Anger is an Important Emotion

While researching the work of Harvard’s George Vaillant on happiness, longevity and health (posted yesterday), I found a wonderful article in The Guardian that expresses the importance of expressing anger in a healthy way.  The article expresses this issue so eloquently that I will simply quote several paragraphs here:

According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a piece of research that has tracked the lives of 824 men and women since 1965, those who repress their frustration are at least three times more likely to admit they had hit a glass ceiling in their careers and have disappointing personal lives. On the other hand, the study found, those who learned to harness and channel their anger were far more likely to be professionally well-established, as well as enjoying emotional and physical intimacy with their friends and family.

Professor George Vaillant, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has spent the last 44 years as director of the Study of Adult Development, based at the Harvard University Health Service. “People think of anger as a terribly dangerous emotion and are encouraged to practise ‘positive thinking’, but we find that approach is self-defeating and ultimately a damaging denial of dreadful reality,” he said. “Negative emotions such as fear and anger are inborn and are of tremendous importance. Negative emotions are often crucial for survival: careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.”

Vaillant criticises the boom in anti-anger, mood-stabilising drugs and the growing market for anger-management counselling and classes. He believes that, while uncontrolled exhibitions of anger are destructive, learning to positively channel our anger serves a vital role in our wellbeing. Internalising the emotion can cause depression, health problems and communication difficulties.

“Psychologists, having dealt for generations with damaged psyches, should now be engaged in the psychological equivalent of reverse engineering,” he said. “We all feel anger, but individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health. If we can define and harness those skills, we can use them to achieve great things.”

An interesting perspective that I tend to agree with.  What do you think?  Submit your comments below.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

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