Anger has been blamed for all manner of modern - and historical - ills. If the survival of humankind depends on cooperation, protection and constructive interaction, why have we evolved to experience an emotion which can cause us to kill, maim and - both physically and psychologically - wound each other? We explore why we have evolved to feel anger, the surprising ways in which it can benefit us, and how to use it in the right way...
Why have we evolved to feel anger?
Scientists view anger as a psychological alarm bell. Experiencing a negative emotion, whether it be sadness, loneliness, guilt or fear, alerts us to the fact that something is wrong, and triggers the psychophysiological processes which prepare us to set it right. Anger is no different.
But psychologists distinguish between passive, aggressive and constructive anger. Bottled up, or channelled in the wrong way or direction, it can pose a threat - to the wellbeing of ourselves as well as those around us - but, channelled constructively, it can help us in a number of ways, some of them unexpected...
Why is anger good for us?
1. It increases our levels of motivation
First and foremost, anger drives us to make changes. It can even motivate us to achieve goals completely unrelated to the source of our anger: simply seeing images of angry faces can make us more keen to obtain attainable objects.
Make the most of that motivational surge by powering through your to-do list - or spending a bit of time compiling the ultimate bucket list...
2. It can buffer the negative impact of stress
Research has found that, far from making you feel worse, anger can actually increase blood flow to areas of the brain associated with the experience of positive feelings. Furthermore, responding to negative events with anger rather than fear has been linked with increased optimism about the future.
Turn your anger in on yourself though, and those negative feelings can fester. So, if you can't do anything to change the situation, find a physical or creative outlet for your energy. "Art, music, dance or simply exercise or sport can help a person work through their anger," says Crisp.
3. It can make you smarter
You might be surprised to learn that anger seems to promote rational thinking. Research participants are better at discriminating strong from weak arguments when angry. Scientists believe that anger can hone our focus, reducing our propensity to become distracted by peripheral details.
"Keeping control of anger can allow us to express our needs or concerns constructively and assertively, facilitating clear communication and effective problem solving," says clinical psychologist Simon Crisp.
4. It encourages others to help you out
The 'angry face' is a universal product of human evolution, say researchers, recognisable across the globe. It's designed to intimidate others by making us appear stronger. In one study on negotiation, participants made larger concessions to, and fewer demands of, an angry person than a happy one.
Remember though, constructive anger is characterised by assertion, not aggression!
5. It can improve your relationship
Anger expressed aggressively may be detrimental when it comes to our relationships, but anger which isn't expressed at all could be equally damaging, say scientists. For bonus points, expressing your feelings in a constructive manner may also enhance self-insight.
Angry with someone? Try using 'I' rather than 'you' statements, e.g. "I feel angry because..." rather than "you make so angry when...".
If anger is having a negative impact on your wellbeing, relationships or career, or you struggle to respond to feelings of anger in a constructive manner, read our guide onhow to control anger.
7 celeb-inspired straightener hairstyles we're loving for 2021
Look no further: These straightener hairstyles have got you covered for smooth, shiny, star-powered locks.
By Courtney Leiva •
How to get rid of fruit flies for good in five easy steps
Follow this simple plan of action to ensure the tiny buzzing pests don’t ruin your summer
By Helen Booth •
Skechers’ new walking shoes are the perfect Mother's Day gift to give your mum the ultimate comfort
Skechers’ new Arch Fit walking shoes offer podiatrist-certified support to keep you stable and comfortable on long walks
By Aleesha Badkar •
Fitness for women – 5 ways to boost motivation and enjoy exercise
Our health guru, Annie Deadman, makes fitness for women achievable, fun and simple...
By Lucy Gornall •
An expert guide to cancerous moles and the skin cancer signs that should raise your suspicions
Itchy, raised or bleeding moles? Spotting the signs that could save your life…
By Faye M Smith •
Yoga for weight loss - why it works, when to practice and the three moves you need to know about
Want to stretch and slim? Then it's time to try yoga for weight loss...
By Rose Goodman •
How to be happy in nature – boost your mood instantly by going outside
Learning how to be happy is easier than you think. Try these simple tips to stay mentally strong
By Ali Horsfall •
Research reveals that 14.5 per cent of women feel menopause is affecting their sex lives
New research has revealed that 14.5 per cent of women feel that menopause is affecting their sex lives
By Aleesha Badkar •
Your most Googled sleep problems solved: from insomnia and night sweats to the best positions to stop pain
Sleep problems wreaking havoc with your wellbeing? We asked the experts the questions that are keeping you up at night...
By Rose Goodman •
The best sleep teas for relaxing at bedtime
Sleep teas can help relax your body and mind for a better night's rest
By Aleesha Badkar •