Myth #30 It's better to express anger to others than hold it in - Lilienfield et al. - 2009 - Article


Is it better to express anger or not?

‘Going postal’ refers to a person becoming uncontrollably angry and violent. Most people believe that releasing anger is healthier than keeping it in. This is also called catharsis. Thus, it is often thought that releasing anger would decrease the chance on going postal. However, research suggests that the catharsis hypothesis is false. Studies have revealed that encouraging people to express their anger leads to more aggression. Playing aggressive sports and videogames also lead to increased anger.

What are the conclusions?

Expressing anger is helpful, but only when it is accompanied by constructive problem-solving. People also often use a post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning for why releasing anger would be beneficial. This refers to that people mistakenly attribute the fact that they feel better after they express anger to catharsis, rather than to the fact that anger usually decreases on its own after a while. So, they assume that because one thing comes before another, it must cause it.

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