Anger: What Is It Good For?

Many people would agree with the old song lyric “War – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Well, ok, except maybe for freeing slaves.  Stopping a genocidal dictator from taking over all of Europe.  Creating a new model of self governance out of the colony of a distant power.

In NLP we take the stance that every behavior is useful in some context.  Anger, too, is useful in some contexts.  The secret is, as with all of your behaviors, having choice about your response.

For most of  us, anger comes as a surprise, out of the blue.  In this brief essay Steve Andreas explores uses and causes of anger, and some alternative choices.

On Anger by Steve Andreas

Think of the last time you got really angry, and re-experience what that was like….

Before you got angry, did you do the following: “Well, let’s see, I could do this; I could do that; I could do the other thing…. No, I think I’ll get angry instead.”

In workshops and seminars I have asked literally thousands of people this question, and not a single person has said “Yes, that’s how it was.” We get angry when we’re totally frustrated, when all the things we’ve tried haven’t worked, and we’re feeling trapped, and completely out of choices.

If you’re already angry and haven’t expressed it, it can help a lot to yell and beat up a pillow (as long as you don’t inflict it on innocent bystanders). And in certain life-or-death situations, anger can mobilize the power to survive through violence. But in most situations, anger and violence are responses out of place, signs of weakness, not power.

The way to have less inappropriate anger in your life is to take the time to create many more choices for yourself–choices about how you think about things, choices about what else you could do, and choices about how you feel. With a wider range of choices, that trapped, out-of-choices, experience of frustration that provokes anger and violence will occur much less frequently.”

For a fuller treatment  with examples and processes, see:

Steve has gone into this in more depth offering some additional choices for resolving anger and resentment in his audio program “The Forgiveness Pattern

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