Ten-thousand Israelis Show Why Suppressed Anger Is Dangerous To Your Health If You're an Abuse Survivor
Have you ever seen those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where someone plugs up a giant volcano so that it can't erupt naturally? All of a sudden it starts expanding in weird and radical directions. Everyone runs around screaming, "look out she's going to blow." Of course, nobody is harmed. They might be covered with gelatin or vomit or some other silly cartoon device.
If you have suppressed anger (or repressed anger), you may feel a bit like that volcano. But you don't have to. As a human being, you have the ability to make choices about how you express your anger. You can talk to your friends about it, or you can even choose to suppress it. And perhaps it's better to suppress it. After all, if you're an abuse survivor, you may have been taught that "nice girls" or "good boys" don't express their anger. So you learned to sit with it. And you've been fine so far, right? So is there really a problem here?
In 1972, a team of researchers reported the results of a five-year prospective study on 10,000 Israeli male civil servants with normal blood pressure. In this study, 90 factors were looked at that might contribute to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure). Surprisingly, the following factors made a significant difference in a person's odds of having high blood pressure, and all of them had to do with suppressed anger. They were:
Clearly, the data shows repressed anger can put your health at risk.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Fortunately, there is a safe and easy way to reduce your anger. All you have to do is express it safely. There was a study done at California State University that showed that spending twenty minutes talking with a counselor about their feelings left subjects with much reduced anger compared to sitting quietly in a room thinking about how they felt or venting their feelings into a sound recorder.
But why was counseling so effective? It's because it let the subjects share their emotions and also understand them. The experience helped them figure out how to move on.
That's why if you're an abuse survivor working with a therapist, it helps to cultivate a network of supportive friends. Hopefully, one of these friends is understanding enough that they can be a "substitute counselor" for when you get angry. You can get to the bottom of your emotions and then figure out how to move on.
Hopefully, as you begin letting go of anger in other parts of your life such as work, and practicing expressing your anger constructively, you'll be less prone to suppressed anger. You won't have to feel like a plugged up volcano in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
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