Anger as a healthy primary feeling is a reaction to a perceived threat to something or someone that is important to you. In other words, anger often arises when someone treats you or your loved ones poorly, someone invades your personal boundaries or when someone prevent you from achieving something that is important to you. Anger is what gives you the strength and power to protect and stand up for yourself, for others, and for your values and needs.
In its purest form, anger is perceived as a helpful force and energy. It is common to experience it as energy in your hands and feet, warmth in your chest, and in a stronger form you may want to push away or hit. In milder forms, it feels like confidence, determination, or simply feeling strong and clear. The overall need in anger is to set boundaries, create distance and to protect that which is important to you. We often call primary helpful anger for assertive anger. Such anger can be quite healthy. Experiencing and expressing healthy anger at someone who has scared you or shamed you might give you a sense of dignity and protection, but only if it’s primary anger that you are in control over.
Anger is a common secondary emotion. Often, anger covers up more vulnerable feelings like sadness, shame or fear. A common pattern, especially for men, is getting angry when you really are sad. It is also common to show anger when one really feels ashamed or inferior. Secondary anger can vary in expression from irritation to destructive rage. Some might also use anger instrumentally to get what they want. This is usually relationally quite destructive.
A lot of people struggle with being angry in a sound and helpful manner. This might have to do with the fact that many people have been told that it is not okay to be angry. A variation of problematic anger is bitterness, which often comes as a result of not having allowed yourself to be angry or sad about something that someone has done to you.