How to harness productive anger and avoid destructive anger

Anger is something we tend to see as a negative and explosive emotion. When used in an aggressive and uncontrolled outburst, it is!  Most of us have had times when we have acted out or experienced someone who displayed anger towards us.  It’s not a nice feeling; in fact, it’s scary.

Let’s face it, we all have emotional responses to situations around us. When we consider our nation and world in its current climate, with riots, lockdowns, domestic violence, protesters, and the atrocities of Afghanistan, it impacts our frame of mind.   Our emotions well up and we can react with a range of responses such as, annoyance, suspicion, anxiety, despair, but also anger.   So how can we guard ourselves and from overreacting, allowing these feelings to consume us or to lash out in unhealthy ways with ourselves or those we live and work with? Our strongest emotions are triggered negatively when we feel our sense of fairness and safety are threatened, and we react out of fear, anger, and mistrust.  Alternatively, we have strong positive emotions when our welfare is enhanced; we have feelings of happiness, joy, and wellbeing. 

Renowned author Hannah Braime refers to anger as our response to having boundaries crossed.  She explains, it is possible to be angry without being aggressive and venting. However, our problem with anger, she states, is that “we don’t have a template for a healthy version of it.”  To address this, we need to learn to switch or flip that reaction from the negative destructive anger into the positive productive anger.

Author Soleira Green suggests, rather than blasting the energy out, we “put the anger and its energy in front of you, what’s triggering me, what’s underneath it, what do I CARE about that’s making me angry?” Green’s challenge is to use that energy to move forward on the issue that is producing the angry reaction. This is where we can be productive in our approach and response to what we are passionate about.   After all, passion is the tip of anger, it’s our mind’s response to give us a boost of energy to deal with something we care about!

The next time you find yourself reacting in the negative, try to switch or flip that reaction, check in with yourself to see what is driving your response and then do something about it.  For me, I know when I see the homeless on our streets, yes, I can become angry at the government for not doing enough about it, but I chose to be productive and used my passion to volunteer for an organisation that provides meals and somewhere to sleep. By doing something about it, I feel productive, and it gives me a sense of joy to engage in this way; helping to bring about some positive change in our society.  Again, while being angry and anxious at various decisions around Covid-19, it is not productive. I choose to turn off the news instead of allowing the negativity to consume me.  We all have a choice in how we react.

There is one certain way I keep my inner peace and helps keep my anger productive.  It’s simple, quick and life giving for me and hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, and that is prayer.  Prayer keeps me grounded, grateful, hopeful, and connected to an inner peace and source of strength like no other.  When I see, feel, and hear terrible stories around me, I can be at a loss as to what to do, however, I can pray, and so can you!  Even sitting here right now and praying at your seat in silence will allow you to pause and give you a moment of peace, light, and hope.  It’s not fancy, but it sure is powerful.  

BIO: Colleen is the Pastoral Associate for Staff on McAuley Campus in Brisbane. She finds this role to be innovative and relevant as an intentional approach to Mission in the workplace.  Colleen’s deep love for sharing her faith and friendship keeps her pushing through the messiness of life and challenging herself to be courageous!  Favourite book of 2021 – Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

The following slideshow controls change the content above and below. Information is displayed below the controls while video content plays above the video controls.

Have a question?

 AskACU home

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs