Self-reported anger during Experiment 1 (left) and Experiment 2 (right). Significant differences emerged at the end of time due to experimental manipulations. Possible values for anger range from 1 to 6. Each vertical line illustrates the 95% confidence intervals for each group.

A new paper in Nature suggests that writing down your feelings of anger and then disposing of the piece of paper can rid yourself of the angry feelings. Interestingly, or tellingly, the paper starts by talking about parental anger and the importance of demonstrating emotional self-regulation.

I’ve done something similar in terms of emotional processing with my own kids. For example, when my son was around four years old, the bird hide in the park behind our house was set on fire deliberately. An act of arson. He was inconsolable, and had nightmares. I got him to draw a picture of what had happened and to use it to talk about what happened, which seemed to be cathartic.

Anger suppression is important in our daily life, as its failure can sometimes lead to the breaking down of relationships in families. Thus, effective strategies to suppress or neutralise anger have been examined. This study shows that physical disposal of a piece of paper containing one’s written thoughts on the cause of a provocative event neutralises anger, while holding the paper did not. In this study, participants wrote brief opinions about social problems and received a handwritten, insulting comment consisting of low evaluations about their composition from a confederate. Then, the participants wrote the cause and their thoughts about the provocative event. Half of the participants (disposal group) disposed of the paper in the trash can (Experiment 1) or in the shredder (Experiment 2), while the other half (retention group) kept it in a file on the desk. All the participants showed an increased subjective rating of anger after receiving the insulting feedback. However, the subjective anger for the disposal group decreased as low as the baseline period, while that of the retention group was still higher than that in the baseline period in both experiments. We propose this method as a powerful and simple way to eliminate anger.

Source: Nature