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repressing feelings of aggression and violence


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#1 lemur

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 11:24 PM

Many people live with a cultural taboo regarding interpersonal conflict and confrontation. Because reasons for such conflicts emerge often in everyday life, the potential for confrontation is strong. However, the fact that people may experience such confrontation as taboo may lead them to repress conflicts to avoid confrontation and expect others to do the same. This can result in tension where people develop aggressive feelings toward each other and a desire to express such aggression violently but repress doing so out of fear for social stigma and other invalidation.

What psychological effects are possible and/or likely as a consequence of repressing aggression? Does repressing aggression make people more likely to have a "breaking point" where violent outburst is intense? Can such aggression be perpetually sublimated and channeled into constructive social interactions, even when aggression is being actively experienced and contained?
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#2 Marat

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 03:25 AM

Freud theorized that repressed anger leads to depression. Whatever you think of Freud, at least this insight seems often to be confirmed in everyday experience.
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#3 lemur

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 12:17 PM

Freud theorized that repressed anger leads to depression. Whatever you think of Freud, at least this insight seems often to be confirmed in everyday experience.

I can see that possibility. I don't know where I read it, but it suppressed aggression can also result in passive-aggression and enhanced feelings of aggression. The paper I read dealt with the relationship between explicit and implicit communication (sorry, I don't have a citation because it's been so long). Basically this person argued that people move to attempting implicit communication because they have been frustrated from using more explicit means of getting what they want. That sounds pretty Freudian to me, but I don't think it was Freud himself who wrote this. The intensification that comes with suppression also sounds Freudian in that Freud uses talk therapy to allow patients to dissipate repressed issues, which supposedly helps calm them in the long term. I interpret this to also mean that unexpressed aggression will build up and intensify, resulting in more explosive outburst or other expressions. In the event it gets sublimated into passive aggression, it could develop into institutional forms of violence like covert discrimination and other abuses of formal authority. If it becomes depression, as you say, I wonder if it can then be cured without having to resolve the underlying aggression/conflicts. It seems like psychoanalysis would bring out those issues to be expressed and dealt with.
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#4 thinker_jeff

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 02:45 PM

What psychological effects are possible and/or likely as a consequence of repressing aggression?


I am not expert for this issue at all. One thing I can say is that the experience of repressing aggression should follow the rule of leaning. More times you repressed, easier for you to repress it. That's why the aging can cause less aggressive behavior.
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#5 head

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 04:18 AM

I agree with you ..however , as mentioned before, the non expression of anger leads to depression.. Ive always considered depression to be "anger without the enthusiasm"

I also agree with , practise makes perfect. IE not feeding the anger tiger... eventually it will die or become non responsive..

Is not anger simply a primitive mechanism whereby the body reacts , due to lack of control of external circumstances , induced by others or events ???

DH

Edited by dickhead, 23 April 2011 - 04:18 AM.

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#6 lemur

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 04:22 AM

Is not anger simply a primitive mechanism whereby the body reacts , due to lack of control of external circumstances , induced by others or events ???

I think there's a taboo that renders anger more offensive than it should be. I think it has to do with a political-mentality that if you haven't already won the game, you might as well give up. Anger is lovely, imo, because it is the emotion that stands up for itself when challenged.



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#7 StringJunky

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 05:50 AM

What psychological effects are possible and/or likely as a consequence of repressing aggression?


It could cause the manifestation of an ongoing and destructive internal dialogue whereby the repressed person becomes, for example, both the abused and abuser resulting in self-harming behaviour patterns which redirect their disturbed mind in the form of physical pain, which to them is preferable to the mental distress, and gives them some temporary solace.

The consequences of repressing aggression can have pathological and physical consequences. One friend's sister slowly pulled all her hair out as child, never to regrow, as a consequence of constantly repressing her anger towards her parents and no one to confide in. I've also seen an otherwise normal teenager hitting himself repeatedly in the face when they were upset about something they were thinking about and clearly engaged in some personal dialogue. The common theme here is that they had no harmless outlet for their repressed feelings. Case histories presented in books by psychologists Dorothy Rowe and Alice Miller that I've read have similar stories about repression and its consequences.

