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  • Ken Ribotsky

Can anger be healthy?

Anger is one of those strong emotions that gets a bad rap. The truth is that anger can be an important signal that someone (or something) is causing us real or perceived harm. Feeling angry isn’t the problem. How we respond to anger, however, can lead to all kinds of problems. For example, verbally or physically attacking others is detrimental for everyone.

Turning anger inward can also be harmful when it results in depression.

A challenge with anger is that many people react to it unconsciously. Therapy helps us learn how to pause and identify whether our anger is being caused by a present situation—or if it is being “triggered” by an event that occurred during childhood. Knowing the difference can benefit all of our relationships. Learning how to express anger constructively—and not destructively—can also be very empowering.

Some people can benefit from learning how to manage their anger, especially if they find they are often being triggered. It's also important to note that simply "stuffing" or ignoring one's anger is not generally helpful. This is often the default approach for men. We are taught, at very young ages that it is not safe or appropriate to be angry. This learning can start as early as when we are told not to cry as very small children. Crying is often a small child's only way to express his or her anger. When we are told to stop, we learn that we are either not allowed to cry or are "bad" for crying. Developing practices and tools to help us to transform the very natural energy of anger into something that is more helpful. It is important to get help with anger before it becomes chronic or out of control.

Healthy expression of anger always begins with awareness. The therapeutic journey is a process that requires persistence and practice. But the freedom that can be achieved is priceless.

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