Being angry? That's being human


To the editor:

(re: “Anger is just not the way to go,” Dec. 19)

Anger is one of the basic human emotions, as elemental as happiness, sadness, anxiety or disgust.

These emotions are tied to basic survival, and were honed over the course of human history. Anger is related to the “fight, flight or freeze” response of the sympathetic nervous system. It prepares humans to fight. But fighting doesn’t necessarily mean throwing punches. It might motivate communities to combat injustice by changing laws or enforcing new behavioral norms.

Of course, anger too easily or frequently mobilized can undermine relationships, and it can be deleterious to bodies in the long term. Prolonged release of the stress hormone that accompanies anger can destroy neurons in areas of the brain associated with judgment and short-term memory, and weaken the immune system.

Everyone knows the feeling. It’s that rage that rises when a driver is cut off on the highway, and just wants to floor it and flip the bird. Anger doesn’t dissipate just because it is unleashed. In fact, that can reinforce and deepen it.

Like all emotions, anger should be monitored via self-awareness, lest it cause self-harm or erupt into hostile, aggressive or even violent behavior toward others. Support groups for anger management are available in many cities.

In group or individual settings, cognitive restructuring may be helpful as it coaches patients on re-framing unhealthy, inflammatory thoughts.

Howard Cohn

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Howard Cohn,