Anger is destructive.
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.