Anger is a kind of temporary madness."
                                            Saint Basil, Greek Theologian <?xml:namespace prefix = o />
 "Gee! Does that mean whenever I am angry I am out-of-my mind?" "So feeling angry is a blow to my character?" Hardly. In Saint Basil's day, expressions of anger often led to a fight to the death. A day at the office in Ancient Greece could have been hazardous to your health. But, in a similar vein, expressions of anger, today, too, can be hazardous to your health; as well as to your relationships and the expectations others have of you (your reputation).
Here's how it works-- or could have back then: Arriving at the Amphitheater, some upstart Centurion cuts you off with his chariot and takes your parking space. Suddenly, your senses experience the emotion, "anger", and you prepare to stone the offender. He, in turn, makes some cryptic comments, in the native tongue, about having witnessed your mother performing anatomically impossible acts, adding insult to injury and triggering your Achilles Heel: Fighting. And your temper costs you a day at the races.
Throughout this process, your body releases two powerful hormones, adrenaline and cortical, into your bloodstream. These hormones have a mobilizing effect-- heightening sensory awareness, increasing breathing, heart-rate and reaction time-- that leads to what has been called a "fight or flight" response. This response becomes immediately available for the avoidance of real threat or danger: and for self-defense. However, the frequent or chronic experience of anger can be literally self-destructive in several important ways:

  • 1- The abundant quantity of released hormones can cause a build-up of "plaque" in the arteries, damaging their inner lining and accelerating the likelihood of a heart attack.
  • 2- These hormones stimulate fat cells to empty into the blood-stream. Though this provides a source of quick energy, there are better ways to do so that lack the "downside": Whatever fat is not completely burned is converted into cholesterol, which can become part of the plaque build-up. Oh...and corticol is responsible for that middle-age paunch a lot of guys develop. 
  • 3- There is evidence that excessive quantities of these released hormones suppresses the immune system, weakening the body's ability to fight disease.
  • 4- Frequent angry expressions drive people away. They are often associated with difficulty relating to others-- including a spouse-- and may lead to social isolation, itself a predicator of poor health and reduced longevity.

 Although we all at times feel the need to express anger, it is the FREQUENT expression of that emotion that is at issue here. There is a popular belief that many individuals, due to their reinforcement histories, suffer from "repressed anger." That is, the failure to express angry feelings verbally or otherwise. Whether or not this has occurred, encouraging frequent expressions of anger as a way of "getting it out once and for all" rarely ever accomplishes that end. Rather, it teaches people how to become more angry,...better!
 A person feeling and acting angrily is often out of control and causing damage to himself or others. Thus, damage-control strategies that guide the individual through difficult times would seem to be in order.
1-     Season with reason. Oil and water don't mix. Neither do anger and it would seem. But surprisingly, you can use your reasoning ability to interrupt angry feelings long enough to keep from flying into a rage. When you first experience anger, and before you react, ask yourself, "How important is this really?" (Could I have found another chariot space?) "Is my anger justified?" (That guy cut me off, scared my horse and took my spot) "How specifically will reacting angrily right now fix the situation?" ("Hmm... we'll exchange insults, blows, and then I will still have to find a parking spot before the Games begin.")
2-     Try a new perspective: Look through the other guy's eyes-- empathize! When you believe someone has transgressed in some fashion, seeing from the antagonist’s point of view can often short-circuit impatience or ir<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />ritation before it becomes rage.
3-     Drive yourself to distraction! Your mind cannot focus on two incompatible thoughts. If you have determined that anger is unjustified or ineffective in a situation, scan your environment for something else to occupy your mind-- anything-- humor, passion, work, pity. ("How can I laugh at a time like this?") Can you imagine planning a "roast" for the individual who you believe just offended you? Don't forget to invite his mother...