A past article on NPR explores the age old question of whether it’s therapeutic to act on your anger. Alex Spigel writes about a woman in San Diego who has built a store for the sole purpose of letting people in, covering them in protective gear, and giving them plates to smash to vent their anger. He then brings up new research by professor Jeffrey Lohr of the University of Arkansas that points to evidence that says venting this anger isn’t effective and the anger just continues to return.
I love Alex Spigel, but sometimes these topics can be oversimplified. It’s kind of like much of the spirituality research out there that measures level of spirituality by church attendance. Just because someone goes to church doesn’t mean they’re spiritual, they could be doing it out of family obligation or a longing for community.
What’s not explicitly spelled out here is the difference between anger and aggression. Just because someone is expressing anger, it doesn’t mean they are aggressive or hostile. He points to this briefly when he says “Now, to be clear, Lohr isn’t pro-repression. Repression, he says, can also be bad for you. The key is to speak out your anger without getting emotional about it. Basically, we’re not supposed to yell at anyone anymore.”
To be clearer, there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling or expressing anger. Whenever we’re frustrated or irritated we are feeling angry. We can be angry for a myriad of things from our partners making plans for us without asking to being abused as a child.
How we express this anger does make a difference.