I think it's important if one is angry to give it expression as soon and as safely as possible. I would think constant repression instils a feeling of impotence leading to damaged self-esteem.

Edited by StringJunky, 23 April 2011 - 06:14 AM.

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#8 lemur

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 04:38 PM

It could cause the manifestation of an ongoing and destructive internal dialogue whereby the repressed person becomes, for example, both the abused and abuser resulting in self-harming behaviour patterns which redirect their disturbed mind in the form of physical pain, which to them is preferable to the mental distress, and gives them some temporary solace.

The consequences of repressing aggression can have pathological and physical consequences. One friend's sister slowly pulled all her hair out as child, never to regrow, as a consequence of constantly repressing her anger towards her parents and no one to confide in. I've also seen an otherwise normal teenager hitting himself repeatedly in the face when they were upset about something they were thinking about and clearly engaged in some personal dialogue. The common theme here is that they had no harmless outlet for their repressed feelings. Case histories presented in books by psychologists Dorothy Rowe and Alice Miller that I've read have similar stories about repression and its consequences.

I think it's important if one is angry to give it expression as soon and as safely as possible. I would think constant repression instils a feeling of impotence leading to damaged self-esteem.

Good examples and explanation. I think part of the problem is a culturally learned behavior of reacting to any expression of anger or aggression as pathological. Basically, the most positively culturally sanctioned method of dealing with anger is to walk away or accept whatever it is you're angry about as if it doesn't bother you. Thus, you see people taking a passive-aggressive attitude where they express indifference toward the person or event they're angry about but then express their anger in some other way that may be indirectly related to the object of their anger. I think this magnifies the anger/aggression because people feel unable to gain satisfaction regarding the thing they're upset about it, so regardless of how nasty their passive-aggressive expressions may be, they retain a sense of unsatisfied "grudge." In my experience, grudges go away after fully expressing/communicating one's anger toward the object. I think I'd also rather have someone tell me off and be done with it instead of going around with a grudge, but of course no one wants anger/aggression expressed toward them as violence. Some people just like repressing others to torture them, though, as part of pursuing their grudge, which involves dominating the object of the grudge.



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#9 StringJunky

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 06:05 PM

Good examples and explanation. I think part of the problem is a culturally learned behavior of reacting to any expression of anger or aggression as pathological. Basically, the most positively culturally sanctioned method of dealing with anger is to walk away or accept whatever it is you're angry about as if it doesn't bother you. Thus, you see people taking a passive-aggressive attitude where they express indifference toward the person or event they're angry about but then express their anger in some other way that may be indirectly related to the object of their anger. I think this magnifies the anger/aggression because people feel unable to gain satisfaction regarding the thing they're upset about it, so regardless of how nasty their passive-aggressive expressions may be, they retain a sense of unsatisfied "grudge." In my experience, grudges go away after fully expressing/communicating one's anger toward the object. I think I'd also rather have someone tell me off and be done with it instead of going around with a grudge, but of course no one wants anger/aggression expressed toward them as violence. Some people just like repressing others to torture them, though, as part of pursuing their grudge, which involves dominating the object of the grudge.


Culturally-induced repression of publically displayed angry emotions was certainly a widespread phenomenon in England: 'stiff upper lip' is an English expression and to quote Roger Waters from Dark Side of The Moon's "Time" who noted that in the early seventies: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Contrast this with the inhabitants of some Continental nations who seem, to me anyway as an English person, to be much more extravagant in their emotional displays.

When I was a child in the sixties and seventies childish angry displays were routinely met with corporal punishment domestically and in the educational environment. Now that these tactics are illegal and listening to a child and encouraging them to self-analyse ( 'naughty steps' at home and 'rooms of reflection' in schools) is institutionally promoted, the average state of personal well-being across future UK populations will hopefully improve.

