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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday's Psychological Trivia Answer: Anger Can Be Good &/Or Bad for Your Health

Thought for the Day: Sorry for the delay today in posting the answer to Tuesday's Psychological Trivia Question. However, I am a bit tired following my trip to Washington DC. I will add a post later about my journey. The question posed was: True or false: Anger is bad for your health. The answer is that it is both true & false! Too much of a good thing can become bad. The same is even more true with anger. Either extreme, being out of touch with &/or repressing anger can be bad for your health, while acting out & fuming all the time can also be harmful to your health.

I do not like multiple choice questions. Sometimes, true or false questions bother me as well. This one is one of thise true or false questions that simply don't work. Psychology is far from an exact science. Most things that we study do not fall into simple black & white categories. Instead we explore the grey areas of human experience. Today's question & answer lie in the middle of one of those grey areas of life. Anger is a feeling. Feelings are not right or wrong, good or bad. They simply are what we feel. They help us cope with both good & bad experiences in our lives.

Anger, which helps us cope with difficult negative feelings, often gets a bad rap. Anger is seen as negative or bad, since it is often confused with acting out of angry feelings. When people are angry they may act out & hurt others or break things. Acting out of anger is negative. If you get angry & put your fist through a wall, you raise your blood pressure. In addition, you not only will damage the wall & your hand, but you may feel ashamed of your outburst. So acting out of anger, i.e., hitting the wall, is bad for your physical & emotional health.  

On the other hand, I can be angry with you & never do any harm to you, a wall, or anyone else. My thoughts & feelings can not not hurt another person. Anger turned inwards, however, can hurt the person who is repressing their anger. Anger turned inwards over time can lead to depression or physical symptoms like headaches, ulcers, heart conditions,  high blood pressure or strokes. 

Therefore, expressing anger can be good&/or bad for your health, while holding anger in can be good, if it calms you down some, or bad if it leads to internal physical symptoms. Finding acceptable ways to express anger is key to making anger good for your health. Taking action following the anger people feel about gun violence or bullying can be a way of feeling empowered instead of helpless. Using the anger to bully someone else, on the other hand may lead to negative implications for your health as well as legal implications if you do harm to someone else. 

Therapists in a group on Linked expressed an array of reactions to whether anger is good or bad for your health. The question was first posed by Karla Taylor, MEd, LPC, a Counselor & Life Teacher from Chicago & members of a LinkedIn group called Therapists Linked. In her view, "anger, when identified as such, dealt with & worked through can be used productively as a vehicle which moves one's life from an undesirable state to a more desired one."

Teresa DiMatteo, Licensed Professional Counselor who focuses on Couples Counseling & Workplace Mental Health from NYC feels that there needs to be "a distinction here: The unhealthy expression of anger is 'bad for your health' and the suppression of anger is, likewise, bad for one's health. There is nothing inherently problematic with 'anger' when expressed in healthy ways -- something we see too little of in our culture."

Gary Direnfeld, SW, Guest Expert - Radio/TV (family life, marriage, divorce), Media Personality, Writer/Author, Columnist from Ontario, Canada noted that for him, "the issue is often less the anger & more the expression of anger. "
Wilson Hurley, LCSW Clinical SW in private practice/Adjunct Professor at George Mason University Washington D.C. says that, "It's said that anger is a good messenger, but a lousy manager. Ross Green says it takes away about 60 IQ points. Research shows undeniably that it's bad for the heart and that it is destructive to healthy relationships. I feel much better once it's cleared out. I think more clearly too."

Dave Wolffe Founder/Program Coordinator at P.E.A.C.E., Inc. NYC & author of Peace:The Other Side of Anger. His book is a resource for parents, educators, social workers & youth workers to help them understand anger in youth, how to deal with it & ways to empower young people to de-escalate their anger & express it without hurting themselves or others. It is meant to be educational & can be used as a jumping off point for therapeutic intervention or as an enhancement to therapeutic efforts... It was based on a program he developed with & for teens & facilitated with over 1,000 teens & 600 adults. Hopefully, this may serve as an additional resource to our efforts to stem the tide of violent & harmful reactions to situations"

Deborah G. Headley, Principal Associate at Network for Therapeutic Alliances in Toronto agreed with @Teresa DiMatteo. Deborah appreciated Teresa's "passionate defense of anger as a legitimate emotion." She also, "believe(s) that the lack of opportunities to express anger in safe & healthy ways often leads to the “acting out’, violence & rage... It can also lead to distress & dis-ease."

Nigel Turner,  Private therapist & Program director Anger management & domestic abuse at Just for today in Toronto reports that, "The sobering fact is people with anger issues live shorter lives than those who don't. The challenge is to find ways to deal with objectionable facts without getting lost or sucked under with one's own issues. If the response brings some resolution then that's healthy if it perpetuates or makes the situation worse it will come back to haunt one." 

What do you think? Has anger been bad or good for your health? 

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