Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dean on the Positive Effects of Anger

Over at PsyBlog, Dr. Jeremy Dean discusses some of the unexpectedly positive effects of anger. Excerpt:
There are all sorts of good sensible, civilised reasons to avoid getting angry.

Not only does it make you feel bad, it makes you do stupid things without noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive.

As a result civilised people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it’s unreasonable, unshowable and unmentionable.

But like all emotions anger has its purposes, which can be used to good effect. ...

You sometimes hear people talking about using anger as a motivating force by ‘turning anger into positive energy’. In fact anger itself is a kind of positive energy and a powerful motivating force. Research has shown that anger can make us push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers.
Read the whole thing. It probably surprises no one who has read this blog for any length of time that I’m pretty much a private person. Though I’ll own to having deeply seated convictions about politics and theology, aesthetics and morality, I don’t like going all scorched earth over them, particularly here. Ditto for my own personal life and its concomitant internal emotional acrobatics. There’s enough of that stuff online if you want to find it without me sullying my virtual street corner with it. But today I’m going to bend that self-imposed standard a little, because several things in the past few days have made me rather angry.

No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. Don’t ask.

So why am I bringing it up? Because I think it can have a practical impact on one’s writing. Like Dean says above, we all know anger can have really deleterious effects. If I don’t manage it, I find myself stuck in a seething slump, accomplishing absolutely nothing. Think of it as the emotional equivalent of a hot tar pit. But one’s anger doesn’t necessarily need to cause you to lash out at others, to do things you ought not do and neglect things you should. Freud sits on the ash heap of history, true, but I think it’s could be wise to appropriate his idea of sublimation. With a little effort and perspective, perhaps we can transmute our anger into something valuable—maybe even a story or two.

(Picture: CC 2005 by Etienne)

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