Writing while angry can be therapeutic. There’s no doubt about that much.
The act of getting one’s unadulterated, uninhibited thoughts down in black on white serves as a powerful venting session. It’s a safe way to air our grievances, even if nobody else can see them: of making your voice heard even if they remain inaudible and regardless of whether anyone else ever sees them.
It’s cathartic. Even healthy in some cases.
But publishing while angry? That’s a whole different story.
While publishing an article, post or message in a state of rage may feel quite cathartic in the moment, it’s anything but long-term.
Consider what Psychology Today published just last month:
A new study published in the journal Political Psychology has found that anger exacerbates political bias and causes individuals to be less open to any reasoning or evidence that isn’t in line with their political leanings, and more open to information that bolsters one’s current views. This is known as biased assimilation of political information, and political scientists Liz Suhay and Cengiz Erisen of American University set out to find under what conditions and to what extent emotions such as anger exacerbate the effect.
While that was written a week or two before the Kavanaugh allegations came to light, it’s certainly proving correct across news outlets, social media and everywhere else the written word can possibly venture.
We now have legitimate victims of sexual abuse coming forward to vent their rage about what happens to too many women.
Which is understandable. Nobody should have to go through sexual abuse. There is never any excuse to force sex on a person. And so there is always a reason to be angry when that rule is violated.
People are also venting their rage about legitimate cases where men are falsely accused of sexual abuse, including with the so-called mattress girl, Rolling Stones’ “rape on campus” and the case of the Ohio University student caught in an act of public indecency.
Which is also understandable. Nobody should have to go through false accusations of sexual abuse. There is never any excuse to lie about such things. And even when it’s a genuine case of mistaken identity, innocent parties can still be angry.
Contrary to popular opinion, anger isn’t a completely destructive emotion. It actually has a lot of benefits to it, including an inherent drive to seek justice. Without anger, we’d be doormats, something none of us should strive to be.
But there is a major downside to anger, as indicated in a recently published Penn State academic study. Penn State News reports:
While emotions such as anger or sadness are often thought of as being a result of stress or pain, findings recently published by Penn State researchers suggest that negative or mixed emotions could function as stressors themselves.
The manuscript, published in the journal Psychological Reports on Sept. 6, examines the relationship between emotion and pain among women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
“We often think of emotion as a consequence of stress or pain, but our findings suggest that under certain circumstances negative emotion or complex, mixed emotion can function as a stressor itself, and one which can promote inflammation,” said Jennifer Graham-Engeland, associate professor of biobehavioral health and lead author of the manuscript.
I’m not sure why they were specifically studying this in women with rheumatoid arthritis, but general life observations seem to indicate that this phenomenon is true across the human spectrum regardless of gender, ability, age and race.
When we don’t try to work out our anger constructively, it has a bad habit of sitting stagnant, which then causes it to turn into bitterness. And, unlike anger, there is no constructive side to bitterness.
That’s why writing while angry can work so well. It stirs up our frustrations and pours them all out, leaving us with one of two choices:
Determine to keep letting them flow on away from us.
Determine to use them to further some goal.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that second option, just as long as we start setting our anger aside for logic, reasoning and perspective while we edit our words. And then again as we publish them.
We can still have the same conclusion as we started out with when we were solely angry. That can stay the same. It’s only our presentation that needs to change in order to keep ourselves from feeling more pain – and from causing others more of the same.