Embrace the power of anger to reach your goals

“I can feel your anger. It gives you focus, makes you stronger,” – Darth Sidious in ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith’

WASHINGTON — Was Darth Sidious from “Star Wars” right all along? Should we embrace our anger and turn to the dark side? According to a new study, yes, if you want to achieve your goals — get angry.

Researchers working with the American Psychological Association have found that anger can be a motivating force, aiding individuals in achieving their life goals. This challenges the commonly held belief that anger is predominantly a negative emotion.

A group of experts contend that experiencing a range of emotions is preferable to constant happiness. They observed that anger propelled individuals to excel in challenging tasks, though it seemed to have no impact on their performance in simpler activities.

Moreover, anger was identified as a motivating factor for voters in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, according to the study’s findings. However, it did not influence their choice of candidate.

“People often believe that a state of happiness is ideal, and the majority of people consider the pursuit of happiness a major life goal,” says lead author Heather Lench, PhD, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, in a media release.

“The view that positive emotion is ideal for mental health and well-being has been prominent in lay and psychological accounts of emotion, but previous research suggests that a mix of emotions, including negative emotions like anger, result in the best outcomes.”

angry man
(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Some psychologists maintain that all emotions, whether positive or negative, are responses to external events, alerting individuals to situations that require action. According to the functionalist theory of emotion, different emotions necessitate different responses. For instance, sadness may signal a need for help or emotional support, while anger could indicate the need to overcome an obstacle.

To substantiate this theory, the Texas A&M research team conducted an experiment involving 1,000 participants. They were shown images designed to elicit emotional or neutral responses, including feelings of anger, amusement, sadness, or desire. Following this, they were presented with challenging tasks, such as solving word puzzles or achieving high scores in skiing video games.

The results revealed that participants in a state of anger were more likely to achieve their goals compared to those in a neutral state. Anger was associated with higher scores, quicker reactions, and in some instances, a willingness to cheat to gain an advantage. However, this only held true for challenging tasks, with no apparent link between anger and performance in simpler activities.

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

“People often prefer to use positive emotions as tools more than negative and tend to see negative emotions as undesirable and maladaptive,” the researcher continues. “Our research adds to the growing evidence that a mix of positive and negative emotions promotes well-being, and that using negative emotions as tools can be particularly effective in some situations.”

To further explore the relationship between anger and motivation, the team analyzed survey data collected during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Participants were asked about their potential anger if their preferred candidate lost before the election, and about their voting behavior afterwards. Those who anticipated anger in the event of their favored candidate’s loss were more likely to vote.

However, anger had no effect on who they voted for, according to the research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

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  1. “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral.
    Because anger looks to the good of justice.
    And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.”
    St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

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