We are raised to fight against anger. Techniques for maintaining a positive mindset are taught in school, and blind optimism is encouraged. If happiness is the key to success, why are so many short-tempered people successful? As reported by the BBC, Matthijs Baas of the University of Amsterdam decided to find out.
The Anger Experiment
Baas began the experiment simply. Volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group recalled events that irritated them and wrote corresponding essays. Group two followed the same premise but focused on sadness instead of anger.
Then, the two groups were pitted against each other. Their goals centered on improving education in the psychology department at the University of Amsterdam. Initially, the team focused on anger not only produced more ideas but were also more original. The experiment suggests that angry people are better at “unstructured” thinking. Unstructured thinking takes thinkers out of systematic thinking and into the territory of innovation.
Baas states, “Anger really prepares the body to mobilise resources.” In this regard, people have the energy and drive to find solutions to problems. Motivation increases and people are inclined to take more risks when angry than other mindsets.
Risks of Suppressed Emotions
The idea that suppressing one’s feelings is a bad idea is familiar to most. In fact, suppressing anger can be worse for your health than expressing it. Rises in blood pressure attributed to suppressing feelings may be partially responsible, though other factors may also be in play.
Often, suppressing feelings is a long-term affair. Control is exerted to hold emotions back, and additional irritants just compound the issue. Continuing the trend can require even more effort in regards to one’s actions, and may be more difficult over time.
Benefits of Feeling Angry
Angry individuals might be better negotiators. Often, negotiations revolve around feelings of respect and regards for the interests of all participants. Those who are prone to anger may act more shrewdly when that paradigm is violated. To punish the trespasser, angry people are more likely to inflict costs and retract benefits regarding the other person’s position. The goal is to help the person realize their error, but can result in a better deal for the irritated person along the way.
As anger builds, our body and face shift involuntarily. These changes demonstrate rising aggression and generally serve as a warning to other people. When used properly, these changes demonstrate strength. And strength helps advance one’s position when bargaining.
Anger can also help people be more aware of threats and better equipped to react appropriately. It can also demonstrate healthy self-esteem in certain situations, like being fired for no valid reason.
Risks of Happiness
It might be surprising to find out that happiness even comes with a set of risks. Aside from being less aware of threats, happy people are more likely to ignore the risks of binge drinking and overeating. Feeling happy suggests to our mind that we are safe. And feeling safe makes us less aware.
Happiness can also kill motivation. Believing your future is bright makes you less inclined to push yourself. Since it feels as though the required effort has been met, you might find yourself doing less as you relish in the sense of security.
Now, this doesn’t mean everyone should focus on being angry all of the time. Instead, learn to harness your anger to promote growth and development. Use the energy to push through difficult tasks or to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Just make sure you use it in the right way, and not as an excuse to tell off your boss simply because you had a bad day.