November 11, 2005

Study: "Anger Is Good for You" ??

Anger Is Good for You?

Recently Carnegie Mellon University did a ‘Study’ that found that “anger may help people reduce the negative impact of stress.” I'm really going to try and not get angry at their misleading findings!

In a nutshell here is what they did:
Subjects were told they were being tested for intelligence. They were asked to count backward from 6,200 by increments of 13, then taunted, corrected and told to go faster. Researchers measured the biological responses as the subjects become more and more stressed.
From this they concluded that:
Stress leads to biological responses such as an increase in heart rate and a release of hormones. Both can have lasting effects such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and excess weight gain.
So essentially they conclude that if you just get angry in the situation, it will distress you, and since you aren’t stressed, you are healthier. Well there are sure are a lot of things you could do to feel less stressed! How it is that getting angry will really lower the stress in a situation?

Real Life

Seems to me in real life your anger is going to have an effect on the other people around you (who, in real life aren’t performing a study on you.) What if those people turn to anger as a response to yours? That would no doubt raise the stress in the situation and raise the stress in other areas in your life (like the rash actions you might make, or rash things you might say in your anger.) Not only that, but you are bound to be stressing the other person out when you get angry. Of course, the study didn’t really explain if the people were feeling anger (which would be hard to measure) or expressing anger.

Take a Look at Proverbs

Further, connecting how often you get angry to long term effects like diabetes and heart disease seems very irresponsible. You simply can’t make that sort of association based on this test. I’ve found a great way to distress myself is to follow some Proverbs:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. Proverbs 29:22

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife. Proverbs 30:33
Clearly, the Bible teaches to be slow to anger. Why? Because defusing a situation before it comes to anger is wise and in the end will save you a lot of grief. Perhaps the biggest problem is not dealing with a situation properly, getting stressed, and more stressed in a situation instead of doing something to quell the situation.
When people feel fear, those negative impacts spike, but when they get angry, those negatives go down, according to the study.
Wait, when did fear come into this, did they measure that? Was the fear part of the test? Was this just assumed by the researchers? Aren’t there other ways to reduce fear?

The Researchers Conclusions

The researcher had this to say:
“Here getting emotional is not bad for you if you look at the case of anger,” said Jennifer Lerner of Carnegie Mellon. “The more they are displaying anger, the lower the stress responses. Having that sense of anger leads people to actually feel some power in what otherwise is a maddening situation.”
So anger is the only way you can feel like you have control of a situation? That seems really short sighted, and doesn’t cover a lot of what I stated above --- in other words the long term effects of your anger may in fact be much worse on your health and on the health of others!

Does that mean you shouldn’t get angry? No, of course, not --- justified anger always has its place, and often leads to justified actions (instead of just place angry retribution.) But in many cases, including the one in the study there are much healthier, wiser, and more productive ways to handle stressful situations.

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