The idea that venting anger helps is a myth

You may feel better after you’ve vented your anger but there’s little point –

  1. Venting does not diminish anger
  2. The feeling intensifies
  3. You create fresh damage to those you lash out at.

Why do we do it?

Anger is normal. But chronically angry people have a strong sense of entitlement about how the world should look and others should act. They are poor self-regulators who attribute discomfort they experience others. Poor self-regulation means they do not act in the long-term consistent with values.

Their bravado may appear as strength but it masks weak self-control. When things don’t go their way they lash out believing their anger is a justified reaction to an unfair world.

“If they hadn’t have done that, I wouldn’t be angry.” (They genuinely believe this.)

The surge of anger provides ‘a shot of adrenaline-driven energy’ that has amphetamine and analgesic effects, providing a sense of power that numbs pain. That sense of relief is called catharsis but it’s temporary.

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A strong personality is not the same as strength

People often mistake domineering personalities as strong. They can be, but sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes frighteningly opposite if doggedness masks an inability to cope with differences.

When someone disagrees with them – it’s a war.

Domineering personalities are not afraid to express a view – that is refreshing. What is less refreshing is to watch them unyieldingly hammer their point till others cave in or shut down.

They are not interesting in listening, nuance or having a discussion. They have a single goal – emerging triumphant at the other end.

It doesn’t matter if they take an opposite view the next day. It’s about winning, not logic.

These personalities play the wo/man and not the ball. Someone who disagrees with them is not just wrong they’re ‘an idiot’ (put in their preferred insult). There’s no give, no concession that someone might have an insight they don’t or even just a different way into the problem.

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Moods as a controlling device

Have you noticed how some people control others without doing or saying anything?

These emotional dictators wield emotion like a sword and then step back from the consequences.

I am not talking here about low-level sulkiness; we all get moody from time to time.

A partner or colleague upsets us and rather than either sorting it out directly, or letting it go, we do neither. We say nothing but they know in no uncertain terms it is not forgotten. While not ideal, we are all human and it’s not a problem when it’s not a pattern.

Where it becomes a problem is when it becomes a pattern.

Emotional manipulators are different from those who don’t have the skills to be direct because of their upbringing, socio-political environment or just a difference in power or position (where directness can have serious consequences). People who get shot down may also retreat to indirectness as a defence.

What distinguishes them is that they thrive on drama; where it doesn’t exist they will create it. They love the fallout from their antics because it puts them slap bang at the centre of the universe where they feel powerful and in control, and that’s just the way they want it.

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The myth that we have to ‘rise above’ emotion is corrosive

The myth that we have to ‘rise above’ emotion is corrosive. Where is emotion ‘kept’ such that we could disentangle from it?

Emotions are complex biochemical events triggered by and that trigger internal and external reactions. There’s some evidence that specific molecules regulate certain emotions – oxytocin with empathy, serotonin with happiness  – although this is an emerging field and we really don’t know enough.

But its a long outdated idea that thoughts and feelings float about separate from the body – they are embodied within it.

Many psychologies, philosophies and spiritualities teach that emotion is inferior to reason, but the idea of pure reason is a myth and not one I believe we should aspire to. The fetishisation of reason is damaging, people waste energy trying not to feel.

Being emotional doesn’t mean having unbridled outbursts. That’s childish. We can learn to control impulses and live respectfully amongst others.

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