THE BLOG
12/17/2014 01:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Make Anger Your Friend

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If you let it, anger will be your true friend and ally. 

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Throughout our lives, we learn that anger is an inappropriate, unattractive, destructive emotion. But, in reality it can be a powerful force for good.

Anger is a messenger and a motivator.

It lets you know when someone has violated your boundaries and gives you the energy to act when something needs to change.

Anger is only a problem when it's stifled and ignored, leading to explosive outbursts or depression, and increasing the risk for health problems like heart attacks.

Here's a way to use anger to improve your life, your health, and the world:

First, practice paying attention.

  • Notice your emotions throughout the day and thank them for bringing you messages.
  • When you realize you're angry, listen to your anger. Let it make you curious. Why am I angry? What's going on in my life that's causing this?
  • Determine if someone or something has violated your boundaries, or if the anger is inviting you to make a change (or both).

A.) If your boundaries have been violated...

Has someone asked too much of you? Is someone standing too close? Have they disturbed your equilibrium? Taken to much of your time?

Is someone all up in your business?

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This discomfort lets you know that someone's in your space and helps you maintain your boundaries.

You can...

... Speak up! Talk about how it's making you feel. This isn't necessarily about making someone wrong, it's more about understanding your needs. (So, feel free to stick to "I" statements -- "I feel overwhelmed," "I'm uncomfortable," etc.)

... Make a change. Don't answer the phone when it rings (you can call people back when you want to), start saying no to commitments that don't interest you, take some time to focus on you. In short, draw clear boundaries with your behavior.

... Adapt. Notice your own habits. Is that person really out of line, or are you being a bit rigid in your thinking? You may realize you're being territorial about something unnecessary.  In this case, decide whether you need to ask others to change, or if this one's on you.

... Move away. If the person violating your space is not your friend, co-worker or acquaintance, sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of there.

B.) When Anger is a motivator...

Do you find that you're angry throughout the workday? Did an interaction you saw on the street rub you the wrong way? Are you sick of sitting inside all the time?

Anger can tell you that something in your life or in the world needs to change. It can let you know that it's time to switch it up, alter your lifestyle, or move to another city. It can also alert you to the presence of injustice.

This type of anger is urging you to move, change, act.

Though they were pacifists, I'm sure you can believe that Ghandi got angry, that Rev. MLK got angry, that Maya Angelou got angry, and that this anger is part of what motivated them to work for greater justice in the world.

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If you find you're experiencing this type of anger, do your best to take action. 

Make a move toward changing the situation:

  • Talk to your friends about leaving your job.
  • Plant a small garden on your porch.
  • Get involved with an organization that fights injustice.

Take whatever action works toward the needed change.

C.) If worse comes to worse...

If worse comes to worse and you can't find a creative or beneficial outlet for your feelings...

... Move around! Go for a run, write down everything on your mind, dance it out. Make sure to get it all out of your system.

This will, at the very least, keep the anger from getting stuck in your body and making you sick.

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I hope you find this information helpful when you need it. If you get in the habit of noticing your anger, and using it to spur change, you'll have a new friend for life.

Can you remember a time when anger helped you make a positive change in your life, your health, or the world? Inspire us by sharing in the comments below.

Amberlee writes a blog on holistic healing. Check out her website to explore free tools and tips for self-care.