Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

> ... consensus seems to be that while it is unhealthy to not express anger in any way, it is neither a good thing to give in to anger.

As far as I understand, the best way to deal with anger is never to act on it and distract yourself till it passes.

The thing people talk about as suppressing anger is not actually suppressing. It's more like polishing it, sharpening, watering like a plant, fanning like a flame so it's ready for the time you will act on it. And that's definitely not healthy.

Acting on anger to provide outlet is also bad because it increases probability of getting angry and acting angry in the future.

The best way is actually suppressing anger. Observing, I'm angry. Deciding I'm never gonna act on this anger. So there's no point of holding onto it. Let's do something else till it extinguishes.

Suppressing anger leads to mental health issues. What you're describing isn't suppression (lying to yourself that you're not angry, or ignoring your feelings) - it's a healthy way to deal with it. Suppression is bad for your mental health, but acting impulsively on anger is bad for your social and probably physical wellbeing. What you need to do is feel the anger, acknowledge it, maybe talk it through with the appropriate person. Distracting yourself from it is also known as "bottling up your feelings" and it's a well known cause of problems.

That's not bottling. You just don't pay attention to it and then you forget about what you were angry and forget you even were angry.

You need to acknowledge to yourself that you are angry but only for the purpose of making a decission not to act on it and possibly postpone actions that you being angry might influence adversely.

Talking it through will only increase likelyhood that the memory of being angry will stick with you.

Bottling up your feelings is the other thing I describe where you keep your anger instead of letting it dissolve.

I have found that understanding often diffuses anger.

For example, if you are dangerously cut off by someone on the highway and you speed ahead to yell at them, your blood is boiling with the expectation of a confrontation... until you stop at the next light and realize the person is having a seizure and actually needs help! In that moment your new understanding of the situation melts your anger away very very effectively.

In general, if you practice and train your mind to seek understanding of the circumstances surrounding the behavior that's making you angry, your anger will melt.

I occasionally get angry at people doing unpredictable or frightening things on the road but I'm rarely blessed with understanding.

What I do is I try to keep myself from building larger narrative around it with malicious reckless idiot drivers as the villains.

Then each instance of anger lingers usually for roughly a day and then gets forgotten.

Psychologist here. Anger and optimal responses to it is a complicated issue. There is research (involving randomized controlled designs) suggesting that approaches to anger where you "act it out" can actually fuel the fire, like you're suggesting.

However, it's complicated because these studies generally focus on length of emotional response rather than complex, downstream effects. That is, they assume that the goal is to stop anger state; by that assumption, it's better to adopt a sort of distress tolerance approach than to act on it. But what about long-term effects on relationships and communication? Where does one draw the line? Stonewalling and cutting off communication is a strong predictor of relationship dissolution for example, even relative to intense expressive patterns. So if your response is to always approach your anger robotically and to shut it down, does it then lead to passive aggressive responses, which can be even worse?

There's also an important distinction between anger and aggression, which are different and have different associations empirically, even though people tend to conflate the two. This isn't unreasonable, because I'm not sure at what point you draw the line.

As a parent of a toddler, this article had me thinking a lot, and I'm not sure what I think. Lying to your child, for example, is manipulative. Is it better to express your anger or to lie to them and tell them a monster will bite off their fingers? Of course a child who's cognitively not developed enough to understand will become terrified, because they believe it. But is living in real fear of a disfiguring monster over a minor transgression really less aggressive than simply visibly expressing anger? Or is it just a manipulative aggressive response on the part of the parent?

I really don't know the answers to these types of questions. I wish I did.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact