Using Anger To Your Advantage


To say the last few months have been challenging would be an understatement. I’m turning 20 in May, and I’ve been fortunate enough to lead a mostly calm life. Last fall, however, the universe decided that all bets were off. In the midst of some tough lessons and necessary growth, I’ve learned that healing is a beautiful process even through difficult moments.

I think we look at anger as something bad. Obviously, it doesn’t feel great to be angry, and when anger goes unchecked, it can become destructive. We saw this at play just this past Sunday at the Oscars, when Will Smith ran onstage and slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Some suggested that instead of striking Rock, Smith should have taken the opportunity to call out the quip respectfully, which would have been infinitely more well-received, while still an adequate method of getting the point across.

Had Smith done the latter, he would have been the perfect example of taking anger and applying it for a better end. When utilized properly, anger is an incredibly useful tool and one necessary for healing.

Anger serves a variety of functions. It can shield you from other negative emotions like sadness (which can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your place in the healing process), give you a sense of control or, most importantly, push you to change your circumstances. I didn’t always feel this way about anger. It used to consume my life on a daily basis; I was furious at the person who hurt me, mad at myself and frustrated by the idea that people outside the situation wouldn’t believe me if I spoke up about what I went through. I was just angry, plain and simple, and not in the place to do anything about it.

At the time, that was okay. If you’re going through something hard and feel angry, upset or any other negative emotion and just want to bask in that for a while, that’s perfectly normal. It’s important to take time to process and truly feel your feelings, as cliché as that sounds.

With that said, you need to move past it at some point. Allowing yourself to become bitter is unproductive and only harms you. For example, take the famous quote about how holding onto resentment “is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” While that saying is obnoxious and sometimes hard to understand when you’re in the middle of it, whoever made it up wasn’t wrong.

Sometimes anger will dissipate with time, but in other situations, action needs to be taken. Luckily, if it hasn’t faded on its own, you’ll likely be motivated to make a change — and once that happens, you’ll start to feel better. I overcame my anger by doing exactly this: someone was causing me pain, so I cut them out of my life. I was frustrated with myself for turning into someone I didn’t recognize, so I tapped back into the best qualities of my former self.

Anger empowered me to take charge of my life again. And once I improved my circumstances, I didn’t feel so angry anymore.

 Anger is an “ugly” emotion. We’re told we aren’t supposed to feel angry, and in truth, it’s rarely pleasant to do so. But I credit anger with carrying me out of a terrible period of my life; if I never got angry, I’d still be where I was five months ago. It’s a mighty force that can inspire you to leave a job that makes you unhappy, end a bad relationship and stand up to people around you.

The healing process is complicated and likely will be filled with negative feelings; some days are harder than others. But it’s worth it, and you will reach a point where it becomes so rewarding. You’ll find yourself spending time with people who love and support you, taking up hobbies and genuinely starting to enjoy your day-to-day life again. You’ll move from anger to forgiveness and clarity. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is unbelievably freeing.