Many people believe that expressing our anger is a healthy way to let it out. Yelling, slamming doors, cursing, or venting to a friend were once thought to be natural and healthy ways to deal with our anger. Likewise, it was thought to be unhealthy to keep our anger inside of us. However, recent research has shown that venting about our anger may actually make it worse. Some people still maintain the idea that unexpressed anger can lead to problems such as heart attacks, headaches, and ulcers. It seems to make sense in some ways– if we let our anger out rather than turning it inward, we will be letting go of those feelings. The feeling of catharsis that we get from releasing our anger may feel good for a few moments, but rather than permanently releasing our anger, we are simply rehearsing it which may lead to more angry outbursts in the future. Fiona MacDonald, in a 2015 Sciencealert article entitled Sorry, But Venting Online Just Makes You Angrier, Scientists Find, points to a 2002 study by Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology and communication at Ohio State University.. Bushman asked 600 students to write a heated essay on the subject of abortion, then Bushman wrote “scathing and unjustified feedback on all of them.” To deal with anger, Bushman asked to students to deal with it in different ways. On group hit a punching back while thinking about the person who critiqued their papers, another group hit a punching back for exercise, and a third group bottled up their anger and did nothing. One may think that the group who released their anger on the punching bag would have felt better. However, according to MacDonald, “after the exercise, the group that unleashed their anger on the punching bag reported feeling the most angry, hostile, and irritated, and the group that did nothing were the least aggressive, the research found.” That is not to say that bottling up anger is the healthiest way to deal with it. It may be healthiest to productively cope with anger without venting by learning to control it. Anger is usually a symptom of something else and catharsis through expression doesn’t work. We will find that if we don’t vent our anger and instead focus on controlling our emotions, our feelings of anger will dissipate much more quickly.
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