Dr. Ryan Martin is the chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a nationally known anger researcher. His work focuses on healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger, including how we express anger online. He teaches courses on mental illness, emotion, and anger and violence.
Dr. Ryan Martin – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
I want you to imagine that you get a text from a friend, and it reads, “You will not believe what just happened. I’m so mad right now.”
So you do the dutiful thing as a friend, and you ask for details, and they tell you a story about what happened to them at the gym or at work or on their date last night. You listen, and you try to understand why they’re so mad.
Maybe you even secretly judge whether or not they should be so mad. Maybe you even offer some suggestions.
Now, in that moment, you are doing essentially what I get to do every day because I’m an anger researcher, and as an anger researcher, I spend a good part of my professional life – who am I kidding, also my personal life – studying why people get mad.
I study the types of thoughts they have when they get mad and even what they do then, whether it’s getting into fights or breaking things or even yelling at people in all caps on the Internet.
As you can imagine, when people hear I’m an anger researcher, they want to talk to me about their anger and share with me their anger stories. It’s not because they need a therapist, though that does sometimes happen, it’s really because anger is universal. It’s something we all feel, and it’s something they can relate to.
We’ve been feeling it since the first few months of life, when we didn’t get what we wanted and our cries of protests, things like, “What do you mean, you won’t pick up the rattle, dad? I want it!” We feel it throughout our teenage years, as my mom can certainly attest to with me.
Sorry, mom. We feel it to the very end. In fact, anger has been with us at some of the worst moments of our lives; it’s a natural and expected part of our grief. But it’s also been with us at some of the best moments of our lives, with those special occasions like weddings and vacations often marred by these everyday frustrations – bad weather, travel delays – that feel horrible in the moment but then are ultimately forgotten when things go okay.
So I have many conversations with people about their anger, and through those conversations, I’ve learned that many people – and I bet many people here right now – you see anger as a problem.
You see the way it interferes in your life, the way it damages relationships, maybe even in a way that’s scary. And while I get all of that, I see anger a little differently, and today I want to tell you something important about your anger, and it’s this: Anger is a powerful and healthy force in your life. It’s good that you feel it. You need to feel it.
But to understand all of that, we have to back up and talk about why we get mad in the first place.