What is appropriate anger – and is there such a thing as inappropriate anger? Anger is one of the eight basic emotions (they are joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation) we observe universally in people all over the world. Anger is a valid, necessary, and appropriate human emotion. I consider anger, like all other emotions, as data, or better: emotional information about the quality of an experience we have. Whereas in the distant past anger has informed humans about immanent threat to their lives, nowadays anger rather informs us about a trespassing, injustice, disrespect, or pending physical or emotional harm.
Does that mean that all anger is appropriate? Far from it! Inappropriate anger is based on irrational beliefs; unrealistic expectations of other people and of life in general, wrong perceptions, wrong interpretations of other people’s behaviours, and generalisations. More often than not, inappropriate anger has its roots in childhood experiences that caused anger or even rage which the child was at the time unable to express and has since suppressed.
Having feelings of anger based on cognitive distortions, irrational beliefs, wrong perceptions, or suppressed childhood experiences will be damaging because they will cause frictions in relationships and ultimately work against the best interests of the angry person him/herself.
More important for making a distinction about appropriate or inappropriate anger is how anger is expressed. Inappropriate anger usually shows a degree of aggressiveness that is completely out of proportion to the infringement or provocation. Thus, how anger is expressed is key to making the distinction about appropriateness. Knowing whether anger is justified or based on cognitive distortions or irrational beliefs , knowing where your anger comes from, is crucial for having successful and meaningful relationships and a good life.