Dispelling Common Anger Myths
Before you can manage your own anger, you need to be aware of what anger is and isn't. Unfortunately, myths about anger seem to abound. Here are some falsehoods and the facts:
- Males are angrier than females. If by angrier you mean how often people experience anger, it's simply not true that men are angrier than women. Surveys show that women get mad just as frequently as men — about once or twice a week on average. On the other hand, men tend to report more intense anger, while women tend to hang on to anger longer.
- Anger is bad. Anger serves a variety of positive purposes when it comes to coping with stress. It energizes you, improves your communication with other people, promotes your self-esteem, and defends you against fear and insecurity. (Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were all angry men — but they turned that anger into social reform that made the world a better place.)
- Anger is good. When it leads to domestic violence, property damage, sexual abuse, drug addiction, ulcers, and self-mutilation, anger is definitely not good.
- Anger is only a problem when you openly express it. As few as 10 percent of people act out their feelings when they get angry. The other 90 percent either suppress their anger ("I don't want to talk about it!") or repress their anger ("I'm not angry at all — really!"). People who express their anger are the squeaky wheels who get everyone's attention; people who repress or suppress their anger need anger management just as much.
- The older you get, the more irritable you are. It's the other way around — as people age, they report fewer negative emotions and greater emotional control. People — like wine and cheese — do tend to improve with age.
- Anger is all in the mind. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Emotions are primarily physical in nature. If anger were only a state of mind, why would someone say, "I feel like I have a big fist in my chest when I get that angry"? Believe me, when you get mad, that emotion is instantly manifested in muscles throughout your entire body, the hairs on the back of your neck, your blood pressure, your blood sugar levels, your heart rate, your respiration rate, your gut, even your finger temperature (it warms up!) — long before you're aware of what's happening.
- Anger is all about getting even. The most common motive behind anger has been shown to be a desire to assert authority or independence, or to improve one's image — not necessarily to cause harm. Revenge is a secondary motive. A third motive involves letting off steam over accumulated frustrations — again with no apparent intent to harm anyone else.
- Only certain types of people have a problem with anger. All types of people — truck drivers, college professors, physicians, housewives, grandmothers, lawyers, policemen, career criminals, poor people, millionaires, children, the elderly, people of various colors, nationalities, and religions — experience anger. Anger is a universal emotion!
- Anger results from human conflict. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. One of the leading experts on anger has found that people can get angry by being exposed to foul odors, aches and pains, and hot temperatures — none of which involve (or can be blamed on) the actions of others.