Anger is a human emotion that involves physiological responses which can be adaptive for resolving conflict. However, when mishandled, this otherwise normal, healthy response can spiral out of control, causing pathological illness and enormous interpersonal relationship problems. A few ways that anger is mishandled are as follows: (1) Catharsis– research shows that contrary to popular belief, excessive expression of anger, e.g., venting, pillow punching, and being hostile and aggressive, is actually extremely destructive to the health of the individual and those involved. More importantly, this emotion tends to escalate rather than “release,” following cathartic methods. (2) Suppression– letting anger bottle up inside is also a recipe for illness. It can also lead to passive aggressive and antisocial behavior. Both unhealthy and expression and suppression of anger seems to promote hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and mood disorders. So what is to be done?
Research has shown that cognitive restructuring, problem solving, and relaxation techniques are much more adaptive strategies for channeling and coping with angry feelings. Cognitive restructuring involves thinking about the situation differently. This involves using logic, empathy, and wise reasoning to see all sides of the situation. This strategy tends to lead to more problem solving, rather than destructive, aggressive behaviors. Functional and healthy expression of anger comes in the form of self-respect and asserting boundaries in a clear, well-thought out, and confident manner. Lastly, relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and imagery meditation can be used to assist this process by cooling arousal and allowing the individual to act from a more rational and progressive vantage point. So let anger be the candle flame to spark your motivation and drive for social repair; not a forest fire that both suffocates you and destroys the environment around you.
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