Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Is Anger Healthy? - Study on Anger Part II

A Study on Anger – Part II

 Is anger healthy?

Now there are several schools of thought on this, and after doing a little bit of research (yep I do research for my blogs sometimes!) the answer is yes it is, and no it isn’t and is considered quite a neutral emotion!  As usual it’s a question of moderation. It seems to depend on how often you get angry, the sorts of things you get angry about, how you manage your anger, how you express and release your anger and finally how anger affects you and others around you.

One thing is certain everyone gets angry and that anger is a normal emotion.  It’s a very natural response to when you feel attacked, injured or violated.  It’s a warning bell that lets us know something’s wrong, helps us survive, and gives us the strength to fight back or run away when attacked or faced with injustice.  There is nothing wrong with feeling mad (note how madness comes into the description of anger) and has allowed humans to evolve and adapt. It isn't a bad thing in itself.  

Expression and physical symptoms of anger (a bit of a scientific bit here!)


“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on 
which it is poured.” - Mark Twain

The external expression of anger can be found in our facial features, body language, and physiological responses.  The face becomes flushed, and the brow muscles move inward and downward, fixing a hard stare on the target. The nostrils flare, and the jaw tends toward clenching.  Raising of the arms and adopting a squared-off stance, fists clenching which are preparatory actions for attack and defense. 

I did like the joke I saw in a magazine recently – a women has had a face lift and she is asked how are we going to know if you are angry – she replies I will wave this little red flag!  

When you feel angry, your glands start pumping your blood full of the hormone adrenalin (that chemical again) which typically increases muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure.  At the same time, glucose levels rise to give muscles the energy they need for action.  The rush of adrenalin enlarges the pupil of the eye for sharper vision, expands the lungs so they can gulp in extra oxygen, hearing can become quite acute, your face tingles, blood flows to the hands, preparing them to strike and perspiration can increase (particularly when the anger is intense). 

People often feel very energetic when they get angry as the tension builds up, but is then released when you express the anger.  All of this is an entirely normal response and once the mood has calmed, these functions all return to normal, without any long-term health consequences.  

However health risks increase when the body is exposed to these responses regularly. It’s thought to cause wear and tear on the cardiovascular system. The heart is the organ most at risk in someone with an ‘angry’ personality. But the greatest danger is in those who bottle up feelings rather than vent their anger. 

If tension is released in action or words it can bring you release but if you bottle up your feelings, the energy has to go somewhere and it can turn inwards.  Keeping hold of anger can damage relationships with other people, and lower your self-esteem. Or if you hold on to your anger the next time you get angry you may release so much pent-up emotion that you can overreact to a situation. Realising this can lead to feelings of shame or frustration when you reflect on your actions, and to a further repression of your feelings and a risk to your overall health.

Studies have shown that unresolved anger in women tends to cause more symptoms of depression and dwelling on the experience of anger by talking about it with friends and family - while in men, higher rates of hostility often escalate into aggression and experience more rapid decline as they age and often lead to high blood pressure and cardiac problems. People with less control over their anger also tend to heal more slowly and produce more cortisol. 

Cortisol is an important hormone that aids blood pressure regulation, glucose metabolism, and the immune function. When we are faced with danger the rush of adrenaline as part of the fight or flight response can actually boosts our immunity and memory but at the same reduces our sensitivity to pain. It becomes a problem when it is produced excessively and this happens when we allow anger too great a place in our emotional lives.  Excess cortisol can result in dreaded” belly fat”, a condition directly related to health problems such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.  So anger can even make you fat!

So the release of anger is good for you but because of the surge of energy it creates, it can also be a pleasurable emotion due to the release of feelings of frustration, or if a person's response to your anger gives you a sense of power – letting your anger go in an uncontrolled fashion can lead to a move from verbal aggression to physical abuse and it can become addictive.

 Researchers also suggest that anger may influence your belief about how likely it is that things in the world are threatening. The idea is that if you think the world is more threatening, you might see more threats in your environment than there really are. It is also said that ‘looking back in anger’ at past mistakes could make us less able to withstand pain. Those who dwelt on the bad things in life were more likely to be sensitive to pain than those who live a  life one day at a time. One possible explanation is that negative moods disrupt the circuitry of the brain.

