I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that anger plays in our lives.

Over a year ago now, something happened that left me feeling hurt and angry. Very, very angry. Angry at the other person. Angry at the world. Angry at whatever it is you believe in – God, fate, the universe, whatever – because it put me in that situation. And while some people felt the need to question my hurt – telling me that the reason for it wasn’t enough, that other people had it worse and I had to get over it – it seemed to be my anger that offended people the most.

And I had a lot of people telling me what the proper way to deal with that anger was.

Some people told me that I needed to get over my anger – that it wasn’t worth it for the sake of the other person. I needed to be the bigger person, accept the reasons that they had for doing what they did, and move on. Because they weren’t going to change, I wasn’t doing any good by being angry, so why bother?

Some people told me that I needed to get over my anger for my own sake. They said that anger equals misery, and why would I allow myself to be miserable all the time? Shouldn’t I reconcile what happened, for my own sake? Shouldn’t I move on, stop thinking about, and just be happy with what I had? When we hold onto anger, we only hurt ourselves, so we need to not hold onto anger, we need to let it go.

Still other people told me that it was alright to be angry – I should be angry. It was a natural response to what happened. I should be allowed to explore it rather than push it down and repress it. I should yell and scream and punch walls and take it out on whatever I needed to take it out on because I had a right to my anger.

With so many conflicting messages, what I actually ended up doing was… none of the above. I didn’t punch any walls or scream at any people, but I also didn’t really let go of my anger. I held onto it, keeping it mostly at the back of my mind to deal with when I needed to, but safely tucked away so that I could still function despite it. And sometimes I needed to deal with it. Sometimes I needed to think about it, to work through it, to come to terms with the fact that I felt it, and sometimes I needed to let it go and focus on other things, because I didn’t want it to overpower and define my life.

Now, that being said, I’m not trying to argue that I dealt with my anger in the healthiest way that I possibly could. I don’t know if I did. It’s been over a year now, and I’m still angry, I’m just… differently angry. I’m not angry at the world, or at whatever deity or higher power you believe in. I don’t want revenge, I don’t want to scream or punch walls. I just want to be angry when I need to be.

And sometimes, I think I need to be.

Because here’s the thing: my anger came from somewhere, and it serves a purpose. I’m pretty sure that what happened to me is supposed to teach me some sort of lesson. It’s supposed to make me grow, turn me into a better person, make me realize what sort of boundaries I need to set with people in the future and what is going to be ultimately constructive in my life and what will ultimately be destructive. I’m not sure that pain alone would have been enough to teach me that lesson, because pain is such a passive emotion. Anger is the fire that forces you to enact change.

And I don’t know if I’m quite at the finished product that this experience will turn me into. I don’t think that my anger is quite done with the job it was set forth to do. I still have a lot of things that I need to work out, think through, make decisions about. I still need it for all that.

As much as anger is an unpleasant emotion, unpleasant emotions are not always a bad thing. We need emotions like grief when we lose a loved one, because that proves that they mattered to us. We need emotions like guilt, because that is our indication that we have done something wrong and we want to do better. These are all naturally occurring emotions that come from somewhere and lead to something, even if they are unpleasant at the time.

So although I understand the argument that I need to let go of my anger because it causes suffering and it won’t change anything about what happened, I also think that I’ll be just fine with my anger, so long as I don’t let it overpower me, and I’m not punching holes in walls and taking it out on innocent people. My anger is what will teach me that I don’t want to get in a scenario like that ever again. And even if my anger never goes away, if it remains this constant reminder in the back of my head, I won’t always be suffering. In my own way, I have moved on; I just haven’t forgotten about it, because I know that I need to learn from it.

Published by Ciara Hall