There are two ways in which a person can act upon experiencing anger. These are either suppression or expression. Suppression is a situation whereby a person holds the anger in while expression involves letting it out, popularly known as catharsis. While both ways have been, and continue to be used by different people, one is bound to be more effective than the other. It has been suggested that to release anger s good in helping reduce the chances of being aggressive, but expressing anger in ways such as releasing it towards another person or an object tends to increase the amount of anger and leads to engaging in more aggressive acts.
Anger is a strong emotion which is characterized by a feeling of strong antagonism towards someone or something that one feels has deliberately wronged him or her. While anger is largely a negative emotion, in some instances it can be a good thing. For instance, it can give a way of expressing negative feelings or motivate one to find ways of solving problems. However, excessive anger can be dangerous and can result in harm to the individual or other people. Every person experiences anger as a response to frustrating situations but most anger is short-lived. This is to say that no one is born with a chronic anger problem. However, chronic anger and aggressive styles of response are learned.
Anger as a learned behavior can start in childhood. Children can learn to copy the behavior of angry people around them whose influence is felt through hostility and making threats. Children growing in families where one partner belittles the other may carry this habit with them in their adult relationships and claim to act normal since that has been their normal growing up. Another way anger and aggression can be learned is when these actions are reinforced or get rewarded, for instance, bullying (McRae, Rhee, Gatt, Godinez, Williams, & Gross, 2017). An instance where a person bullies another and find other people respecting or fearing them for their hostility may reinforce the aggression. This, therefore, becomes the bully's way of handling the people around him or her, especially the vulnerable.
The occurrence of anger is often triggered. While pain (physical or emotional) trigger anger, it is not on its own enough to cause anger and has to be combined with anger-triggering thoughts. These include personal assessments, evaluations, assumptions, or interpretations of situations that make an individual feel like someone is attempting to hurt him or her, either consciously or unconsciously. Booth (2017) uses the theory of Affective Events to explain the behavior of employees in a workplace. According to this theory, people react to the events in the workplace depending on the meaning they attach to these events. These meanings then trigger emotions accordingly. This explains why individuals can have different emotional reactions to the same situation.
There are underlying factors that contribute to either expression or suppression of anger. According to Booth et al (2017), the factors predicting the expression of anger are primarily individual issues and pre-existing emotion. For instance, in a workplace, a person may have had depressing situations at home and could be holding in the feelings of frustration. The reason for suppressing these emotions would be to help him or her compromise the work assigned to him. Another individual may not be able to suppress these feelings and could express the anger at the slightest provocation. However, the person venting out the anger may not relate it to the pre-existing emotions from home but rather to the event at the workplace.
As mentioned earlier, suppression is one way of dealing with anger. Most people who take this option do so to avoid the after-effects of venting it out. In reality, suppressing anger has been reported to cause more harm than good. This is because anger is a poisonous emotion that should not be bottled up in the inside. If so, it can poison the individual from the inside out and end up affecting the people around him. Problems emanating from suppressed anger can be both physical and emotional. For example, anxiety, depression, hysteria, or trip-wired aggression. Anger suppressed for a long time has been reported to be possible causes of high blood pressure, chronic headaches, heart problems, as well as digestive problems.
According to Chue (2017), there are benefits attached to sharing anger as an emotion regulation strategy. Chue linked the regulation of anger with the frequency of its occurrence. According to him, there is a strong reliance between the social expression of anger and the prediction of depression symptoms later in life. For instance, his results showed increased cases of depression symptoms in cases where anger was frequently endorsed and fewer cases where anger was infrequently endorsed. This is to say that more instances of anger endorsement results in increased risk of depression and vice versa. As such, the result is in support of social expression of anger rather than holding it in. piling up anger hinders one from experiencing positive feelings. This is because the negative emotion of anger has occupied the space where other emotions could exist. Additionally, most times unresolved anger can turn into bitterness towards the person or something that has triggered it.
