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Anger - When It's Helpful, When It's Not

Guest Author - Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD

What is anger?

Everybody gets angry. It is a normal response to frustration. It is a feeling you have inside you that occurs when you feel frustrated or wronged.

You may not even be aware when you're angry because you may automatically react to it, zing someone, tell them off, cut them off, give them a piece of our mind, or bury it deep inside you where it festers and can add to or even create physical conditions. Many of these reactions are things learned in family situations years ago that can be set off by current situations.

When is anger helpful?

Anger is helpful when...

* You need to mobilize yourself during a physical threat or attack

Shouting in an angry way at an attacker rather than submitting can mean the difference between staying alive and being hurt or even killed. "Get away from me or I'll hurt you," saved one older woman from an intruder who entered her house. At the loud and angry tone of her voice, the intruder ran out of the house. Using reasonable and directed anger in this type of situation could mean the difference between staying safe and being hurt or killed.

* Your boundaries are violated at work by being asked to do tasks not part of your job description, or when family or friends or dates try to control you, or even when a neighbor constantly borrows tools or lets his pets loose in your yard. In each of these cases, your anger can mobilize you to learn assertive skills---to use anger effectively, you don't have to yell or be nasty, just learn to set limits and stick to them.

* You are being physically or sexually abused

* Anger covers over your right to assert your needs

When it's important to say no to anger?

Anger can become a chronic way of responding to stressful situations. This can lead to retaliation from others, resentment and resistance, and even being fired or blackballed. Say no to anger when...

* it's more work than the perceived benefits

* you're so angry, there's no room in your life for anything else; you see red all the time

* it tires you out and leaves you without energy to pursue positive goals

* you have alienated important people in your life or work

Occasional anger isn't a problem, but chronic anger can leave you depleted, disliked and derailed from a positive, loving existence.

What you need to do to stop being angry all the time

* change your beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes that trigger chronic anger

* identify stresses and needs that lie below your anger

* reduce your stress level so you don't use anger to cover over what you really need

* find effective ways to cope with your stress so you don't explode or use passive aggression with others

* find a way to rebuild relationships with people who may resent and resist you now that they've been the target of your anger

* learn communication and problem solving skills to help you get what you want and need without anger.


CC Clark, Holistic Assertiveness Skills for Nurses: Empower Yourself and Others. NY: Springer, 2003

M McKay, P Roger, J McKay. When Anger Hurts, Quieting the Storm Within.
Oakland: New Harbinger, 1992.

R Potter-Efron. Angry All the Time, An Emergency Guide to Anger Control, Oakland: New Harbinger, 1994.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Carolyn Chambers Clark, RN, EdD. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Teresa Post for details.


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