Anger is a universal feeling that we all deal with; it’s a subjective experience that looks differently for each individual. There are those of us that deal with their anger in large outbursts while others turn cold and silent. Even though humans (and some animals) have been experiencing anger for thousands of years, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.
Some people say anger is an emotion in and of itself, others argue that it’s simply a mask for deeper feelings like pain, sadness, and rejection. On the other spectrum, people say it’s a negative experience (emotion or not) that should be avoided altogether.
But anger doesn’t necessarily have to be labeled as a bad thing. We all know that anger can be expressed in negative ways, but when we learn how to channel it in a healthy manner there can be some surprising benefits.
So as we explore the three main types of anger we’ll also explore how to manage each one in a way that can be more helpful. We’ll then look at some benefits of anger when it’s directed usefully.
3 Main Types of Anger
1. Passive Aggressive
This type of anger usually arises with an underlying motive. The individual seems calm on the outside, but will do questionable things or make questionable remarks that are hurtful.
They don’t attempt to have a conversation about what is bothering them (avoidant), instead they consciously or unconsciously come up with ways to avoid those emotions but still express them. This expression usually comes through with sarcasm, procrastination (in the workplace), and “fun” mockery that helps them get their point across.
It can be difficult to work with individuals that express their anger passive aggressively because of their unwillingness to confront the underlying issue.
If you find yourself struggling with being passive aggressive, learn how to express your needs through assertive communication styles. Learning how to say “no,” communicating more directly, and expressing your opinions are all ways to avoid passive aggressive behaviors.
2. Open Aggression
This is the most obvious of anger styles. The anger comes out in forms of bullying, criticism, bickering, and physical or verbal aggression.
People with this style of anger usually have deep sources of pain, rejection, and mistreatment in the past that haven’t been dealt with. This past mistreatment then becomes the source for their open aggression to grow.
It’s pretty obvious why it can be difficult to work with people that experience open aggression. They may not try to hide their anger like those with passive aggressive tendencies, but they do hide the reasons behind all of their anger.
Finding socially acceptable ways to get your rage out can be very beneficial. Things like exercise, relaxation techniques, stretching and meditation are ways to help redirect and minimize your anger. Learning communication techniques for anger can benefit you as well.
3. Assertive Anger
Assertive anger is the healthiest of anger styles as it’s focused on change. You don’t fixate on hurting others with your anger, instead you try to figure out how your needs can be met.
Although dealing with someone that is angry is never easy, communicating with someone that has an assertive anger style can be the “easiest” of the three types. This person isn’t name calling or pointing fingers, they are focused on finding a solution that works for everyone while still prioritizing their own well-being.
Use your anger to overcome fears and spark growth that is needed in your life. You can have focused discussions with your loved ones knowing that your anger isn’t directed at them, but rather is directed at finding solutions to your pain points.
3 Benefits of Anger
1. Anger helps us know when we are feeling something deeper:
In effect, it grows our emotional intelligence.
When we take the time to ask why we’re feeling so angry, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Anger can stand as its own emotion but it is usually a sign that something deeper is going on.
Maybe our ego has been burned, maybe a situation has brought up old pains from childhood traumas, or maybe we struggle with self confidence so any sarcastic comments made out of fun hit directly through our shield to the insecurities that hide within.
Digging into the why behind our anger will help us see the areas that we have yet to work through.
2. Anger helps others know when something is wrong:
This one is pretty obvious, and I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where someone is angry and we actively try to avoid that person. Because we know something is wrong and we just don’t feel like dealing with someone else’s issues. Anger is a clear sign to others that something is wrong, and when it’s expressed constructively it can be a great way to help navigate situations in business, relationships, etc.
3. Anger can motivate us:
According to a study completed by the psychology department at Texas A&M, research has found that anger actually activates the part of the brain that is associated with positive approach behaviors (the left anterior cortex). This mumbo jumbo means that anger helps us move towards a stimulus rather than avoid it, aka, it helps us take action. Not only is that part of our brain stimulated, but we also experience physiological changes like increased blood pressure and a quickened heartbeat. The motivated sensations for approaching can trigger the actions needed to achieve a desirable result.
Learning how to control our anger can be a lifelong feat. However, it’s good for us to remember that we don’t need to run from anger completely. Instead, if we confront what’s causing the frustration and figure out ways to constructively communicate, we can spark change in our lives and the lives of those around us.