The Gift and Danger of Anger

Scales of Justice symbol - legal law concept image.Anger isn’t all bad. Anger has a purpose, and is often a motivating force for change. But as many of us know, anger has a dark side. Insert Star Wars mental montage here. While anger has the powerful ability to engender change, when not harnessed properly it can damage our health.

The role of healthy anger in East Asian medicine is to recognize injustice. The organs associated with anger (the liver and gallbladder) are equally associated with the ability to plan, bring those plans into fruition, and to connect with the collective unconscious through our dreams. Healthy anger fuels planning, strategizing, actions, and protests to protect the collective against injustice.

Healthy anger can also help you identify when something just isn’t right in your life. As individuals, we often feel angry when we are afraid of something, when we are worried or embarrassed. In health, feeling anger in these moments, can help us identify what the real underlying issue is. When we know to follow up that moment of anger with an inner monologue questioning why am I angry, we often can learn how to voice our real needs or concerns. This diffuses the anger, provides growth, and allows us to move on.

Unhealthy anger, as it relates to the individual,develops when we don’t ask ourselves that question. The anger starts to fester, leading to lashing out against ourselves, our friends, loved ones, or even strangers. Anger that masks fear, embarrassment, worry, or discomfort prevents us from growth, and simultaneously wounds us while we lash out at others.

This is also important when we look at how we respond to injustice. Remember anger has a purpose. If we teach ourselves to recognize what triggered us to be angry, we can make the appropriate steps to act in a way that heals. When using anger to motivate and fight against injustice, the work is often best achieved when anger sparks planning, strategizing, and then action. The actions often involve calm conversation, using logic, and finding common ground to connect over. Calm anger at injustice often promotes healing. The type of anger that burns hot with name calling, raised voices, insults and even violence, while seemingly justified, often does not engender change. It will often make the individual(s) that one is conversing with dig in their heels and entrench them deeper in their stance. Often both parties leave the conversation in fight or flight mode having their health negatively impacted, or in the case of violence, wounded much more deeply.

In response to the potential question: when all of the peaceful methods of conversation and protest fail, then isn’t it a natural step to switch to more demonstrative and violent acts of protest? That is a very large topic. If you know me, I will continually chose to believe in the ability of us to have the hard conversations that help us find common ground. I will continue to promote non-violent means of growing as a society. That being said, I can see where many in various times in history can make a case for using violence.

I believe it becomes important to note now that the liver and gallbladder, while organs of planning, are also considered the military of the body. There is a reason that wars occur. From a healthcare perspective, it is far better for everyone’s physical and mental health when we can resolve anger, injustice, and other concerns from a strategy of peaceful steps to engender change.

Now back to my original goal in writing this post:

I want to encourage all of us by using Chinese medical theory to learn from anger and to consider how to best channel its power as a motivator for change. The gift of anger is growth on both an individual and a societal level.

If we want to protect our health, then it is best to strategize how to most effectively use that anger. Ask yourself questions to understand the true root of your anger. If the root of your anger is due to witnessing injustice, then the best strategy is to think about what you can do to channel that anger into calm, strategic, and logical action. This strategy is more likely to allow someone to change their opinion or actions. Change often takes time and a long investment in communication.

Finally, when in conversation with someone that becomes angry or hostile, it is easy to respond in kind. This often causes anger to blaze hotter and more out of control on all sides. If you can strive to stay grounded, keep your voice calm, you can often help to diffuse the anger. If it cannot be diffuse, it is often best to walk away instead of being roped into the fight or flight response that simply spreads fear and anger around. In other words, walk away from the seductive power of the dark side.

Our emotions our powerful tools. My hope is that we all learn to use them to heal.

Thank you for reading.



  1. Mary Cleveland · · Reply

    Thank you Lindsay, I think this is very important right now.


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