The Power Of Getting Angry

BY LAURA CALLAN

EDITOR'S BLOG

ILLUSTRATIONS BY LAURA CALLAN

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ISSUE FIVE OF BRIGHT IN JUNE 2018.


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It sometimes feels like we’re living in a world of positivity, and declarations of #postivevibes only. 

Sure, nobody really likes to spend too much time with a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer (side note: why are all these names female?) but humans are capable of a wide and varied range of emotions. We are complex creatures who react to the world around us with emotions, thoughts and intelligence, to deny any ‘negative’ emotions is to deny a large portion of what makes us who we are. 

When we focus on positive vibes only, we’re ignoring, burying or hiding the things that aren’t positive, or don’t make us feel good. 

Burying negative emotions and pushing ourselves to feel positive or ‘look on the bright side’ in the extreme cause something known as ‘emotional avoidance’, which is a main cause of many psychological problems(1).

Emotional avoidance may give us short term relief from experiencing, dealing with and moving on from that negative feeling, but  are instead trading that in for more long-term pain.

Going through life we all have challenges to face, things that make us uncomfortable, upset or cause us pain or anger, if we regularly choose to avoid feelings and the place, situations or people that cause them we increasingly lessen our coping skills over time. 

Denying ourselves the ability to experience any feelings that occur within ourselves naturally is a form of emotion-policing. It goes against how we naturally react and respond to our environments and interactions, and can cause us to be super vigilant with our inner feelings and inner dialogue, shutting off certain parts of ourselves. We create a negative imbalance by trying to avoid negativity. 

We deny ourselves of the truth. Our true reactions, however we judge them are still our true reactions. Instead of denying any negative feelings, thoughts and emotions, we should value them, consider them with our knowledge, experiences and values. 

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Emotional acceptance gives us the ability to accept and experience negative emotions, to acknowledge them, to accept them and not waste energy pushing them away or burying them. Once they’re acknowledged and experienced you can learn about them and yourself, identify and perhaps address the cause of them. 

So that’s emotions, let’s embrace them all. Even, wait for it, anger. 

We suppress, redirect and hide our anger to appear civilised and socially acceptable. Anger is seen as unreasonable, unacceptable, something to hide.

Anger is arguably the most frowned upon, anti-social ‘negative’ emotion. But anger has a bad reputation, because anger gets stuff done. 

I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and be a full-blown rage monster for extended periods of time. Anger has its place. And controlled, constructive anger can be a force for development, for progress, for change.

Think about a time when you felt sad about something. Now think about a time when you felt angry about something. When did you have more energy, more motivation? Anger is a motivating force, a positive energy that pushes you to do something. 

If you can use and channel your anger, it can make you feel stronger and more powerful, and push you towards a goal, to make changes in your environment, to achieve something. 

People who are angry have been proven to be more optimistic, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, and is actually a powerful form of or route to positive communication. Anger is a way of communicating a feeling of injustice, and so if you hide your anger from those around you, they won’t be made aware of whatever they may be doing to make you angry. Expressing your anger constructively with the aim of finding a solution can be a positive communication tool, but be mindful of finding that solution and not just venting. 

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So anger isn’t always bad. It can actually, when dealt with constructively, be a positive thing. Anger is something we can embrace.

Let’s put this into a vegan and ethical lifestyle perspective. The ‘angry vegan’ or ‘angry eco warrior’ stereotype follows us around, and it’s something many of us actively try to avoid. 

But when it comes down to it, of course we feel angry. We feel anger for what we see as social injustices. We know the facts, we’ve seen the videos, we’re living proof that it doesn’t have to be this way.

When you know that over 56 billions animals are killed every year, when you know how polluted the ocean is with plastic, when you’ve seen the true horror of slaughterhouse videos how could you not feel upset, shocked and angry?

If you didn’t feel angry about these things, what would you be doing to change them? Probably far less than you are already. 

It’s okay to be angry, and there is nothing wrong with being an angry vegan, or an angry person fighting against any kind of injustice. 

If you care about animals, the environment, racism, sexism, transphobia or any of the many forms of social injustice, use that anger and that passion to do something about it. There are so many ways we can all channel and use that anger, whether it’s talking to people in your social circle, sharing things online, being an activist or joining an organisation. Don’t deny such a powerful force. 


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References:

1: Schpencer, N. (2008). ‘Emotional Acceptance: Why Feeling Bad is Good’. Psychology Today.

2: PsyBlog. (2018). ‘The Upside of Anger: 6 Psychological Benefits of Getting Mad’.