From an emotional standpoint, anger is often seen as a villain in our lives. It disrupts harmony, strains relationships, and can even lead to violence. But music that conveys anger and aggression could be an unlikely ally in helping us navigate and process these strong emotions.
Anger: origin and symptoms
Anger is the emotional child of pain. When we recognise the source of our pain, that pain evolves into anger. Anger and sadness are close relatives, springing from a similar sense of powerlessness and defeat. Physiologically, anger manifests as a rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, quicker breathing, and increased muscle tone. The degree of anger can range from mild irritation to all-consuming fury. The way we interpret anger is also influenced by underlying moods and past experiences.
In a lot of scenarios, it’s not just the situation that triggers our anger; it’s also our expectations of how we should feel in that situation. Say, for instance, you feel resentful towards someone who’s slighted you. If they say something to you later, your reaction is likely to be anger – even if the same words from a friend wouldn’t trigger that response.
Anger is not always negative
Contrary to common belief, anger isn’t exclusively harmful. It can serve as a catalyst for change, drawing attention to a situation that needs remedying. Unlike fear, which tends to isolate, anger is an interactive emotion. It arises in response to external stimuli and prompts us to act.
Musical genres like heavy metal often get a bad reputation for inducing anger, aggression, and anti-social behaviour. The sonic characteristics – chaotic, loud, and powerful – may be unsettling for some. Yet, these very attributes can also serve a therapeutic purpose. The music might attract listeners who are already angry, enabling them to delve into and process their emotions. This regulatory function of music drives us to choose songs that resonate with our current emotional state, facilitating emotional adjustment.
Music to calm the anger
You might think that tranquil tunes are the answer to calming an angry mind, but surprisingly, the heavy chords and aggressive lyrics of metal music can be equally therapeutic. In practice, people who listen to what many consider “angry music” often report feeling more uplifted, inspired, and generally better about their emotional state. This suggests that such music can act as an emotional regulator, dialling down levels of stress, hostility, and irritability. So, rather than being an outlet for aggression or unrest, metal and other aggressive genres could actually empower you to manage your emotions more effectively.
Angry music serves as an emotional mirror. It allows us to explore our feelings fully, aiding in their diffusion. The levels of stress and irritability drop post-listening, leaving us in a more constructive and motivated state. This can be an eye-opener for those who have always viewed such genres as merely an outlet for aggression and unrest.
So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed with anger, maybe give metal or another aggressive genre a try. You might find that the music not only resonates with your mood but also transforms it, empowering you to manage your emotions in a more productive way.
Hugo Archer, a freelance writer specialising in psychology and the intersection between music and emotions.