4 Ways You Can Use Your Anger to Make Yourself More Powerful

Of all human emotions, the one that people struggle with the most is anger. That’s understandable!

After all, it’s the emotion with the most potential to get us into trouble. It can be exquisitely uncomfortable, and it’s the most difficult to control.

Many people find it easier to push anger down altogether (or suppress it) to avoid discomfort and conflict and to stay out of trouble.

Some wear anger like armor in hopes it will protect them from being hurt or mistreated.

Others go back and forth between pushing it down and erupting. In fact, these two things go together. The more you suppress your anger, the more intense it will be when it finally erupts.

If you were raised by parents who had low tolerance for your feelings (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN), then you may be all too good at pushing your anger away; suppressing it and repressing it so that you don’t even have to feel it.

In fact, you may – especially if you have CEN – be so uncomfortable with the A-Word that you can’t even say it.

I’m frustrated

I’m annoyed

I’m anxious

you may say instead of, I’m angry.

If you’re not comfortable with your anger, you’re more likely to misread and mislabel it as something milder or more diffuse.

“Isn’t stopping yourself from feeling angry a good skill to have?” you may be wondering.

The answer is actually NO.

Research has shown how very important anger is to living a healthy life.

4 Reasons to Make Friends With Your Anger

  1. Anger is a beautiful motivator

Aarts et al. (2010) found that people who were shown a picture of an angry face were more driven to obtain an object that they were shown later. Anger is like a driver that pushes you to strive for what you want or need. Anger carries with it the message, “Act!”

Example Without Anger: Alana was getting weary of being overlooked at work. She was well-known to be skilled and reliable, and yet she was repeatedly passed over for promotion to manager. Silently she watched younger, less experienced employees move past her, one by one.

Example With Anger: Alana became angry when a less-experienced colleague was promoted. “I deserve an explanation for this. I have to get myself promoted or leave the company,” she realized. The next day she walked into her supervisor’s office and asked why she was passed over. She was promised the next promotion slot.

2. Anger can make your relationship better and stronger

Anger, when used appropriately, can be very helpful in communication:

Baumeister et al. (1990) found that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be detrimental. When you hide your anger from your partner, you’re bypassing an important message that he or she may very much need to hear.

Of course, it’s important to take great care in how you express your anger. Try your best to calibrate it to the situation and express it with as much compassion for your partner as you can.

Example Without Anger: Lance was tired of his wife Joanne’s clutter. She kept, it seemed to Lance, virtually everything. There were stacks of newspapers on the dining room table, five pairs of sneakers of various ages in their closet, and a roomful of clothes that their children had outgrown. Lance wanted that room for an office. “I’ll never get that room,” he thought resignedly. All this time Joanne had no idea that there was a problem.

Example With Anger: Lance was fed up with the clutter. He told Joanne that it was making him feel stressed and unhappy, and also angry at her. After several heated discussions, Joanne removed her personal clutter from the spare room so that Lance could make it his office. They made a truce to try to meet each other in the middle.

3. Anger can help you better understand yourself

Anger can provide insight into ourselves if we allow it.

Kassinove et al. (1997) asked a large sample of people how recent outbursts of anger had affected them. Fifty-five percent said that getting angry had led to a positive outcome. Many respondents said that the anger episode had provided them with some insight into their own faults.

Anger can help you see yourself more clearly. And it can motivate self-change.

Example Without Anger: Joanne was surprised when Lance told her how angry her clutter was making him. “That’s too bad, you’ll just have to deal with it,” she said dully while exiting the room. She promptly put it out of her mind because she didn’t want to think about it.

Example With Anger: “That’s too bad, you’ll just have to deal with it,” Joanne fired back immediately. She stormed out of the room and slammed the bedroom door. Sitting on her bed she felt enraged and criticized.

The next day Joanne woke up with a different perspective on the conflict. She looked around and saw her home as though through Lance’s eyes. She realized that she felt criticized by Lance’s request. “I need to get better at taking criticism,” she thought.

4. Anger helps you negotiate

Anger can help you get what you want.

In a study of negotiation by Van Kleef et al. (2002), people made larger concessions and fewer demands of participants who were angry than ones who were not angry.

Anger makes you more powerful, especially when it’s justified and expressed with thought and care. Lets revisit Alana, who needed to have a difficult conversation with her supervisor.

Example Without Anger: Alana walked timidly into her supervisor’s office. After chatting about the weather, she said casually, “So what do I need to do to get promoted?” Her boss answered her question and went on with her day.

Example With Anger: Alana knew she was angry and that she needed to manage her anger when talking with her boss if she wanted to be effective. She walked into her boss’s office and said, “I need to talk to you about something important.” Alana explained how upset she was by her co-worker’s promotion. Her boss explained that the promoted co-worker was an excellent employee. This made Alana even angrier. She pushed, “Yes, he’s really good. But so am I, and I have more experience and excellent skills,” she stated clearly. Her boss paused, surprised at Alana’s persistence. “You’re right,” she said. Her boss then promised Alana the next available promotion.

