Blog 26: Angry is Good

Written by Jim Sheehy

Angry is the feeling which harnesses the most powerful energy when understood and used positively.  Why? Feeling angry is an alarm triggered inside us when something happens that reacts with the message: THIS IS NOT FAIR. I AM NOT BEING RESPECTED! 

So far, the experience of feeling angry is healthy. What follows as a behaviour will depend on your own sense of what you're worth. If you believe you are worth a lot, you will respond and manage the situation calmly, seeing all the options available and choosing one.  If you don't believe you're worth a lot, you will react by lashing out, avoiding and running away, or going numb and dumb and collapsing under all the weight of what's being done or said to you.

Take a 13-year-old being harassed and bullied in school.  Why is s/he chosen as victim. Often because they have fallen victim first to the harassing and bullying thoughts constantly in their heads for a long time: 'I am stupid, ugly, invisible...'  They walk into a school environment wearing the invisible top screaming these negative self-beliefs in their heads.  As a result, their body droops, eyes don't meet with another boy or girl, what they want to say doesn't get to their voice-box, they can't initiate friendships.  So when the bullies choose their victims, the victims accept their fate.  If however, a 13-year-old is self-contained, trusting their own inner resources, they manage the bully. They respond because they self-talk something like this: 'This is a dangerous situation.  It's important to choose my next move carefully.' See already how this child has become aware that s/he has gifts, skills and strengths which are now being tested. The choices s/he considers certainly includes "fight / flight / immobilize' but s/he adds choice around RESPONSE e.g. use banter to deflect their attention; be assertive in posture / eye contact / tone of voice and choice of words; get support from peers and significant adults. These two 13-year-olds both equally felt hurt and angry. But how they use the strength of feeling angry is very different and dictates if they turn out as VICTIM, SURVIVOR, or WARRIOR and AMBASSADOR OF HEALING.


A 13-year-old boy I worked with in Belfast personifies for me this journey. He was the victim of severe peer bullying for over a year, had lost a lot of weight and, once home from school, curled into a ball in his room.  With immense courage, he threw himself into his inner work - developed positive core beliefs, discovered a voice that matched how he thought and felt inside with people outside.  He, certainly not me, approached the school and asked to address his year group the following September on an issue: MY EXPERIENCE OF SURVIVING BULLYING.  That September morning, I witnessed my wee warrior speak confidently before 160 peers in a hushed gymnasium. Teachers, and myself, were humbled by his words of vulnerability and strength.  His peers tried to absorb the enormous change of this boy in six months - the skeleton as he was known was 'John' speaking publicly right in front of them - and John was spectacular!  

With anger, the scenarios are everywhere: the angry partner ready to explode; the teenager in a club being targeted by drunken strangers; the frustrated teacher met with indifference and lack of respect.  Feeling angry is natural and potentially powerful.  Expressing anger is essential and it has to be targeted skilfully at exactly the source and cause of the anger - not take out your anger on an innocent family member or friend, not on yourself because that becomes depression leading to a sense of hopelessness - or wrecking the furniture!  To express anger effectively and getting a successful result ABSOLUTELY DEPENDS on knowing and developing self-worth and learning communication skills that WORK! 

Self-worth is owning and sharing my gifts, skills and strengths; accepting that ‘my normal is okay’.  Self-worth depends also on a strong support network, having people and activities in life that matter to me.

Communication skills around anger are tricky.  Firstly, if the adrenalin is pumping out of control and you are about to explode, take a time out and exit the scene.  This is ‘Time-out’.  But as you take a walk and calm down, you need to work on how to express the anger skilfully.  This is ‘Time-in’.  How do I merge my inner voice and the voice that people hear so I express myself appropriately - through word, picture, movement, silence.   Sometimes a good idea is to chat with those who ‘get me and the unique way I communicate’.  The chat is around what happened that resulted in you feeling hurt, angry or anxious. Then, the chat focuses on how best to express that hurt, anger and anxiety.  Sometimes, it’s choosing the right time and location when you and the person you’re hurt by and angry with are more relaxed.  In a home setting, Dad and son go for a day’s fishing or Mum and daughter do a ‘girlie day’ shopping and getting a manicure. In the space a new way of communicating and relating can begin. 

In a school setting, teenagers are resourced in protecting themselves with very strong boundaries against the assholes who, rather than be brave enough to work through their inner journey, opt to destroy the inner lives of others.  The bullying possibilities today are endless – blanking someone in a canteen queue, excluding and blocking in chat groups – but the dynamics are still the same as pre-internet times.  There are the bully, victim, follower and onlooker roles.  Each person who has entered one of these four roles needs support in choosing identity before role. In other words, a teenager needs to be really super-aware of their own gifts, skills and strengths so they’re more confident in saying yes or no to these roles: bully, victim, follower, onlooker.  My experience with teenagers is that all of them, once they are self-contained enough in their thoughts and feelings, choose wisely and courageously to behave more humanely.  With the super-sensitive, self-acceptance is the key.  With the bully, the awareness that behaviours have consequences.  With the follower, being aware that friendship sometimes means disagreeing with what’s popular and easy.  With the onlooker, choosing to communicate a message that says my world seeks and celebrates inclusion and diversity.

But teenagers need adult models and mentors who can model for them and mentor them in changing their ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.  There is a harshness in our world today that is catching and seductive.  Adults and young persons choose quite deliberately which tribe they enjoy being in: The KIND TRIBE or THE MEAN TRIBE.  In another blog / podcast, we’ll explore these 2 realities.

Presentations on the 4 zones are also available on video and blog through the website – see

If you enjoy the material, please get the word out there among those you care for.  You can contact me with comment or suggestion via Facebook at Jim Sheehy Therapy and on Twitter @jimsheehy2017

Take care,

Clarifying Disclaimer:  While the material I am presenting is well-researched and suitable for the general population, I believe each person’s issues and needs are unique.  I encourage you to seek medical and/or therapeutic support if you struggle with an issue or condition that negatively and seriously impacts your life.




Contact me:

Jim Sheehy M.Ed. MIACP
Co Donegal 
F94 WV99

087 2137922


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