It’s Good to be Angry

January 2, 2012

Breaking News, Editorials, Opinion

Roz Yazdanmehr

It’s Good To Be Angry

Textbook Definition:
Anger: An-ger
A strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.

Human Definition:
Anger: An-ger
A strong, aggressive desire to punch something and use foul language.

Whatever your definition, anger is something that we are all familiar with. It is a natural and automatic response of the human body, just as happiness and sadness are. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response. So why have we been raised to believe that anger is bad, and should be suppressed? Anger is one of the most valuable responses of the human body, starting with the consequences of an anger-free world, then moving on to Aristotle’s views on anger, and human health.

Anger is the voice of injustice. It is the fuel given to us by nature in order to facilitate action. It is the emotion that increases the probability of revolt when reason would tell you it’s safer to be a nice puppy. History has shown us the revolutionary results of angry, ill-treated people. In 1919 women in Canada finally officially received voting rights. This was not achieved by happy, content women, but by angry women who fought and won the battle. Imagine for a moment that the emotion of anger did not exist. African-American people would still be sitting at the back of the bus. The poverty-stricken French families would still be scraping for bread while Marie Antoinette piled her hair taller and taller. If no one was ever angry the Berlin Wall would still stand high and mighty, and Gandhi may have spent his life cooking “naan” bread while Indians obeyed British rule. Anger has given the common people a voice, a chance to disagree and fight for justice. Without anger, things would never change. Clearly, our society cannot afford to not be angry.

Anger is a topic that Aristotle spent much thought over. His views stand strong and respected today. Aristotle ascribed some value to anger that has arisen from perceived injustice because it is useful for preventing injustice. However, he believed that a distinction must be made between good anger and irrational anger. Aristotle fills in the details of proper anger in “Nicomachean Ethics”. He wrote, “The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.” Aristotle even goes so far to say that anger is a gift and that “one would be a fool not to get angry”. Although rage, a common form of anger, can have potentially dangerous consequences, as Aristotle explains, controlled anger is an important human reaction to prevent further wrongs in the future.

Modern psychologists view anger as a primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by all humans, and as something that has functional value for survival. Through much scientific research, many discoveries have been made regarding how anger can be beneficial to human health. One of these discoveries is that anger makes people think more optimistically. When a person is angry dangers seem smaller, and actions seem less risky. The confidence in success is greatly higher, and unfortunate events seem less likely. Modern psychologists point out that suppression of anger may have harmful effects and encourage people to be angry, as is natural. In a 2005 study angry people were proven to be healthier and less at risk for heart-complications than fearful people because of the lower level of anxiety. Also in this study, angry subjects said they thought the risks of terrorism in the year following 9/11 were low, compared to what the fearful and neutral subjects thought. Possibly, the most important function of anger is self-protection. Anger is designed to protect us, our relationships and our way of seeing the world. It is a signal that something is wrong or there is a case of ill-treatment. . It is the body’s defense system against outside forces.

In the battle between right and wrong, the bodily effects of anger are meant to tell us that something’s wrong.

As with most things, Aristotle is right. He understood the purpose of anger, and that no human emotion is unnecessary or should be repressed. Think of it as an emotional police officer. Anger hand-cuffs injustice and locks it away. Generation after generation anger has protected each person from danger and abuse. Anger says “I stand for something and I will not let you take advantage of me.” A world without anger is a world without strength, belief, and defense. Not only is anger not bad, but it is healthy, and crucial to humanity. So go ahead, be angry.

– Roz Yazdanmehr

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