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Is Suppressing Anger Bad for You?

Learn if suppressing anger is unhealthy from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.

Transcript

So often times people make the assumption that when they're coming in for anger management, the best case scenario is that they in fact suppress the anger. There are a lot of problems with that approach. One, by suppressing the emotion there is lots of evidence that indicate we might in fact intensify it at times. So while distraction in fact can reduce anger experience at times, a general strategy for suppression in fact is probably not healthy. There's an expression style called anger in where people are trying to suppress anger on an ongoing basis. That style really indicates one that people are oftentimes ruminating for long periods of time about anger issues. Two, they're put at risk for all kinds of negative health outcomes.

The other thing is that it takes energy in fact to suppress an emotion like that, which taxes us. What we know about self-regulation or will-power is that over time by trying to suppress something like that, we in fact eventually break down and weaken to the point where we might be giving in to certain urges. In the case of anger, that means we might be giving into aggressive urges. So rather than suppress it, it's important to learn to be able to manage it appropriately. What that means is either changing our beliefs about it to reduce the intensity, learning to distance ourselves from those angry thoughts so they in fact don't continue to maintain and drive up our anger, sort of increasing our bandwidth to tolerate and handle the anger, and then even when the anger is intense, learning adaptive strategies like assertive communication and active problem-solving. Those are really the healthier ways to handle anger as opposed to suppressing it which ultimately causes more problems.

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