Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Get angry and live longer?

Most of us experience anger every now and then. Be it in the car because of the idiot in front of us who simply does not know how to drive a car, be it at home when we realise that our partner once again has to be told to take the rubbish to the bin, or be it at work where our colleague went off on holiday and left us with a huge pile of unfinished tasks as he always does. How do we deal with this anger? Repress it or express it?

Expressing it might be the healthier option. Marcus Mund from the University of Jena and Kristin Mitte from the University of Kassel in Germany looked at the relationship between repressing one’s anger and suffering from various diseases. They found that those who repress their anger have a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease than those who let it out. The original article was published in the journal Health Psychology.

What does this mean for our everyday lives? Should we buy a punching bag and hit it every time we get angry? Should we yell and scream at those who make us furious? Certainly not. What anger is and how we can deal with it appropriately is the topic of an interview with psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor on CBS News.


She says the key to expressing anger appropriately is knowing yourself. You have to find your own way of expressing it. But she gives a few rules for venting your anger effectively:
Stay in the moment.
  • Don’t lose control. Otherwise you might say or do something you might regret later on.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you realise that you are losing control, leave the scene before you do something you might regret later on.
  • Explore your emotions. This means: Find out what is underneath your anger. This could be fear or sadness. Then turn your anger into something constructive.
There is an outline of the interview on the CBS News Homepage.

Thus, expressing anger is the healthier way of dealing with it than repressing it. But simply letting it all out is not an appropriate way of dealing with the emotion either. Still, anger can be a very activating emotion and has often made people take action. Just consider the human rights movement. And even if it’s not a historic change in human history your anger causes, it might still make a difference in your own life if you use it as a motor for change. It might make you take action to resolve conflicts with people around you, to make a new career plan or to change many, many other things that you find are not going well in your life.

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