A guest post from Dr. Karen Finn
Have you ever noticed that there’s all kinds of conflicting information “out there” about anger? You’ve probably heard that frequent anger is deadly. Maybe you’ve heard that anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. You might think that anger is bad and you shouldn’t express it. You’ve probably heard that anger needs to be expressed or else it eats away at you. You might have learned that girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. Maybe you believe that only adults are supposed to be angry. You might have learned that boys and men are allowed to be angry. You might have learned that anger only leads to violence. There are just all kinds of confusing ideas we’re all taught about anger.
There are messages about anger being both good and bad. Then there are messages about anger being OK for only some people to express and not others. It’s just plain confusing!
Let’s clear up some of the confusion about anger and come to a healthy understanding about it – especially as it applies to divorce.
Frequent anger is deadly. FACT.
For people who experience frequent HIGH levels of anger, their anger can be deadly. Those of us who are “chronically angry or hostile adults with no history of heart trouble might be 19% more likely than their more placid peer to develop heart disease” according to WebMD.com. If you’ve already got heart disease and have an especially angry temperament WebMD.com states that you’re “24% more likely than other heart patients to have a poor prognosis.”
Anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. FACT.
There are two reasons anger is an important part of getting through divorce. First, part of healing from divorce is going through a grieving process and anger is a natural part of the grieving process. Second, anger in divorce is one way you learn to distance yourself emotionally from your former spouse. It helps to break that marriage bond or habit.
Anger is bad and shouldn’t be expressed. MYTH.
Anger is a normal, natural emotion that pops up when you need to know that something needs attention and that action needs to be taken. Last week’s newsletter shared 3 reasons why anger is good.
Anger needs to be expressed or it eats away at you. FACT and MYTH.
Not expressing anger can cause you to feel misunderstood, resentful, and angry! And having these emotions unexpressed for the long term can cause serious health issues. However, just expressing anger by exploding in a rage, screaming, throwing a temper tantrum and the like aren’t helpful for dissipating the emotion. Anger needs to be expressed in constructive ways in order to have it dissipate.
Girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. MYTH.
Anger is a natural human emotion. All humans can experience anger. We all need to know how to recognize it and express it in constructive ways.
Only adults are supposed to be angry. MYTH.
Children are human too! Since anger is a natural human emotion, kids will experience it. It’s the role of the adults in their lives to help them recognize what anger is and to be able to express it in constructive ways.
Only boys and men are allowed to be angry. MYTH.
Again, anger is a natural human emotion. All of us need to be able to express it appropriately.
Anger only leads to violence. MYTH.
Goodness knows there are plenty of movies out there depicting how anger always leads to violence, but it’s not true that all anger leads to violence. Anger appropriately expressed is rarely violent.
Hopefully, this list of myths and facts about violence has cleared up some of the confusion about the conflicting messages we all get about anger. Perhaps it’s also caused you to think about some of the other things you think about anger.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What do you believe about anger? List everything you think about anger. Then, go back through the facts and myths about anger and see if your beliefs are myth or fact.