If you grew up emotionally ignored or in an environment that did not have the room or tolerance for you to get angry (CEN), some small part of your brain probably screams “STOP!” as soon as you get an inkling of anger. The reality is that it’s not easy to turn that around.

But you can do it. Start thinking of anger as a helpful emotion, not something to avoid. Pay attention to your anger, and try to notice when you’re feeling it. Stop saying “STOP!” to your anger. Instead, listen to your anger’s message, consciously manage your angry feeling, and let your anger motivate and energize you.

Anger, when properly managed and expressed, is power.

So when you suppress your anger, you’re suppressing your power.

And why would you do that?

To learn more about how Childhood Emotional Neglect makes you unaware of your feelings of anger see the book, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Jonice

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Rosemarie - January 3, 2021 Reply

Oh boy has walling off my anger been an issue for me from a very strict childhood forbidding anger in girls and women while the men and boys in the family were free to be as angry as they wanted. As a result I became afraid of my anger… afraid that I might not be able to control it if I ever let it slip. But now I realize that my anger is justified and healthy. I don’t turn the anger inward toward myself anymore like I used to do. Baby steps. Thank you for this article, very informative!

Ann Marie - December 28, 2020 Reply

Angry people who have explosive tempers do need to work on suppressing and managing anger. They drop bombs , run and hide. Not sticking around to clean up the mess they made. They are abusive in many ways. Can you please clarify those are not who you are talking about here?

    Jonice - December 29, 2020 Reply

    This article, like everything on this site, is meant for people with Childhood Emotional Neglect. People with CEN suppress and wall off their feelings. This article is not meant for abusive, explosive people.

Ann Marie Acosta - December 28, 2020 Reply

If he/she responds with meekness or silence we make them out to be a coward if he/she responds with anger we make them out to be a bully. I read this in another article. I actually added the “she” because when I read this above quote it only had the “he”. With that could you please explain the difference between exploding and expressing anger? And the difference between managing and suppressing anger? Also I think the most important part that defines whether the anger was released in a healthy way, is how the individual whom expressed the anger, than accepts being open to both listening and resolving the issue, with the individual they expressed their anger onto. Doesn’t expressing it without sticking around to deal with it (the explosive bully) defeat the purpose of releasing it? Or having someone express their anger and then being the individual whom says nothing in order to avoid having a uncomfortable and /or difficult conversation to actually resolve an issue the real factor in whether we are dealing with anger in a healthy way? Most articles do tell people to release the anger without explaining how sticking around to work on a solution goes hand in hand together. You can’t just express anger and run. Thats not fixing anything or anyone. How we respond after expressing anger to someone is where the real work is done. In the “after” is the answer to whether our anger was healthy or not .

    Jonice - December 29, 2020 Reply

    Dear Ann Marie, the whole goal with anger expression is to say what you need to say but in a way that the other person is most likely to be able to take it in. Think about packaging it in a way that’s receivable. Then, yes, it makes sense to stick around if it’s something that should be resolved with a person who deserves resolution. Thanks for making that important point.

Catrina - December 28, 2020 Reply

I’ve never felt worthy enough to be angry in any situation. I felt helpless in many ways because when I felt the anger inside, I was told that I should be grateful for what I have. “Don’t focus on the negative”. Negative was a nicer word used for what was really destructive. Through this narrative, over generations, I find myself unable to get out anything I’m upset about. I feel trapped, and I know the only person that can help me is me. I just feel like I’m lost in this cycle.

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear Catrina, it’s so important that you learn how to use your voice after being taught not to use it. I encourage you to connect with a therapist from the Find A CEN Therapist List under the HELP tab on this website for some support and guidance in learning to express your own feeling, needs, and anger.

Kym - December 28, 2020 Reply

Pissedoffness. I make up my own words. My husband often says that he wishes I were not so angry.
It started with my narcissistic mother. Plus living in a nursing home my grandparents owned didn’t help. Now I have my 92year old mother in law AND her 5 different caregivers living in my house, plus the same narcissistic mother (mine) in my care. So as you can imagine, I’m perennially pissed off!

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kym, I’m so sorry for your situation and I hope one of these days you will be able to put yourself first. That’s what’s required for your own happiness and health.

Gloria - December 28, 2020 Reply

I was taught very early on as a child and throughout my entire life that expressing even a hint of anger was NOT acceptable, especially for a young girl, young woman or even as an older adult woman. The anger I’d felt all my life was made especially palpable because my mother was a deliberate, narcissistic, emotional, and psychological abuser who was never really present for me growing up, both physically and mentally. The level of deliberate, emotional, and psychological neglect that I experienced from my mother up until I was 20 years old has long since left a very indelible mark in my mind and soul. Of course this was made all the more worse as I ended up marrying a man at 21 who was an intense abuser in every regard, which naturally fueled my rage even more. But it wasn’t until I left him 16 years later and I started getting counseling that I discovered it was not only OK to express my anger, but it was healthy to do so, especially in light of the decades long abuse I endured growing up and later as an adult.