One of the things I like about this century is that slowly and collectively we are starting to address and confront the problems with the human condition in many previously taboo areas and society's effect on it. This forum is a good microcosm of that emerging free exchange of thoughts about previously difficult and controversial subjects. One of the things that draws me to scientific environments like this one is the inherent scrutiny of methodology and shared conciousness of potential bias which imo promotes more productive outcomes with difficult subjects.

Edited by StringJunky, 23 April 2011 - 06:17 PM.

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#10 lemur

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Posted 23 April 2011 - 09:55 PM

Culturally-induced repression of publically displayed angry emotions was certainly a widespread phenomenon in England: 'stiff upper lip' is an English expression and to quote Roger Waters from Dark Side of The Moon's "Time" who noted that in the early seventies: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Contrast this with the inhabitants of some Continental nations who seem, to me anyway as an English person, to be much more extravagant in their emotional displays.

Yes, it's hard for people mired in cultures of emotional repression to realize just how cathartic it can be to just vent your anger without hurting anyone physically and be done with it. Egos aren't as fragile as they've been protected into becoming by anti-conflict policing. It's not that bad when someone tells you exactly what they think of you and then you know. It's as if people are trying to keep an impeccable public image that is never spotted with one critical word by anyone. BS, imo.

When I was a child in the sixties and seventies childish angry displays were routinely met with corporal punishment domestically and in the educational environment. Now that these tactics are illegal and listening to a child and encouraging them to self-analyse ( 'naughty steps' at home and 'rooms of reflection' in schools) is institutionally promoted, the average state of personal well-being across future UK populations will hopefully improve.

Hmm, sounds like shunning/isolation/exclusion punishment. Is the expectation still that they will never raise their voices or openly express anger? If so, the repressive culture will probably continue. The trick is to distinguish between positive and negative expressions of anger. When positively expressed, people may yell and be visibly angry, but they will stick to saying why it is they're angry. When negatively expressed, they yell but they also resort to hurtful comments, name-calling, etc. in an effort to hurt the other person in regards to things that have little or nothing to do with the thing they're angry about. I think this happens because they've been repressing all sorts of things that angered them and once the last drop causes the bucket to overflow, so to speak, they get too personal. This also has to do, I think, with a will to dominate; which is why people wait to have sufficient dirt against someone before letting loose. They figure that they don't want to say anything until they know they can really do their enemy in. They can't just be angry at someone and then go back to working with them without a grudge.

One of the things I like about this century is that slowly and collectively we are starting to address and confront the problems with the human condition in many previously taboo areas and society's effect on it. This forum is a good microcosm of that emerging free exchange of thoughts about previously difficult and controversial subjects. One of the things that draws me to scientific environments like this one is the inherent scrutiny of methodology and shared conciousness of potential bias which imo promotes more productive outcomes with difficult subjects.

Yes, and the fact that scientists are typically more oriented toward constructive problem-solving. This one is better than even other science forums, which can often be ripe with bickering and insults. I don't usually see people take and make things personal in this one.


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#11 StringJunky

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 02:32 AM

Yes, it's hard for people mired in cultures of emotional repression to realize just how cathartic it can be to just vent your anger without hurting anyone physically and be done with it. Egos aren't as fragile as they've been protected into becoming by anti-conflict policing. It's not that bad when someone tells you exactly what they think of you and then you know. It's as if people are trying to keep an impeccable public image that is never spotted with one critical word by anyone. BS, imo.


I actively encourage the people I know I annoy to speak their mind about me to my face...after they've vented their thoughts a new strength in the relationship is sometimes gained. I have better more open relationships with some people who fundamentally disagree with me and I them than some people who are supposed to be close friends!


