Why is anger such a disturbing emotion?
It is sometimes unpleasant for the person experiencing the anger, especially afterwards, and invariably for the person at whom it is directed. The one at the receiving end may feel afraid, resentful, shamed, angry themselves or all of these emotions at once. The end result for both is that excessive, unwarranted anger will place immense strain on the relationship, and if it is not dealt with, will become a barrier to the psychological growth of those involved.
And yet, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, could say that anger is the emotion that is closest to understanding. Whatever was he thinking? I suspect that he he might have sensed that the full-on energy of anger, which can at times even motivate us to perform courageous, self-sacrificing acts in response to an injustice, can be harnessed to help us stand outside our narrow view of things and see them more objectively than we ordinarily do.
So, how does that anger get harnessed and put to constructive use?
To begin with there is always a reason for anger. If I get angry at my partner or child even though they did nothing to warrant my anger, or if my anger seems greatly out of proportion, that does not mean there is not a reason for my inappropriate anger. There is a reason, a good one, only it happens to have little or nothing to do with the person I believe, at the moment, is causing my anger. So the first step, after exploring some strategies how to temporarily contain the anger from exploding, is to explore what reasons a person might have for feeling angry. Sometimes those reasons relate to events in the distant past, sometimes they are much more recent. When those events that angered us happened is not really so important. What is of much greater importance is whether the sense of having been unjustly treated has ever been made right. If a feeling of deep unfairness is still there, then the anger will remain somewhere inside us, too, and sooner or later will burst out, sometimes landing on the relatively innocent. However much regret and shame we may experience afterwards rarely helps to prevent the same thing from happening again. Healing those original emotional wounds, realizing, with the help of a counsellor, that those wounds are asking to be healed and, in fact, can be, are essential stages in letting go of misdirected anger.