What should we do with anger bottled up inside of us? A recent article in the Washington Post discussed a serious effect of one option, that of letting out the raw anger, even to the point of throwing things and threatening to hurt other people.
A common theme for some mental health professionals has been that we should get the anger out. For these therapists, sessions can consist of banging a pillow (usually representing parents who were taken as having failed the client), with a bat that has many of the properties of a nasty club, but is in fact safely padded.
The Washington Post article describes a study in which about 4000 people who had heart attacks were asked about their experiences of anger. Heart attacks were twice as likely to occur after an episode of anger. There was a tendency for the heart attacks to occur within two hours of the anger episode.
Patients were also asked to rate how intense their anger episode had been, and the more intense the anger episode, the more likely patients were to have a heart attack.
So we have therapists trying to help us get the anger out versus research showing that expressing anger can lead to a heart attack. So what are we to do? Should we bottled up our anger or express it?