Updated: Sep 30
“My mother was a good girl who became a good wife who then became a good mother who was never supposed to be angry or demanding.” - Soraya Chemaly
It's no surprise anger has a bad reputation.
How many of us have seen a parent or caregiver get angry and then seconds later they were hurting either us or a sibling? No wonder our brains learned to correlate anger with pain. For us, a parent or caregiver feeling angry and someone getting hurt became one and the same. Ask any therapist and that's just classic operant conditioning.
But what if we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water?
Some people drive terribly. Should we all stop driving?
Some people use the internet to be hateful. Should we all stop using the internet?
Some people hammer their fingers more than the nails. Ban all hammers?
I’m going to go ahead and guess you're not about to part with your car or your phone. And sometimes that hammer comes in really handy. Why should you not benefit from a helpful tool just because some other humans don’t know how to use it?
Anger—like cars, the internet, and hammers—is a tool. And just because some misuse this tool (hello, abusive moms who get angry, lash out at their kids, and cause the mother wound) doesn’t mean we all should toss it. In fact, trying to silence our anger is a big reason so many of us experience difficult-to-treat headaches, muscle aches, and mental illness, just to name a few.
What's here for you
In this blog post I’m giving you 23 good reasons to welcome your anger back into your life. If you grew up with adults who mistook their angry feelings as an excuse to behave abusively, this whole befriend your anger idea probably sounds ridiculous.
But here’s the thing: the angry feelings never were the problem. The problem was how the adults chose to respond when they felt angry.
Going back to the tool metaphor, it wasn’t the tool that caused the car crash or the online hate speech or the banged up finger. The bad stuff happened because a few people failed to use the tools correctly.
The next time you drive by a car crash, pay attention to your thoughts. Are you suddenly vowing to give away your own car and promising to never drive again? Or are you getting curious and asking yourself questions like, “What went wrong here? How can I avoid this when I’m driving?”
As we look back on our childhoods, we have a powerful opportunity. Instead of abandoning our anger forever and for always because somebody we knew back then did angry wrong, we can choose to do angry differently. And part of choosing to do differently starts with seeing our anger as a friend, not an enemy.
1. Your anger is a signal
“Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.” - Harriet Lerner
2. Your anger just is
“Anger is neither legitimate nor illegitimate, meaningful nor pointless. Anger simply is. To ask, "Is my anger legitimate?" is similar to asking, "Do I have a right to be thirsty? After all, I just had a glass of water fifteen minutes ago. Surely my thirst is not legitimate. And besides, what's the point of getting thirsty when I can't get anything to drink now, anyway?'” - Harriet Lerner
3. Your anger wants to help you
“Anger is our reaction to the violation of our boundaries.” - Kathleen Dowling Singh
4. Your anger has a purpose
“Anger is something we feel. It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel—and certainly our anger is no exception.” - Harriet Lerner
5. Your anger advocates for you
“Anger is the roar of a lion, the cry of a universe longing to be born. It reminds you, when you have forgotten, that the power of life moves through you. That you matter. That your voice will not be silenced. That you have self-respect, and deserve to be treated with dignity.” - Jeff Foster
6. Your anger deserves your respect
“Be gentle with anger. Bow before it.” - Jeff Foster
7. Your anger is powerful
“Don't lose your temper; use it.” - Dolly Parton
8. Your anger allows you to access your courage
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” - Saint Augustine
9. Your anger wants to be heard
“If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.” - Deepak Chopra
10. Your anger is necessary
“It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. In fact, you have to be angry if you want to heal your wounded inner child.” - John Bradshaw
11. Your anger belongs to you
“I have a right to my anger, and I don't want anybody telling me I shouldn't be, that it's not nice to be, and that something's wrong with me because I get angry.” - Maxine Waters
12. Your anger does not lessen your love
“I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason.” - Elie Wiesel
13. Your anger is an expression of your love
“Love implies anger. The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing.” - Edward Abbey
14. Your anger is allowed regardless of your gender
“Men make angry music and it's called rock-and-roll; women include anger in their vocabulary and suddenly they're angry and militant.” - Ani DiFranco
15. Your anger is communication
“Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right.” - Harriet Lerner
16. Your anger is allowed
“Sometimes owning our pain and bearing witness to struggle means getting angry. When we deny ourselves the right to be angry, we deny our pain.” - Brené Brown
17. Your anger is valid
“The fact, and some people may need to actively remind themselves of this, is that we are talking about a valid, natural feeling that does not in itself intend anyone any harm. Anger in its pure form has no moral content, right or wrong—it just is, its only "desire" a noble one: to maintain integrity and equilibrium.” - Gabor Maté
18. Your anger doesn't discredit you
“The taboos against our feeling and expressing anger are so powerful that even knowing when we are angry is not a simple matter. When a woman shows her anger, she is likely to be dismissed as irrational or worse.” - Harriet Lerner
19. Your anger can give you strength
“When I am angry I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.” - Martin Luther
20. Your anger is worthy
“When someone says that I'm angry it's actually a compliment. I have not always been direct with my anger in my relationships, which is part of why I'd write about it in my songs because I had such fear around expressing anger as a woman.” - Alanis Morissette
21. Your anger is nothing to be ashamed of
“When we deny ourselves the right to be angry, we deny our pain. There are a lot of coded shame messages in the rhetoric of “Why so hostile?” “Don’t get hysterical,” “I’m sensing so much anger!” and “Don’t take it so personally.” All of these responses are normally code for “Your emotion or opinion is making me uncomfortable” or “Suck it up and stay quiet.” - Brené Brown
22. Your anger is honest
“Wherever we find ourselves tolerating or explaining away situations that persistently stress us, insisting that "it's not so bad" or "I can handle it" or "I don't want to make a fuss about it," there is likely an opportunity to practice giving anger some space to emerge. Even the plainspoken admission that "I don't like this" or "I don't want this" can be a step forward.” - Gabor Maté
23. Your anger often comes with truth
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.” - Aldous Huxley
24. Your anger loves you
“I wanna share something my therapist said about anger that blew my mind: Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that loves you.” - Lyndsey Gallant