MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT ANGER
Although anger is one of the most common emotions that people have, it is the least understood. These phrases are probably familiar to you:
“If someone hits you, hit ‘em back.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“Don’t get angry; get even.”
Have you noticed how they contradict each other? That’s because anger is a very complex emotion. Attempts to simplify it result in the following MISPERCEPTIONS:
1. That all anger is unhealthy or destructive
2. That anger is an all-or-nothing phenomenon
3. If you don’t let your anger out, it builds up and explodes out
4. That angry people yell and scream a lot
5. That anger management means keeping your mouth shut
===> Here are the facts:
1. NOT ALL ANGER IS UNHEALTHY OR DESTRUCTIVE.
Sometimes anger is definitely justified. For example, if you have been betrayed by a friend, or if you have been physically attacked by someone, or if there is a major social injustice -- these are all times where anger is appropriate. Biologically speaking, anger gets your adrenalin going, and spurs you into action.
On the other hand, the hissy fits that people throw over minor irritations are both unhealthy and destructive. Anger has serious implications for your health. Research shows that among all the risk factors for heart disease, chronic anger is the most significant predictor -- more than smoking, obesity and high blood pressure. Temper tantrums and other fits of anger are rarely useful. In fact, they erode not only people’s respect for you, but also your own self-respect.
2. ANGER IS NOT AN ALL-OR-NOTHING PHENOMENON.
Anger typically occurs in degrees, ranging from mild annoyance to intense rage. Some people have a problem labeling negative feelings. They consider any experience of hostility as an intense, urgent crisis, even if it’s just a momentary frustration. Such people tend to have an over-active “inner brat” that makes mountains out of molehills.
3. IT IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY TO LET YOUR ANGER OUT.
Anger does not work like steam in a teakettle. It is not necessary to release it in order to avoid explosion. While it’s true your stress level does increase when you dwell on angry thoughts, you can reduce the stress without having to resort to an outburst or tirade.
4. NOT ALL ANGRY PEOPLE YELL OR SCREAM
In fact, many people keep their anger to themselves, or so they think. Even though they don’t come right out and say, “I’m mad at you,” they show it in their behavior -- by being “passive aggressive.” They sulk; they have a “tone” to their voice; they slam doors, etc. Such people have an inner brat that I call “The Smolderer.” You kind of know they’re angry, but you don’t know exactly what they’re angry about.
5. ANGER MANAGEMENT DOES NOT MEAN KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
Anger management involves keeping your inner brat from saying or doing something that you’ll later regret. It involves calming yourself, making cool-headed assessments of the situation, and finally taking sensible action. With practice, this can be accomplished in a matter of seconds.
Effective anger management means learning to differentiate what is truly a situation worth getting angry about, and what is just your inner brat over-reacting. It also means learning to express your anger directly and constructively, without losing emotional control. Not only will you be less stressed by your anger, but you will also get better results.
Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001)
Visit http://www.innerbrat.com for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.