By Sean Zucker –
Pissed about the aftermath of the Pandemic? Utterly outraged at continued social injustice? Let it out. That’s what an increasing number of experts advise. Psychologists and studies believe it’s not only beneficial to express feelings of anger in dealing with the source of the frustration, but it can positively impact a person’s overall health and attitude, as well as their relationships with others.
While Western countries tend to urge people to manage feelings of anger and many cultures depict expressing anger as a sign of weakness, emotional failure or loss of control, various studies lend significant evidence to a precisely opposite sentiment. One study published in Psychological Science on behalf of the Association for Psychological Science directly links expressing anger with better overall health. The research, which included participants from the United States and Japan, contradicts previous notions of anger being unhealthy. Instead, the study notes that it is circumstances that generated the anger as being unhealthy, not the anger itself.
While the Psychological Science study focused primarily on overall well-being and health, other research has found links between expressing anger and mitigating specific ailments and fatal conditions.
The Center For The Advancement Of Health, for example, found anger expression to be associated with decreased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease in men. The study surveyed 23,522 participants, men aged 50 to 85, asked to rate how often and to what degree they expressed their emotions when angry. It found men with moderate levels of anger expression had nearly half the risk of nonfatal heart attacks and a significant reduction in the risk of stroke compared to men with low levels of anger expression. In the case of stroke, the researchers found that the risk decreased in proportion to increasing levels of anger expression.
Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener, authors of The Upside of Your Dark Side, claim anger is best viewed as a tool that helps an individual read and responds to upsetting social situations. They claim evidence overwhelmingly indicates that feeling angry increases optimism, creativity and performance efficiency. But there’s a catch. It is only beneficial when it is expressed in a productive manner. This includes recognizing the reason a person is angry in order to differentiate between what they can change and what is beyond their control. Another example is when a person slows down a situation to give themselves permission to pause to consider options even if others else is waiting for a response.
This has all led to the recent creation and popularization of the term “constructive anger.” Constructive anger is the act of turning negative emotions into healing opportunities. Matthew Tull, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, explained that the process of expressing anger in constructive ways has a multitude of potential benefits, including improved empathy leading to healthier, longer-lasting and fulfilling relationships.
“Over time, as you hone the skill of transforming anger from a potentially destructive force to a constructive asset, you can expect to gain a new understanding of your own and others’ feelings. As a result, you may find your relationships improving and lasting longer,” he said.
So see red, go mad – it’s healthy.