Dealing with Anger

To determine whether getting angry can be good for you, we have to look at the factors on each side of that emotion: why you got angry and how you acted when angry. Let's say you're angry because you just spent the last hour doing all the dirty dishes by yourself while your spouse sat in front of the television. You're mad because you wanted to watch television also, and doing the dishes prevented that from happening, not to mention you expect a little help around the house once in a while.

The more you think about it, the more you realize that this is a pretty good reason to be angry. You start getting riled up because your blood is pumping faster, your sudsy hands are clenching into fists and you notice that your jaw is tightened. What do you do at this point? There are three basic options in dealing with anger (or anger expression): holding your anger in, letting it out and controlling it.

The first option might take the form of storming into the living room, throwing yourself on the couch in a huff but then sulkily refusing to answer your spouse's questions about what's wrong. Expressing anger in this way is not doing you much good. If you exercise the second option, you might storm into the living room and start throwing the newly clean dishes. In this scenario, anger's not good for you, and it's certainly not good for those dishes.

But if you walk into the living room and have a calm, controlled conversation about what's bothering you, and how you'd like the other person to address the issue, then anger can be immensely good for you. In studies evaluating anger, participants have described properly controlled anger as an illuminating force, helping to identify both faults and strengths in interpersonal relationships. Getting angry led to making positive changes in those relationships [source: Weber].

When you can manage and release anger in this third way, with a calm conversation, many of those scary studies about heart attacks and early death don't apply. The first instance, of holding anger in, may lead to depression, and one study indicated that women who suppressed anger were three times more likely to die than those who did not hold on to angry feelings [source: Angier]. In the second scenario, overt violence and aggression will take its toll on the relationship and your body.

But releasing anger in the third way is both good for you and for the relationship. The very state of getting angry is telling you that something is wrong in the relationship, and that you'd better address the situation if you want to maintain the relationship. In fact, such an expression is likely good for the relationship. One study found that couples who express their anger productively are likely to live longer than couples who suppress their anger [source: LiveScience].

But what if it's not the kind of situation where you can have a nice productive chat? Find out how that anger can also be beneficial on the next page.