Unchecked Anger

  • Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC
  • Series: Summer 2016, Volume 23, Issue 3
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It is fashionable to think that venting anger is a good thing. Behavioral studies say we must rethink this belief, as does the Bible. Unchecked anger, rage, or overly aggressive responses do not produce positive fruitful outcomes. Rehearsed anger, rage, or revenge filled thoughts more than likely produce aggression at the least, and out of control action at the worst.

Psychologists know that repeated aggressive thought plants angry action ready for use. Even thoughts about nasty things you’d like to say to someone creates action immediately ready for implementation. Like the joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” It is the same for aggressive behaviors. Practice, practice, practice readily brings more and more angry aggressive action.

Proverbs puts it this way: “For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” 30:33

Have you ever wondered why people seem to be so much angrier than what we remember? Road rage, shootings, election rallies that turn violent, and the like are daily in the news. At least part of the explanation relates to rehearsal.

If we have been playing super aggressive digital or internet games, watching violent media, repeatedly thinking vengeful or rage filled thoughts, we will likely have overly aggressive behaviors instantly present for action, and little stopping us if we have well rehearsed desires for it. Neurological studies say that we have a few a seconds, sometimes less, to decide (if we still have some rationality available to us,) whether or not we will activate behavior.

Yes, anger can give us information if managed. And under certain circumstances, blowing off steam in a safe environment with a safe, not the target, understanding person, can have benefit. In a safe circumstance, anger checked within, knowing this de-stressing is a process and not the final stop, can help in certain contexts. However, unchecked anger is a real danger to others and ourselves.