Anger is de­struc­tive.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Twit­ter: @schemaly

In July, in her pop­u­lar Net­flix spe­cial, “Nanette,” co­me­dian Han­nah Gadsby con­cluded that anger, which had pow­ered her for years, was a purely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive emo­tion whose only pur­pose is “to spread blind ha­tred.” How many fic­tional char­ac­ters throw plates — as does Ali­cia, the hero­ine and vic­tim of a cheat­ing spouse in “The Good Wife”? It seems in­tu­itive that hav­ing neg­a­tive feel­ings is harm­ful.

But hav­ing the feel­ings isn’t the prob­lem; it’s what we do about them. The Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion points out that “anger is a com­pletely nor­mal, usu­ally healthy, hu­man emo­tion” that “turns de­struc­tive” when it’s not ac­knowl­edged, not un­der­stood. Anger can be chan­neled pro­duc­tively and cre­atively, of­ten with pow­er­ful and last­ing ef­fects. For in­stance, af­ter the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Bap­tist church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, singer Nina Si­mone was over­come with shock and rage. “I had it in mind to go out and kill some­one,” she ex­plained. Her hus­band, in­stead, urged her to “Do what you do.” The re­sult was “Mis­sis­sippi God­damn,” one of the most mov­ing and in­flu­en­tial protest songs of the 20th cen­tury. To­day, anger at so­cial in­jus­tice is fu­el­ing mas­sive so­cial move­ments in the United States and abroad, such as global women’s marches in 2017 and 2018.

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