But anger can also be a good emotion as it motivates us to make changes in our lives, and if directed in the right way can help to fight injustice and causing laws to be changed for the better.  This is called Controlled anger and it may help us to continue trying to make effective changes that will reduce or eliminate a problem.  Showing controlled anger during a negotiation may also increase your ability to succeed in negotiations – people can be influenced by angry people.  As with any emotion, the display of anger can also be feigned or exaggerated.

Uncontrolled anger usually escalates a problem not bringing a solution to it and can really hurt others and ourselves causing more feelings of anger and sorrow. After hurting someone else we may feel regret and wish we hadn't done it. Then we feel guilt and begin to dislike ourselves even more. 

A person who is angry also tends to place more blame on another person for their misery. This can create a circular problem, as this extra blame can make the angry person angrier still, so in turn places yet more blame on the other person.  

“Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.”  Marcus Antonius

I have already done a lengthy blog about adrenalin, and glucose and the studies behind the chemical reactions to stress that I believe contributed to my diagnosis of breast cancer, and that when life seemed to get on an even keel from some very bad experiences is when received the diagnosis of cancer.  This is not as uncommon as you may think.  So it may be that across so many years and finding myself in some very volatile situations against a very angry and sadistic person, the increased emergency responses to those situations and repressed anger may have turned inward and also contributed to my getting breast cancer?

Depresses, stresses - binding you up in knots that are hard to unpick –  a great need to hit back and say I have been wronged!

As deadly as a garden overgrown with weeds chocking the colourful  wild display of flowers, blotting out the golden rays of sunshine of happiness 
 Ever with you, eternal if not resolved invading your thoughts your dreams and keeps you awake at night tossing and turning exhausted by the light of day

 The hideous ugly face of humanity seeding the soil of hate by relentless anger hissing and spiteful in word and deed

 Words said in haste a knife twisting and striking a speeding feathered arrow hitting its target saying the truth hurts

Anger settling and hardening your love walking a lonely rocky path in a waterless desert lost with nowhere to go

Cautious against yourself, cautious against others unable to trust with the fear of disappointment

Grieving disbelieving a kind of insanity pain for you, pain to others adding to the tears of the universe

Oh hide me away from this curse

The different kinds of anger

Other words for anger - rage, fury, ire, wrath, resentment, indignation:

Rage and fury imply intense, explosive, often destructive emotion:

Ire is a term for anger most frequently encountered in literature:

Wrath applies especially to anger that seeks vengeance or punishment:

Resentment refers to indignant smouldering anger

Indignation is righteous anger at something wrongful, unjust, or evil


Feeding and gnawing at your insides, eating you up tearing away at the fabric of life by the seams that holds you together

Picking and nibbling away in your brain rankling and wriggly like slimy worms - a silent scream within your head

A sledgehammer smashing through a brick wall to find a break at which the toxic poison can be swept through in a tide of emotion

Casting lingering shadows on your happiness, blunting the sharpness of wit - a seeping icy coldness encircling your heart

It gorges and is greedy boiling over like an unattended stew  indignant, exasperating bitter with frustration

Smouldering ashes of a dying fire whipped up by a gust of wind fanning the flame until it rises and rises to a burning crescendo

A slow burn of a wood fire extending more heat from the inside so it hits you as you warm your hands by the flames of the righteousness of your displeasure

A deep-rooted anger generated by a sense of grievance: deep resentment that leads to a strike of a match that lights the fire of destruction.

