Posted by: rejuvenatembwc | December 4, 2009

Do You Know Your Anger Style?

By: Dr. Scott Symes

Everyone has a basic understanding of anger. We know that it is an emotion and we all know how destructive angry behavior can be. However, this knowledge of anger is just the beginning. Just how destructive is this emotion? What toll does it take on our health? Our relationships? Our children? Our lives?

There are generally three ways anger is expressed. We will talk about the third later. The first two are anger-in and anger-out. Anger-in people tend to “bottle” their anger up. Anger-out people tend to express their anger by “blowing up.” Let’s take a look at how these two styles of handling anger affects our health. Studies have indicated that no matter the way anger is expressed, bottling or blowing, both styles tend to increase blood pressure. Predominately, those who express the anger-out style tend to have higher blood pressure overall. A long-term pattern of bottling or blowing will have significant negative consequences on a person’s blood pressure over time.

Individuals with the Type-A personality pattern have the greatest risk of negative health consequences. These individuals have traits of time urgency, competitiveness, high ambition, hyperaggresssiveness, and demonstration of free-floating hostility. They seem like they are going to “blow” at any minute. Friedman and Rosenman (1974) conducted a study of 3,500 healthy men. Eighty percent of men within the study who were determined to have heart disease also had Type-A personality. Throughout the 8 ½ year study, Type A men were twice as likely to have heart attacks as Type-B’s. Anger-hostility was found to be the dominant characteristic of those who were prone to having a heart attack.

Most of us who are associated with a chronically angry individual understand just how hard it is to maintain a relationship with them. Nothing seems good enough. You are blamed for their misfortunes or as the cause of their anger. Sometimes you are the recipient of their wrath through emotional, psychological, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse.

Those of you who have anger problems are usually aware that you do, however, use rationalizations to excuse your behaviors. Research has found that over a long period of time chronically angry individuals end up lonely, isolated, and depressed. Why? Angry people chase away all of their support. They treat the people who care about them poorly by selfishly using their anger to control, manipulate, or to feel better by “getting it out.” Eventually, the people around them grow tired of their behavior and distance themselves, sometimes permanently.

So, if bottling anger up doesn’t work and blowing up with anger doesn’t work, what does? The third style of anger expression is the “reflective” or “mindful” style of expression. This style is not destructive to relationships or your health. Adopting a reflective style of anger expression involves several steps to building a person’s awareness of inner experiences. First, the individual needs to understand and become aware of the emotion. Second, they need to acknowledge the emotion. Third, they need to recognize that just because they feel angry does not mean that they have to act on their anger. Fourth, the person needs to adopt a new way of coping with anger by becoming mindful. This means that the person acknowledges that there are many ways that they can look at the situation. They get out of their own narrow way of thinking that leads to anger and adopt a more open-mind to their experiences. Fifth, relaxation techniques are used to calm down the physical body. Sixth, the person examines the impact their anger is having on their lives and assesses the costs of continuing the behavior. This is done through close inspection of belief systems and patterns of destructive thinking. All of this can be accomplished through self-help books, workbooks, or by contacting your local professional for help.

One of my favorite stories of wisdom: A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about something very bad that happened in the tribe. The grandson asked his grandfather how he felt. He stated, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is the wolf of violence, anger, and rage. The other is the wolf of love, compassion and understanding.” The grandson asked, “which wolf will win the fight in your heart grandfather?” The grandfather smiled and said, “the one I feed.”

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