Anger is one of the most powerful and misunderstood emotions. Unfortunately, our misconceptions about anger lead to a lot of dysfunctional behavior. Here are seven myths about it that need to be debunked right now:
1. Anger is a negative emotion.
It's not bad to feel angry. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. In fact, a lot of really good things stem from anger, and angry feelings can lead to positive change. Many social injustices have called for people who became angry. What if Martin Luther King, Jr. never felt angry?
2. Anger is the same thing as aggression.
A lot of people confuse angry feelings and aggressive behavior. While feeling angry is healthy, aggressive behavior isn't. There are many healthy ways to deal with anger without resorting to threats or violence.
3. Anger management doesn't work.
When people lack skills to manage their anger, their emotions can cause problems in all areas of their lives. Many relationship troubles, career issues, and legal problems result from unhealthy expressions of anger. Anger management classes and therapy can be powerful tools that help individuals reduce aggressive outbursts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for anger management issues.
4. Anger is all in your head.
Anger involves more than just your mind. Think about the last time you felt really angry. It's likely that your heart rate increased, your face grew flushed, and your hands shook. That's because anger evokes a physiological response, and it's that response that often fuels angry thoughts and aggressive behavior. Learning how to relax your body—and your mind—is key to reducing aggressive outbursts.
5. Venting your anger releases it.
Punching your pillow, trashing the room, or screaming to your heart's content doesn't actually "release" your pent up rage. In fact, research suggests that venting your anger in this way actually has the opposite effect: The more you vent, the worse you'll feel.
6. Ignoring your anger makes it go away.
Suppressing anger isn't healthy, either. Smiling to cover up your frustration, denying your angry feelings, or allowing others to treat you poorly in an effort to keep the peace can cause your anger to turn inward. And suppressed anger has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health issues, from hypertension to depression.
7. Men are angrier than women.
Research consistently shows that men and women experience the same amount of anger. They just express it differently. While men are more likely to be aggressive and impulsive in their expressions of anger, women are more likely to use an indirect approach, like cutting someone out of their lives.
Healthy Ways to Deal with Anger
The best way to deal with anger is to find a healthy way to express it. Turning anger into something constructive, such as creating positive change or responding assertively, is the best way to cope with angry emotions.
Before you can express your emotions, however, you need to understand how you're feeling. Practice identifying when you feel frustrated, disappointed, or downright angry.
Pay attention to the early warning signs that you're growing angry. Take a time-out from the action to calm down before your anger reaches explosive levels. Go for a walk or do some deep breathing to calm both your body and your mind.
When you're in a calmer state, take steps to actively problem-solve issues and express yourself in a more productive manner. Increasing your emotional intelligence can prevent you from saying and doing things you may later regret.
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This article first appeared on Inc.