New Study on AngerCNN ran a story yesterday
about the results of a recently published study on how much longer we live when we actually speak our true feelings: "The study published in January followed 192 married couples in Michigan from 1971 to 1988 and found that those who kept their anger in when unfairly attacked did not live as long as those who expressed their anger, says lead study author Ernest Harburg, Ph.D., an emeritus research scientist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health and psychology department.”
Wow I feel validated! I’ve been preaching for years the importance of expressing your anger and not shying from conflict. Now research validates its importance to the quality of our lives. Holding back our feelings has dire consequences, it seems.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we have license to attack each other, it just means we are encouraged to speak our angry feelings out loud.
Confusion between anger and violence
Those of us who grew up in homes where angry outbursts accompanied hitting, verbal abuse, throwing things – or worse – are often frightened of anyone expressing their anger, no matter how benignly they do it. Some of us are down right anger phobic, both of our own and others.
In my family growing up, the only people allowed to have their anger were the adults. If one of us kids smarted off or expressed our anger we were punished by being shamed with laughter, sent to our rooms and told we were being “ugly”. But the adults were allowed to hit us with belts, “green switches”, hairbrushes and their hands and to yell and scream as long and as abusively as they choose.
Of course, I didn’t want to be like that myself, and certainly felt ashamed if I ever found myself provoked to anger.
The result is that we think that any time anyone expresses anger they are being violent. We then put them in the role of “the bad guy” and think of whoever they dumped their anger out on as “the victim.”
Choosing to be rational
Many people growing up in very refined homes never witnessed anyone expressing anger directly and they internalize it and rationalize it away without ever having a chance to even let it come to conscious awareness. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Just because we renationalize it away doesn’t mean we haven’t felt it, and that it still doesn’t need release.
The physiology of anger
Anger is like any of our emotions, a necessary part of being a human being. We feel anger for a reason, again, like all of our feelings. Anger is there to tell us “Something is wrong. I need to do something about this!” When we fail to express the need to do something differently, we end up locking this “energy-in-motion” (the definition of emotion) into our bodies. The energy of the emotion of anger starts out in our root chakra and moves outward and upward through our bodies. But, if we block the flow of emotion and fight it down using our physiology to stop it (holding our breath, tensing our diaphragm, tightening our shoulders, gritting our teeth) we lock it into place so that it does not get expressed. Then, the effort of locking in that emotion takes its toll on the body. We experience stomach problems, breathing problems, muscular aches and pains, perhaps fibro-myalgia, some say even cancers can be triggered this way.
What I am NOT saying
I am not saying it’s okay to blast people with unbridled attacks, either. There was a period of time when people used “I’m just having my feelings!” as an excuse to attack anyone and to dump their feelings off on others. I am NOT advocating this kind of behavior. What I am advocating is that we all MUST find a way to express our feelings of anger appropriately and consistently if we are to remain healthy and have strong, long lasting relationships.
A paradigm shift
The next time someone appears angry take the time inside to remember 1) this does not mean they are going to hurt someone (necessarily) 2) this person feels something is wrong in their world and may need some help. The shift that takes place when you begin to view anger in this way can change everything for you.
What do you think?
Are you able to handle it when people express anger? Or do you clam up and try to avoid the situation? Is it best to avoid anger and conflict at all costs? Let me know what you think. Comment below.