When Anger Is Good For You

Andy Hab
3 min readNov 10, 2023

Yes, anger has a good side when it comes to achieving goals

Surely anger is negative emotion and hence bad for you and and for your stress!

Well, I know some angry people who have lived a long time, a very long time. So it can’t be too bad for everyone!

Yeah, the angry old man syndrome, but don’t we actually get happier with age?

Indeed, research does show this. But that’s off track, back to anger. Yes, anger is classed as a “negative” emotion. And so in this we would assume that the less anger we experience the better — or that anger and subsequent stress is bad for you.

And this research says it’s not?

Well, in emotional science there is something called the functionalist theory of emotions. Which rather than say that emotion is good or bad, says that emotions serve a function and so is good for some things — but can be bad for other things.

And what is anger good for, apart from getting angry?

Well, for quite a bit. Specifically achieving goals.

What it is motivational!

Yes, precisely, the researchers, Heather Lench and Colleagues, found in different experiments that anger increased motivation to achieve goals in contrast to neutral emotions or even other positive emotions.

They conducted a series of experiments with over a 1’000 participants and also analysed data for 1’400 survey responses.

Anger is a state of arousal and motivation is an aroused stage of goal pursuit so, sure, anger can increase motivation and therefor goal achievement. Indeed that is precisely what they found, those who had anger elicited in the experiments were more likely to achieve their goals in various tasks. As Lench put it:

“These findings demonstrate that anger increases effort toward attaining a desired goal, frequently resulting in greater success,”

Oh wow, so anger can be good!?

Yes, but it is difficult to generate anger in many contexts intentionally. However, that said, I played rugby for many years and eliciting anger and a certain amount of aggression was common — and part of pre match motivation…

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!