Updated: May 15
Myths about anger are widely held beliefs based on false assumptions about anger. By default, our current understanding of anger is primarily based on the observation of other people's behaviour when they get angry.
Recent research has allowed us to see and measure what happens in the brain and body when we get mad, highlighting the complex mechanisms and processes involved. As a result, debunking anger myths and misconceptions is essential so that more people have a better understanding of what anger is and the role it plays in our lives.
Let’s take a look at some of the common myths about anger.
1. Anger Is a Negative Emotion
Is anger a negative emotion? A majority believes so. While anger is often viewed as a negative emotion, expressing it can also have some benefits. Anger is an automatic response that helps you fight perceived threats to your safety or well-being. You may consider it as a warning system, indicating when you lack boundaries with others, when your emotional or physical needs are not being met, or when you are being treated poorly. Anger is a natural response when you are subjected to bad experiences. Neither of these responses is good nor bad – but it is useful to remember that anger has a function.
2. Anger Is Destructive
Anger is often considered a destructive emotion due to its association with aggression, which can harm relationships and possessions. However, anger and aggression are not the same things, and people can respond to anger in various ways. Some shut down or become passive-aggressive, while others lack the skills to manage their anger and become impulsive, which, in turn, may cause harm or pain to others.
To avoid the negative effects of anger, it is crucial to have the necessary skills to manage it effectively. Without these, individuals are prone to overreacting and displaying intense outbursts that can hurt others. Emotional management is necessary to prevent intense emotions from controlling one's life and becoming harmful.
3. Anger Always Leads to Aggression
The myth that anger only results in aggression is untrue and can lead to the misconception that people do not have an anger problem if they do not act aggressively. However, anger can manifest in different ways. Some people may suppress or repress anger, which is equally problematic. A passive-aggressive attitude can also be a manifestation of anger. This behaviour is often associated with sarcastic or belittling comments, isolation, and silent treatment. It is essential to recognize that anger can have negative effects, regardless of whether it is expressed aggressively or passively.
4. Venting and Expressing Anger Is Healthy
For a long time, people believed that expressing and talking about their anger was healthy and helpful. This belief influenced how anger management and counselling were conducted, with clients being encouraged to talk about upsetting situations in great detail.
Is being angry bad for your health? As highlighted in the field of biofeedback, anger expression has a strong association with physiological changes in the body that can weaken it and lead to health problems like cardiovascular issues, stroke, and heart attacks.
The current approach to anger management focuses on teaching clients how to reduce the body's psychological arousal in response to anger to cope with the situation. Being in a state of physical hyper-arousal during anger leads to impulsivity and emotional reactivity, and makes it difficult to think clearly. By learning to relax, the frontal cortex of the brain comes back "online", allowing individuals to think clearly and manage their way through anger-inducing situations without negative consequences.
5. Suppressing Anger Is Better
Instead of venting some people may choose to smile to cover up their frustration or deny their emotions. Similarly, some may allow others to treat them poorly to keep their peace. Suppressing anger can have negative consequences on both physical and mental health. When individuals suppress their anger, it can turn inward and lead to a variety of health issues. Studies have linked suppressed anger to hypertension, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Finally, suppressed anger can lead to chronic pain, headaches, and digestive issues.
Instead of suppressing anger, individuals can learn how to manage their emotions by identifying triggers, practicing relaxation techniques, and developing communication skills.
6. Anger Is Inherited
Anger as a trait passed through generations is a widespread misconception. People often blame their anger on their parents. While genes may play a role in the development of some of our behavioural tendencies, they are rarely the whole story. Anger isn’t so much inherited as much as it is a learned behaviour. You do not have a fixed way of expressing anger from birth. Instead, you learn how to express it by observing the influential people in your life, such as parents or caretakers.
If your parents express anger through screaming, yelling, or being physically aggressive, you may learn to deal with anger in the same way. Fortunately, you can always learn new ways to manage your anger through counselling and anger management, which provide effective coping skills and tools for adaptive behaviours. This allows you to grow and better yourself, ensuring that future generations can also deal with their anger more healthily.
7. Men Are Angrier Than Women
A widely-held myth is that men experience anger more frequently than women. This belief is based on gender stereotypes and societal norms that accept male anger more than female anger. However, research on gender differences related to anger does not support this idea.
Studies have found that both men and women experience anger with the same frequency, typically once or twice a week. The differences that may exist between genders are related to the way anger is expressed emotionally. Men tend to report experiencing anger more intensely than women, while women tend to hold onto their anger for longer periods than men.
8. Only Certain Individuals Are Affected by Anger
The misconception that anger is more common in poor people, who lack social skills or are less educated is often used by those who consider themselves in a higher social class and want to avoid acknowledging their own issues with anger management.
Anger is a universal emotion that affects everyone regardless of age, nationality, race, ethnicity, social/economic status, education, or religion. It does not reflect a person's worth or character. It is simply an emotion, and individuals should not be judged as good or bad based on this.
9. Anger Is All in Your Head
The belief that anger is a choice is a misconception often perpetuated by those who struggle with managing their feelings. Anger is not a conscious decision one makes, but rather an instinctive reaction to a perceived threat or attack. It is an emotion that causes several changes in the body.
When you feel angry, your major muscle groups are energized, and your body is prepared to either fight or flee from danger. Your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar level, breathing, and body temperature increase. These physical changes occur before you are even aware of what is happening. As a result, the consequences of uncontrolled anger can be harmful to our health, relationships, and overall well-being.
10. Your Anger Will Disappear if You Ignore It
There are two main styles of self-management when it comes to coping with anger — emotional and aggressive outbursts and suppression. Both approaches are unhealthy, and ignoring anger will not make it go away or resolve itself. To obtain resolution and relief, individuals need to take proactive steps which can include seeking professional help from a counsellor with specialized training and experience in treating anger. It's essential to learn more about how to work with your anger and develop a course of action for changing the anger habit and managing it effectively.
To manage anger healthily, it is important to debunk anger myths and find positive outlets to express it. Responding assertively or initiating constructive changes are effective ways to cope with this emotion. It is also essential to pay attention to the early warning signs of anger. Consider seeking the the help of a qualified therapist with expertise in managing anger to gain valuable insights and coping strategies so you can change the role that anger plays in your life, your relationships with others, and your relationship with yourself.
For trusted anger management in Toronto, call Shlomo Radcliffe & Associates at (289) 801-4133 today.