How often have you heard, “don’t be so negative” or “don’t blow your top”? People are often quick to judge anything other than a happy, bubbly, perenially positive and optimistic outlook as “negative”. Anger, especially, seems to get a bad reputation. And yet, it can be a powerful tool, especially when it comes to discovering your authentic self.

The anger that comes from having something revealed, like a band-aid being pulled off a wound, rises up, hot and righteous. Whether it’s a discovery about your employer and the way you’ve been treated, an autism or ADHD diagnosis which suddenly puts a lot of your life into a new perspective, or the unjust ways the world treats all of us, but especially those in a marginalized community, the anger that rises is real. It’s powerful, and it doesn’t deserve to be dismissed.

Something that’s important for us to realize, especially here in the west, is that there are no “bad” emotions. What people do with those emotions, that can cause harm and pain. But for the hurting, the grieving, and yes, even the angry, those emotions are just as real, just as valid, as the happy and positive times that make perfect social media moments. It’s important to observe those emotions, to know where they come from, to understand them. For it is in this observation, and in this knowing, that we begin to know our truth.

Thich Nhat Hahn once said feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. He then said conscious breathing was his anchor. And it’s true, feelings come and go. When we breathe through them, when we learn to look at them in an impartial way, we can see where they come from, the actions which led us to them, and perhaps even how we can continue and change our ways. In this, anger can be most instructive, because we finally see what we’re willing to put up with, what we’re willing to do, and more importantly, what we’re not willing to put up with or do in order to maintain something.

If we think of anger like fire, sometimes it burns hot and fast, taking out everything before it, sweeping the ground clean so it can bloom anew. The burn scar which bursts forth with new life after a fire doesn’t look like the landscape which came before. It looks new, different, and grows in unique ways. Anger can also smoulder, like the red coals burning through a gray and black bed of ash. It can become a tiny spark, tossed out carelessly and either start a raging fire or burn out just a quickly with no harm to anyone. When we look at anger thorough the unique and varied lens of fire, we can start to see that anger, like fire, can be both harmful and good for the environment its in. And it reveals a lot about where it burned.

Anger burns away everything that’s grown up around our truth, the brambles of illusion and the thorny vines of the expectations of other people. Anger consumes the half-truths and delusions we told ourselves just so we could get through the day. And what we’re left with sometimes is a barren land, devoid of anything but perhaps the charred trunks of a few trees, or maybe the fire clears the pasture so that fresh grass can grow and strengthens and renews the ecosystem around it. In otherwords, fire reveals the truth so something new can come of it.

So too, our anger reveals the situation we’re facing. Feel your anger. Understand your anger. Don’t judge it. Don’t let it rule you either. Instead, use it as an opportunity to see how you can become more true to yourself and how you can grow new things in our life. Because anger is a powerful tool for helping you become your authentic self.