Oh where is the justice of retaliation

From a sociological point of view apparently there are 12 kinds of anger:
  •  Behavioural Anger – This type of anger usually describes someone who is aggressive towards whatever triggered their anger… this can be another person. This can be someone who always seems to act out, or is troublesome. Sometimes the outcome is physical abuse or attacks against others.
  • Passive Anger – People, who use sarcasm or mockery as a way to hide their feelings, typically express this form of anger. They tend to avoid confrontations with people or situations.
  • Verbal Anger – Anger that’s expressed mostly through words and not actions. Verbal abuse is used to criticize and insult people (put them down) and complain.
  • Constructive Anger – This type of anger is a key factor in driving people to want to join movements and groups. It’s the feeling of being fed up with how things are going, and the need to make a positive change.
  • Self-inflicted Anger – Anger that translates in causing harm to one’s own body. People who use this type of anger are acting out by punishing themselves for something they’ve done wrong.
  • Volatile Anger – This form of anger occurs in varying degrees… it comes and goes. It can just appear out of nowhere, or build into something bigger. It can either explode or go unnoticed. It could even be expressed verbally or physically.
  • Chronic Anger – Ever come across someone that’s seemingly angry for no reason, or mad all the time? More than likely, they were exhibiting this type of anger. People with chronic anger are just mad in general.
  • Judgmental Anger – Putting other people down and making them feel bad about themselves, or abilities, is a form of judgmental anger. This person expresses their feelings by making those around them feel worthless.
  • Overwhelmed Anger – This person relieves stress by shouting, and flying off the handle, when they can’t take situations and things that are happening around them, anymore. When things are just too overwhelming.
  • Retaliatory Anger – This is probably one of the most common, of the bunch. Retaliatory anger usually occurs as a direct response to someone else lashing out at you.
  • Paranoid Anger – This anger comes about when someone feels jealousy towards others, because they feel other people have or want to take what’s rightfully theirs. Or they may act out because they feel intimidated by others.
  • Deliberate Anger – Using anger to gain power over a situation or person. A person expressing this form of anger may not start out angry, but will get angry when something does not turn out the way they wanted. Or, someone doesn’t see eye to eye with something they planned.

I am sure like me you  recognise all the 12 types of the anger above, and I (like you may have) have experienced a form of some of them against me, and I against others. I have the tendency to suppress anger, to walk away from conflict or find the best solution for the best outcome often overlooking my own wants and emotional needs in the process which sometimes can make me angrier.   

About four or five months ago I had such a rush of anger, I said some hurtful things in response to hurtful things that were said to me, and I gushed out my repressed anger.  The release of the anger was such a relief but also caused a lot of damage to relationships in the process.  A part of me is sad and remorseful about this, but a part of me also believes that my anger was justified although could have been handled better and that the bad feelings and hurts on both sides need to be addressed before relationships can be healed.  Whether this will happens or not is another thing entirely.

In the meantime I have to ask myself how have I managed my anger in the past, how should I manage the anger that is inside me now, and how will I manage my anger in the future?   I know that I will become angry again many times in my life ahead so being able to manage it in a more healthy and productive way is important to me.

“Just because something is natural doesn't mean it is good. Fire is natural, but uncontrolled it can damage and destroy. Controlled fire can give us heat and light and can be beautiful to look it. Water is natural and is essential to life. Uncontrolled water can destroy buildings and plants and can drown people. Controlled water can sustain life and allow people, animals and plants to live and to grow. Controlled water allows us to clean ourselves and our surroundings."

Blow your stack, state your case, let go of the lava bubbling and frothing and free yourself from this onerous burden that enslaves and clings to you

Is it easier to hold a grudge, and feel a victim then letting it go like the dead crunchy leaves falling to ground in autumn? 

Do you find it easier to plot revenge, and ways to get back and to turn away, showing disdain in silence?

When did you find it easier to hate than to love and to forgive and feel the calmness of a peaceful loving heart?

Facing up to your anger is a hard step but better to manage it and walk away looking forward with hope and clarity

Better to take off the chains that oppress us put aside childishness and selfishness that taunt us behind every thought

Hold out your hand and offer an olive branch to this pain inside you, and pain to others and stop this madness of anger to cease

Oh Sweet, sweet release

Part III of my next blog deals with managing your anger but in the meantime I came across this prayer called “The Angry People's Control Prayer" – enjoy!

Lord help me to relax about insignificant details
   beginning tomorrow at 7:41:23 am EST

God help me to consider people's feelings,
  even if most of them ARE hypersensitive.

God help me to take responsibility for my own actions,
  even though they're usually NOT my fault.

God, help me to not try to RUN everything.
  But, if You need some help, please feel free to ASK me

Lord, help me to be more laid back,
  and help me to do it EXACTLY right.

God help me to take things more seriously,
  especially laughter, parties, and dancing.

God give me patience,
  and I mean right NOW-

Lord help me not be a perfectionist.
  (Did I spell that correctly?)

God, help me to finish everything I sta

God, help me to keep my mind on
  one th -- Look, a bird -- ing at a time.

God help me to do only what I can, and trust you for the rest.
  And would you mind putting that in writing?

Lord keep me open to others' ideas,
  WRONG though they may be.

Lord help me be less independent,
  but let me do it my way.

Lord help me follow established procedures today.
  On second thought, I'll settle for a few minutes.

Lord, help me slow down



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