Expression is another way of relieving one's anger. There exists a range of ways in which people express anger, some positive and others harmful. Most psychologists have supported the idea of catharsis as a way of dealing with anger. One such supporter, Sigmund Freud, argues that the key to therapy is to dampen the pressures of negative feelings by opening up and talking about them in a controlled manner. Psychology has shown that anger is a monster that needs to be tamed. There are positive ways of relieving one's anger, the best being one that seeks to address the cause and offer a solution. Venting is one type of anger expression that most people use to release the strong emotion of anger by saying what is in their minds. This could be direct to the offender or to a third party. According to a study conducted by Jennifer D. Parlamis (2012), venting may be used as a strategy for emotion regulation because the interaction makes the person feel better afterward and not necessarily because one has released the anger.
In other instances, however, expressing anger can reinforce aggressive behavior. Studies conducted for over forty years suggest that expressing anger directly to a person or indirectly such as to an object actually heats up the aggression (Qu, Dai, Zhao, Zhang, & Ge, 2016). For instance, people who punch pillows when another person anger them may turn out more critical of that person afterward. Exercising activities that promote catharsis such as football or playing violent video games will lead to increased levels of aggression in everyday life. The belief behind the effectiveness of these practices is attached to the fact that they seem to work. However, this is not the case since anger subsides on its own after a while. Aggression often does not offer a positive feeling after one has exercised it.
Managing anger requires sobriety and techniques that offer a solution rather than accelerating the problem. Reappraisal is one method that can be used to positively manage anger. This involves analyzing and assessing the cause of the anger before reacting. McRae (2017), has linked the ability to manage anger with personality traits which he says are moderately heritable. According to Affective Events Theory, different appraisal of situations result in different emotions which determine behavior in individuals (Ashton-James & Ashkanasy, 2008). This means that one person may be able to tolerate a bad situation depending on his or her appraisal while another person may not. Reappraisal may, in such a case, come in handy to balance the emotions of, say a group of people, and bring them to managing their emotions in a seemingly bad situation.
The environment has influences on reappraisals and as such emotion management. According to McRae's findings, there are common genetic and environmental influences on regulatory strategies such as suppression and reappraisal. This means that people sharing a common environment may have a similar manner of handling emotions such as anger. The environment also affects reappraisal depending on its nature.
In summary, the emotion anger can be handled in different ways, two of the ways being suppression or expression. Suppression involves holding in the anger while expression involves letting it out. While suppression may seem to work in the short term, it has devastating effects in the long term if the issues are not addressed. These are emotional problems such as depression, hysteria, and possible aggression to physical problems such as high blood pressure and heart problems. Expressing anger is advised but only if it is done in a controlled manner to address the cause and find a solution. If not controlled, venting, a way of releasing anger, can lead to aggression. Managing anger can be reinforced by reappraisal. This involves analyzing the situation well before reacting. Genes and the environment are great influencers of reappraisal.
Ashton-James, C. E., & Ashkanasy, N. M. (2008). Chapter 1 Affective events theory: a strategic perspective. In Emotions, Ethics and Decision-Making (pp. 1-34). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Booth, J., Ireland, J. L., Mann, S., Eslea, M., & Holyoak, L. (2017). Anger expression and suppression at work: causes, characteristics and predictors. International Journal of Conflict Management, 28(3), 368-382.
Chue, A. E., Gunthert, K. C., Ahrens, A. H., & Skalina, L. M. (2017). How does social anger expression predict later depression symptoms? It depends on how often one is angry. Emotion, 17(1), 6-10.
McRae, K., Rhee, S. H., Gatt, J. M., Godinez, D., Williams, L. M., & Gross, J. J. (2017). Genetic and environmental influences on emotion regulation: A twin study of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Emotion, 17(5), 772.
Parlamis, J. D. (2012). Venting as emotion regulation: The influence of venting responses and respondent identity on anger and emotional tone. International Journal of Conflict Management, 23(1), 77-96.
Qu, W., Dai, M., Zhao, W., Zhang, K., & Ge, Y. (2016). Expressing Anger Is More Dangerous than Feeling Angry when Driving. PLOS ONE, 11(6)
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