Anger, depression and healthy aggression
Anger is definitely an unpleasant emotion. Alongside anxiety, it is up there with high-energy negative emotions, as opposed to low-energy ones, such as sadness or guilt.
Is there such a thing as healthy aggression?
Fear and excitement, apparently, produce the same physiological response: a rush of adrenaline and noradrenaline that prepares us to defend ourselves or run. Being aware of this can be helpful in situations where we want to transform our fear into excitement.
Similarly, according to various studies, there is a close physiological correlation between a person in an angry state and a person in a state of sexual arousal.
Like the sex drive is indispensable for our survival as a species (we simply wouldn't be here without it), we are all born with innate aggressive urges that are not at all destructive, but rather a drive for survival and growth.
While we should definitely try to reduce the negative expressions of our innate aggressive energy, it would be unwise to try and suppress such a fundamental part of our human nature. It is how we use our sexual, creative and aggressive energy that makes all the difference.
In middle-class British culture, as well as others, there is a tendency to suppress any expression of this natural aggressive force from an early age: small children are often scolded for raising the tone of their voice.
But healthy aggression is the positive impulse and desire to grow, learn and be creative - ultimately to survive in the world. Without it, we wouldn't be able to make choices, face difficulties or set our personal boundaries. When this natural energy is blocked, it can become toxic and destructive.
As well as being considered distasteful, anger is also seen by many people as not being 'spiritual' or 'enlightened'. Yet it is impossible to go about life without ever getting angry!
There's a story in the Vedas about a snake that terrifies an entire village by biting and killing people. A sage comes to town preaching his philosophy of love and spirituality. The snake is so moved by one of the talks that it vows to stop being nasty. Some time later, when the sage returns to the snake's town, he finds the snake in a very sorry state: beaten and downtrodden. The snake goes up to him and says: "I followed your philosophy and look where it got me. I'm half dead". The sage replies: "I never told you not to hiss".
The moral of the story is that healthy aggression is what motivates you to assert yourself against personal violation and to fight for your rights. It is both survival instinct and desire for self-actualisation. When this natural force is hindered, which it inevitably will be from time to time, we become frustrated, angry and/or depressed.
Depression and anger are closely linked
Freud referred to depression as 'anger turned inwards'. More recently, a 2013 UK study suggested that turning anger inwards increases the severity of depression.
People who are affected by depression often have strong inner critics that reinforce feelings of inadequacy and shame. Allowing yourself to feel and express anger at these voices can be liberating; it can help you feel lighter and more in touch with your real, healthy self.
Recent studies, however, suggest that while depressed people exhibit signs of anger suppression, they also experience more feelings of irritability and hostility than healthier people, particularly if they tend to ruminate on past situations or have difficulty tempering their emotions. Symptoms to watch out for include picking fights, being mean or even excessively critical and/or sarcastic - putting people down gratuitously.
In my experience, mindfulness can be particularly helpful in reducing ruminative thoughts and regulating emotions. The practice teaches us to still the mind by allowing thoughts and emotions to come and go, without holding on to them.
By becoming aware of every single thought, emotion and physical sensation that arises and passes, we grow into the observers and tamers of our own minds, rather than allowing ourselves to be ruled by them.
To some, this might sound far-fetched. To others, rather simplistic. The more severe cases of anxiety and depression probably do need a pharmacological approach. But psychiatry, too, has finally started to recognise the efficacy of this ancient, secular practice.
Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Nico De Napoli
Nico is an accredited coach with over a decade of experience in mind-body work and a background in music and linguistics.… Read more
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