Open Gently

Musings on the introspective life.

How Do You Get Angry?

Deepsixing rage tends to boomerang for women in more anger on another occasion.

How do you most often express your anger?

Do you suppress it and try to forget about it?

Do you suppress it and then try to resolve the conflict that caused it by having a discussion when you're less angry? This could include talking about the situation or event with other people, with the person who made you angry, or both.

Do you try to turn your anger into motivation in another area, for instance, getting exercise ("running it off,") or working harder on looking for another job if you're angry at your boss?

Do you blow up when you probably shouldn't, in the office, in public meltdowns in stores or restaurants, or with intimates, saying and doing things you later regret?

Do you seek revenge?

Do you fantasize revenge?

Do you withdraw from the people who caused you anger and consider dropping them from your lives completely? While you're still angry, do you repeatedly think that your relationship is now over?

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Do you ever think the other person is angry with you...and then realize that you were actually the angry one?

Do you feel guilty about your anger?

There is actually very little research on how people manage anger. There is some science that couples last longer when they have matching anger styles. Some couples naturally avoid conflict--one person will back off, if they do fight they won't talk about it later, they'll each privately look for ways to minimize future conflict, and they'll hope that time will heal wounds.

Some couples have blowups with raised voices and slamming doors and often make-up sex.

Some couples enter into intense lawyer-like negotiations seeking solutions.

Any of these could work with a particular pair at a particular time--the key may be flexibility in anger styles or matching tendencies. A mismatch will lead to other problems. Both a rager and negotiator could scare an avoider. Ragers and negotiators could just make each other angrier. Avoiders can make negotiators feel helpless and trapped. 

For women, especially, suppressing your anger completely has a good chance of backfiring. In three studies at the University of Aberdeen, researchers looked at the effect of suppression of empathic anger on behalf of someone else.

Male and female participants were shown two emotional film clips. During the first some were asked to express feelings of anger and some were asked to inhibit or suppress those feelings. A third group were instructed to substitute feelings of anger with those of a previously recalled happy memory. They were then shown a second emotional film to which they were allowed to respond spontaneously.

The women in the study who had suppressed their anger in the first film reported feeling more angry, outraged, upset and disgusted than their male counterparts by the second film, and were more likely to say they wanted to swear.

One way to handle anger is to write down your feelings. If you're a creative writer, you might write a story of revenge. It works for me!    

For editing or writing coaching, please contact me at expertediting.org.

 

 

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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