Anger as a Tool

During training today, a buddy of mine got pretty upset after losing a match to a fellow training partner.  After tapping out to an arm lock, he sprang up with a heated expression on his face, cussed, and paced around the gym while stewing.  He was clearly disappointed with his performance.  It was apparent, however, that if he would have had time (it was towards the end of training session), he would have challenged the guy that just beat him to a rematch.  Anyway, he was calm within a minute or two.  He asked me something to the effect of, “Is it bad that I got mad?”

In order to make a value judgment on an emotion like anger, I think you need to look at the behavior that follows the emotion.  Emotion, by itself, is a reaction to your belief system.  If our belief system is irrational, our emotions get the best of us and we behave poorly or ineffectively.  If our belief system is rational, our emotions are simply fuel for productivity and growth.  In order to determine whether or not anger is productive or acceptable, you must look at the behavior that follows the emotional response.


Let’s break down my buddy’s experience.  First, he gets beat.  Second, he becomes angry due to some type of internal dialogue he had about his performance.  Probably something like, “Dammit, I can do better than that!”  Third, he became angry but would have (fourth) gone on to challenge the guy to a rematch.

To me, his anger was productive in that he used it to better himself.  This is due to his rational belief of, “I can do better than that.”  If his belief had been, “I absolutely cannot lose.  If I lose, I’m worthless,” then he would have still had the emotional response of anger upon losing.  His behavior, however, would have likely been to sulk and go home.  He would avoid the hurdle (the guy that beat him) due to self imposed avoidance of his irrational belief, “I’m worthless when I lose.”  Instead of attempting to better his situation, he would stagnate and never progress.

So, what do you think?  Is it bad to get pissed off at yourself for not performing up to what you feel your standards should be?


5 thoughts on “Anger as a Tool

  1. I think it does motivate but needs to be controlled of course. At least the anger is going toward progression and not violence or something.

  2. I’m a big believer in an existentialist outlook of emotions. Basically, emotions are intentional, meaning they’re about something. In other words, emotions have a purpose. So, if they have a purpose, then they can’t be accidental. If they can’t be accidental, then emotions are our choices. Ergo, your buddy chose to be angry. So the question is: why did he choose that? Well, in this situation, he got pretty bummed and so he decided to get angry. What does angry do? Lots of things: it makes you into a threatening object, it makes people around you to be on their best behavior, it tells other people around to “shut up because I’m not in a good mood,” it shows other people not to mess with him, or it be something internal like some motivation. Now, he was already beaten, so it would be pointless to be angry to show that he was a threat, so I’m assuming that he was doing it to prep himself up.

    So, my answer is: no, it wasn’t bad that he got himself pissed because he didn’t perform the best he could. But another interesting question is this: out of all emotions, why anger? He could’ve expressed disappointment. He could have shrugged it off by saying something like, “ehh, I really didn’t want to win anyway.” He could’ve expressed sadness and cried that he didn’t perform well. He could’ve been apologetic and tried to show why he didn’t perform well. I know this wasn’t your question, but in terms of existentialism, he chose to express that emotion. So out of all emotions, why anger? Incidentally, I’ll be talking about existentialism and emotions in about two weeks in my class if you want to know more about it.

    • Well, from my point of view it’s the socially appropriate response. Not necessarily correct, but socially appropriate. Anger is often a cover for other emotions, like embarrassment, fear, sadness, disappointment, frustration, etc.

  3. As Jeff put me in a arm bar today I thought about getting mad. Instead I decided to get EVEN! Next time I will put that triangle on you buddy! 🙂

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