Fools out and how to avoid it", which offers a set of cognitive tools to make wiser decisions.

Now you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don't miss our best content.

Already know our YouTube channel? Subscribe!