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Five ways to find positivity through anger

It's OK to be angry. We shouldn't deny it and try to bottle it up – and there are ways to release it without harming others or yourself, says writer Juliet Davey, who has discovered how to harness positivity from an initially negative emotion

by Psychologies

Living a life of love, abundance, kindness and compassion. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself. I write it on fancy paper in beautiful calligraphy, I say it into the mirror, I doodle it, I express it to my friends… and I often embody it. But not right now. Right now what I feel is outrage! My heart is beating fast, my throat tightens and my teeth are clenched. Despite all my attempts to calm myself, all I feel is what seems to be a wholly ineffective and hopeless indignation.

Anger is energy and it does not necessarily have to lead us to undesirable outcomes. It invites us to take action. The motivating potential of anger is described well by peace-builder Scilla Elworthy during her 2012 TED talk: ‘Wherever there is injustice, there's anger. But anger is like gasoline, and if you spray it around and somebody lights a match, you've got an inferno. But anger as an engine – in an engine – is powerful. If we can put our anger inside an engine, it can drive us forward; it can get us through the dreadful moments and it can give us real inner power.”

If harnessed, it seems that anger can be used beneficially. But we need to act fast. According to several studies published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, angry people are more likely to be creative. However, the study showed that this positive side-effect does not last long due to the exhaustive nature of anger.

There has always been an interesting correlation between anger and creativity. Identified by the Greek concept, ‘daimonic’ - this term is associated with evil demons yet it translates as: ‘deity, genius, guiding spirit’. In psychological terms, the idea of daimonic has come to represent an elemental force, which contains an irrepressible drive towards individualism. 'The daimonic model considers both creativity on one side, and anger and rage on the other side, as coming from the same source. That is, constructiveness and destructiveness have the same source in human personality. The source is simply human potential,’ says American existential psychologist Rollo May.

So to use anger for your betterment, do not drive it down but instead channel it in order to:

1 Find creative solutions

Anger brings up memories of past hurt and can inspire imagined outcomes. These imaginings can lead us to innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.

2 Strengthen your resolve

Anger can help us focus and energetically provide us with the persistence needed to overcome obstacles.

3 Become more self-aware 

Acknowledging when we are angry and understanding our triggers can be a useful tool for self-growth. Just that recognition can take the edge off and allow us to direct this energy into creative pursuits.

4 Brainstorm

High emotions can inspire unstructured and atypical thinking. These are the moments that allow us to think outside of the box. So get yourself a pen and paper and note down ideas.

5 Get fit

The intense surge of energy supplied by anger can help push you through physical exhaustion. Use this energy to realise your fitness goals and release those feel-good endorphins.

Photograph: iStock

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