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Motivational Effects of Anger

Harry Mills, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 8th 2016

Anger provides a mixture of motivational benefits, some healthy and some short sighted and self-destructive.

stressed womanOn the positive side, anger creates a sense of power and control in a situation where prior to anger these positive, motivating feelings did not exist. The feelings of control and righteousness that come from anger can motivate you to challenge and change difficult interpersonal and social injustices. If handled correctly, your anger can motivate others to help you win your cause. Anger can provide you with a rest from feelings of vulnerability, and a way of venting tensions and frustrations. It can provide the energy and resolve necessary to defend yourself when you've been wronged. If you are a long suffering victim of domestic abuse, for example, and your anger finally reaches the boiling point so that it enables you to leave your abusive relationship, anger has been a truly positive force in your life. If you are a dedicated crusader working to further a truly moral cause (such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s drive for civil rights, or Gandhi's drive for Indian independence), then anger gives you the strength to carry on, and the will to persevere.

There are negative motivational sides to anger too though. Anger can create and then reinforce a false sense of entitlement, a feeling of being better than others and deserving better things, that can be used to justify immoral actions. For instance, anger-motivated aggression can be used to justify terrorism, or to coerce and bully people into doing what you want them to do against their will. Angry people are likely to believe the philosophy that "the end justifies the means" and then use unspeakable means of working towards their goals that defeat their purpose. If you are a terrorist like Timothy McVey (who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995), a bully like television's Tony Soprano (lead character in the HBO drama “The Sopranos”), or a 'school shooter' like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (who murdered fellow high school students in Columbine, Colorado in 1999), anger has led you to the dark side.

It is important to recognize that the effect of anger can be either positive or negative. If years of unresolved anger reach the boiling point and motivate you to leave an abusive relationship, your anger has saved you from additional abuse. On the other hand, if you use your anger to frighten others into doing what you want them to without considering their needs, you are allowing your anger to coerce and control others and you are no better than a bully.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

same here - hanin - Nov 17th 2010

ya i have experienced the same sitution with my son but i tryed different kinds of ways to cure hes problem and i thank god he is not like that anymore.

anger management for kids - - Dec 18th 2007

Thank you for writing such useful information.  I have a 11 year old son that has been acting out in bursts of anger, yelling mean things to his siblings and myself and husband.  He can be violent and will destroy things of his own.  I have taken him to several counselors and even tried medication but nothing has helped.  However, he feels awkward talking to counselors and he refuses to take any medication.  Your articles are the first thing that I have read that gives me hope to help him.  Your articles give an nice approach to start resolving the anger cycle.  We will start an anger diary today (I will do one myself) and begin talking about your articles together.  Are there any books or workbooks for kids that you would recommend?

Thanks for the free information.  It is priceless.

One hopeful mom

Article on Motivational Effects of Anger - Dr Aparna Singhal - Oct 7th 2006
I would like to first congratulate you on such a wonderful series of articles on anger and its management. I would also like to bring to your notice that in the Article -Motivational Effects of Anger under the main topic "Anger Management", second paragraph, 3rd last line , the spelling of name of Mahatma Gandhi - The father of the nation (India) is misspelt as Ghandi. I would request you to kindly correct it.

Editor's Note: We have corrected the error - Thank You for pointing it out.

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