SCHRIEVER AIF FORCE BASE, Colo. --
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Expressing emotions like anger is a necessary way to communicate with one another, some individuals when they encounter this emotion may choose to hold it in, while others may seek to express it.
Maj. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron director of psychological health, said one being better than the other depends on various factors.
“Popular psychology and media teaches us that to manage anger we have to blow off some steam, vent, or it’s best to hit a pillow,” he said. “This is a myth and an old idea from the time of Sigmund Freud, referred to as Catharsis, whereby we must purge ourselves of anger and other negative emotions to provide an enjoyable psychological cleansing experience.”
Pagano said anger is defined as a natural response to when people feel someone is wronged.
“Anger can be understood to be a part of our fight or flight mechanism,” Pagano said. “Anger alerts us to boundaries being crossed or something unsafe occurring. It motivates us to do something about it.”
Pagano said, various forms of research show encouraging the expression of anger toward another person directly or indirectly, actually increases aggression rather than releasing it .
“Participating in aggressive sports like football or mixed martial arts, which are presumed to encourage catharsis, [can] boost aggression and anger over time,” he said. “The concepts of ‘venting’ and ‘hitting something’ as healthy persists because sometimes people feel better in the short run in some way afterwards reinforcing the belief that catharsis works.”
Individuals rely on these activities for a quick release of their anger, rather than allowing time for the emotion to subside.
Jan Devitt, 50th Space Wing community support coordinator, said even though individuals may feel sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment or embarrassment, anger isn’t necessarily a “bad” emotion and it can be useful.
“Feeling angry about something can actually create a growing opportunity,” she said. “Most people will experience episodes of anger which feel manageable and don't have a big impact on their lives. Instead of bottling up anger or exploding, expressing anger can be done productively.”
Anger has three general components:
- Physical-where an individual may experience muscle tension or elevated heart rate.
- Cognitive-where angry thoughts come forward.
- Behavioral-which can entail yelling, fighting, and mental brooding.
“Managing unhelpful or negative thoughts before they manage you and spiral out of control is a constructive way to express anger,” Pagano said. “Challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, practice taking the other side and imagine how you’d encourage someone else if they were in the same situation.”
Recognizing physical sensations felt in anger and trying relaxation techniques is another way to manage the emotion.
Pagano said the management techniques do not get rid of the anger, they only throttle down the physiological response. Individuals must remember anger can be a normal and healthy response.
When it comes to managing and dealing with anger, there are several options for Schriever Airmen. The embedded behavioral health provider in family health clinic, the Space Team for Airmen Resilience team embedded in the 50th Operations Group, the mental health clinic, chaplain’s corps, Military Family Life Counselors, and Military One Source are available for Airmen.
“Calming down and working through anger and other emotions can help an individual communicate in a calm manner,” Pagano said. “Practicing assertiveness and active listening can help avoid conflict. Remember [it] is part of everyday life and is sometimes unavoidable. Dealing with conflict is not something we’re born with, it requires patience and practice.”
For more information on agencies who can help with managing and processing anger, call 567-4357 (HELP).