Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Anger Expression: Helpful or Hurtful in Relationships?

Back in the 80s, marital therapists used to give angry couples nerf-like bats and tell them to go at each other. We also used to advise angry teens to hit their pillows or even purchase a punching bag and wail on that. While there was no physical danger to engaging people in these exercises, we now know that this is the opposite of what people should do. In fact, after reviews of numerous studies, the conclusion is that the expression of anger leads the angry person (and others) to feel more angry. In other words, catharsis doesn’t work. Letting out your angry actually increases anger in a relationship and is hurtful.

Anger expression can be helpful when it is done in a constructive manner. And one healthy way to approach your angry feelings in a relationship is to have a gentle start up. This keeps defensiveness down and allows the other person to hear you and respond.


So rather than venting those angry feelings by acting out the aggression and addressing a conflict in a harsh and angry manner, follow Proverbs 29:11–don’t give full vent to your anger. God knows this doesn’t work and so do relationship experts!

Control your tongue. Make the beginning of the confrontation, gentle and soft. “I have been feeling angry about something and want to talk it through with you,” for example. Pause, think and avoid reacting immediately. Exercise the fruit of the Spirit–self-control.

When anger is confronted with a soft start up, it is more likely the problem can be discussed and resolved.

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  • Linda Mintle

    Great thoughts!

  • Ken Brown

    I’m glad to hear that after all these years we have finally realized that catharsis doesn’t work. Over the years we have lost the art of self control and have become a generation that is unable to discipline themselves to keep their emotions and feeling in check. Many families have been ruined by individuals that are unable to control their anger and other emotions especially when it come to raising children. Child abuse was never so prevalent in the homes until parents lost their ability to control themselves. Our celebrities in the news have shown prime examples of people who are completely unable to control their anger, i.e. Chris Brown, Mel Gibson, etc. I think we need to focus more on the fruit of the spirit (self control) and less on the freedom of expression. Just my thoughts..

  • Pingback: Anger Expression: Helpful or Hurtful in Relationships? | Dr. Linda Mintle

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