All my life I’d suppressed my anger only to explode in an intense fit of rage at times because I could no longer contain decades of anger that was seething in me. I often felt that I’d always lived a life where my right to express my anger over what I saw as shocking betrayal, neglect, abuse, and astounding indifference to my feelings and emotions in the face of such deliberate abuse was stolen from me. Had it not been for the genuine care, guidance, love, and attention that I did receive from my dad growing up, I don’t think I’d have the wonderful life I have today and the ability to express my anger more appropriately. I found this article very enlightening and empowering as I do sometimes still struggle with issues surrounding the expression of anger in an appropriate way. But I think this is more as a result of decades long neglect and abuse growing up and later in my adult life.

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear Gloria, I’m glad you got through all that and moved forward in your life to learn how to deal with your anger and express it. Thanks for sharing your story.

Jack - December 28, 2020 Reply

I learned as a child to stuff my anger. It left me without the ability to advocate for myself. Especially with authority figures. I felt that all I ever learned from anger was how to apologize for getting angry. So I became the ultimate people pleaser. A pushover even. Always backing down. I feel anger but I find ways of dissipating it without expressing it. The self-recriminations always follow. When I do express anger I get a response along the lines of “what’s the matter with you?” and followed by “that will be enough of that”. The cycle continues.

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jack, I encourage you to turn your focus to learning how to express your anger in a way that others can hear and understand. You could start by learning everything you can about assertiveness. There are many good books available on the topic.

JP - December 28, 2020 Reply

I could not express my anger growing up and now my husband can’t handle it either. I feel like a ticking time bomb! He doesn’t see that there might be a better way for him to respond. He can’t accept my disappoint or the fact that I have a different opinion either. When I talk to others, I feel like I’m complaining and no one believes me because they can’t see that side of our relationship.

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear JP, I recommend you see a therapist on your own to find out what’s going on in your marriage. It doesn’t sound healthy for you. An objective, trained perspective is necessary here. Check the Find A CEN Therapist List under the HElP tab of this website.

Sandra - December 28, 2020 Reply

Thank you Jonice! My whole life I have suppressed my anger. Partly because it was not safe to express and also I always tried to please other people by being “nice”. Now that I am doing the FUFL program I am dismantling my wall and feeling my emotions. I find that my anger is the most powerful when my CEN issues are triggered. I also have a difficult time not shutting down when others express anger (even if it’s not directed at me) as it frightens me as it did when my Father got angry. I always find your articles come when I need them most and always give me insight into my CEN and offer helpful advice. Thanks!

Liz - December 27, 2020 Reply

It was okay for my Dad and older brother and even my sister to become angry but not me. I stuffed down the feelings until they would explode. So my dad would say I had a long fuse but watch out when I blew.
I still tend to stifle my anger at times. Trying to learn how to express it appropriately, especially since I am also learning to develop boundaries.

    Jonice - December 27, 2020 Reply

    Dear Liz, that sounds like a lot of good work going on. It’s so important. Keep it up!

Deborah - December 27, 2020 Reply

The link to “anger” words resolves to 404 page not found.

Pat - December 27, 2020 Reply

In my family, I saw a lot of anger being expressed. My dad had a hair trigger temper….he did a lot of yelling…so did my mother…I remember as a child deciding I was never going to be like that…so I started stuffing it all down….Now, I am trying to resurrect it and express it the right way…

    Jonice - December 27, 2020 Reply

    Good for you, Pat. Expressing it in the right way is the key.

Catherine - December 27, 2020 Reply

Hello Dr Jonice
I think this issue is the most important one of all in emotional neglect. I believe you should address it more. Having the capacity for anger stolen from us at a young age leaves us SO vulnerable! Our parents have literally taken away the ability to self defend and live a full life!

    Jonice - December 27, 2020 Reply

    Yes, exactly, very true. It leaves you quite vulnerable and it’s completely unnecessary.

Barbara - December 27, 2020 Reply

I do find your articles very helpful, but I need to point something out. Part of self care, especially for women, is learning how to share the mental load. It’s unseen, all over the mental health news, and a huge burden. The example of the cluttered room is a bit offensive in this 2020 environment. Husband/father goes to wife/mother and tells her to clear out a room so he can have a home office? And she does?!? Please, I beg of you, change the example to the fact that they talk about it and do it together or even (!!!) that he offers to do it. Sharing the burden… that is self care.

    Jonice - December 27, 2020 Reply

    Dear Barbara, you make a point that is separate from the point of the article, but I did change the wording a bit. It’s now more clear that Joanne cleans up her own clutter, not the entire room. Thanks for your feedback.

Susan - March 9, 2016 Reply

This is so true. We never showed anger in my family growing up, so I never learned how to express it or deal with it. Now, at age 50, I find myself so full of anger over a lifetime of feeling invisible, of two sexual assaults, of losing my job, and many other real and imagined issues. My wife can’t handle people being mad at her. So once again I have to push my anger down. Because I didn’t learn how to constructively express it, it tends to come out as sarcasm or directed at the wrong people, and gives me the reputation of having a bad attitude.
Ugh. Thanks for letting me vent here. I just found your blog a month or so ago and am learning a lot from it.

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