The last time you got peeved, ticked or just plain enraged, did you stop and listen to what your mind was telling you? Ryan Martin, psychology professor at UW-Green Bay, has spent his career doing just that. Turns out, the thoughts that we have in response to the first flare of anger are what can send us over the edge—or help us harness the emotion for good, Martin says.
Despite the trouble that it can cause, anger is not actually bad for us. From an evolutionary perspective, it plays an important role in our survival, Martin says: “It helps alert us to the fact that we’ve been wronged.” When your heart starts to pound and your face gets hot, that’s anger increasing your blood flow in preparation for a showdown. “It’s our fight or flight response, kicking in to energize us to confront injustice,” he explains.