Healthy and Unhealthy Emotions: Anger vs. Annoyance

In the first of this series we’re going to take a look at healthy and unhealthy emotions, starting with anger vs. annoyance. I can already hear you asking what the difference between a healthy and unhealthy emotion is. Well, bear with me and by the end of this series of articles I hope you’ll begin to have a better idea…

Let’s start with anger. Now anger is one of the most intense emotions we, as humans, often find ourselves feeling. In fact, it can be so intense that I often hear many people saying things like: “Oh no, I don’t get angry.” And guess what? I don’t believe them! It’s just not possible. We all get angry from time to time. And we’re allowed to…

Now when I say ‘we’re allowed to,’ I’m not suggesting that it’s somehow OK for you to throw things at your partner, or shout at your colleagues because they’ve done something that ‘makes’ you angry (remember no one can make you angry, sad or feel anything without your permission).

So what am I on about exactly? Well, it goes something like this:

Both anger and annoyance are emotions which infer frustration, some sort of threat to ourselves, or some sort of threat to our beliefs about how the world ‘should’ work.  But here’s where the similarity ends…

In behavioural psychology we use the terms ‘cognitive consequences’ and ‘action tendencies’.  To put it simply this means what we think about a situation and how we react to it. When we’re angry we tend to follow a pattern of thinking which blows everything out of proportion and goes something like this: “I can’t believe he did that to me. He must have done it on purpose just to hurt me. I’m totally in the right here. He shouldn’t have behaved like that. He’s wrong. I’ll get my own back when he gets home.” The behaviour patterns that often follow that line of thinking include attacking the ‘offender’ either verbally, physically or passive aggressively and, more often than not, recruiting allies to confirm the wrongness of it all.

The flip side of this is annoyance. The inference here is exactly the same but the thoughts and behaviours are healthy. So what do I mean by healthy? Well, instead of ranting, raving and accusing, a healthy behaviour would go something like this: “Mmmm…. I don’t think I much like what he did. It may or may not have been intentional. I may not be completely right even though I think I am. We’ll discuss it when he gets home.” The behaviour following these thoughts is generally more flexible and assertive or challenging, rather than aggressive.

The outcome of the healthy emotion annoyance as opposed to the unhealthy one of anger is generally more productive for everyone.



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