I have spoken before about how feelings are not good or bad – they simply are. A feeling might be unpleasant, but you are not wrong for feeling it. A feeling might not be logical, or in proportion to the precipitating trigger, or fully in touch with the facts of reality, but it does not need to be justified.
Sometimes we act out in response to our emotions, and we can be held accountable for our behavior regardless of our emotional state at the time. In particular, some people struggle to make appropriate choices when they are experiencing anger. I constantly tell the kids I work with, “It’s ok for you to feel angry. I feel angry sometimes, too! It’s not ok to (hit, break things, hurt people, hurt yourself) while you feel angry.”
One way to process emotions in a healthy way is to identify what the emotion is trying to tell you. I have seen many people (both professionals and non-professionals) say that anger is a “secondary” emotion, meaning that we feel angry in response to a different emotion, like sadness or fear. While this may be true some of the time, sometimes anger is the primary emotion. Insisting that anger is always secondary invalidates when anger is primary.
When you feel angry, ask yourself, what message does my anger have for me?
My anger might be cuing me to injustice. Something is happening that is not okay, and I feel angry and motivated to fight back.
My anger might indicate that someone is mistreating me. It is telling me that I deserve better and have the right to stand up for myself.
My anger might tell me that something I am doing is not working, and I need to take concrete steps to make a change.
If you feel angry constantly, the emotion can wear you down and be unhealthy. At the same time, denying your anger is unhelpful and can be self-invalidating. If you struggle to find your balance, a therapist can help.
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