Hmm, sounds like shunning/isolation/exclusion punishment. Is the expectation still that they will never raise their voices or openly express anger? If so, the repressive culture will probably continue. The trick is to distinguish between positive and negative expressions of anger. When positively expressed, people may yell and be visibly angry, but they will stick to saying why it is they're angry. When negatively expressed, they yell but they also resort to hurtful comments, name-calling, etc. in an effort to hurt the other person in regards to things that have little or nothing to do with the thing they're angry about. I think this happens because they've been repressing all sorts of things that angered them and once the last drop causes the bucket to overflow, so to speak, they get too personal. This also has to do, I think, with a will to dominate; which is why people wait to have sufficient dirt against someone before letting loose. They figure that they don't want to say anything until they know they can really do their enemy in. They can't just be angry at someone and then go back to working with them without a grudge.


I think the approach in schools for young children today is to put them into a place to cool down then find out what's wrong. I don't think repression is the aim, quite the contrary. It's ok to ask a child to calm down as long as the cause of their upset or grievance is addressed in return I think if the anger is allowed to be released as it happens, when young children, the second negative kind you mention, which is probably a consequence of it being punished and frowned upon could cause it to find a destructive purpose (grudge leading to revenge behaviour), may be avoided later on in life.

My nephew (nearly 8) was brought up by the more modern approach I mentioned earlier and he seems to have nice level of peace of mind that I can only envy. Having been involved with him all his life at fairly close quarters his rages and tantrums when very young were not smacked or frowned upon but he had to take time out until he cooled down and then finally expressed his thoughts has led so far to be a very personable, open and affectionate human being with not an ounce of malice. This contrasts sharply with the 'no nonsense' regime of my early years and the problems of inhibited negative emotions that has caused me over the years.


Yes, and the fact that scientists are typically more oriented toward constructive problem-solving. This one is better than even other science forums, which can often be ripe with bickering and insults. I don't usually see people take and make things personal in this one.


One thing I'll give the admin here is that nothing and no one is sacred (except the Scientific Method) and just because some things have always been so they are not afraid to change or lose them if they find an approach they had is outdated, unequitable or just plain wrong in the final analysis...like good scientists do. :)

Edited by StringJunky, 24 April 2011 - 02:43 AM.

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" In the absence of data, we have more degrees of freedom to wave our arms."- Anon.

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#12 random

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 11:37 PM

I think there is alot of talk here about anger but not enough on how one deals with that anger. If a person takes 2 deep breaths and counts to 10 or leaves the situation to re approach later is that considered repressing it?

I don't believe so it is not being angry that is the problem it is how you deal with that anger, The person leaving the situation is still very much angry but chooses to deal with it in a non aggressive way. This could quite possibly be running an aggressive thought scenario (I.E. a fantasy of beating the hell out of the offending party) or thinking of different ASSERTIVE ways of talking to the person, Not a real repression of anger in my opinion.
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#13 lemur

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 01:41 AM

I think there is alot of talk here about anger but not enough on how one deals with that anger. If a person takes 2 deep breaths and counts to 10 or leaves the situation to re approach later is that considered repressing it?

I don't believe so it is not being angry that is the problem it is how you deal with that anger, The person leaving the situation is still very much angry but chooses to deal with it in a non aggressive way. This could quite possibly be running an aggressive thought scenario (I.E. a fantasy of beating the hell out of the offending party) or thinking of different ASSERTIVE ways of talking to the person, Not a real repression of anger in my opinion.

Walking away and fantasizing about how you could have dealt with the person is a prime example of sublimation, imo, which is when people repress and then find safe expressions for the feelings they repress. The problem with you asking what is considered repression, is that it's indicative of a repressive approach to problem-solving. If I say it IS repressive, then you might considering repressing what is repressive because it's bad. The whole point of expressing things to avoid repression is that you have to actively express whatever it is. If you have fantasies of conflict, you should express those, even if just by playing them out within your mind. What would work even better though, imo, would be to directly express your anger/aggression to the person it's directed to in the least harmful way possible, e.g. by telling them why you are angry and not being afraid to express some anger in your tone of voice, for example. Warning: please don't do this if it would put you at risk in some way. Only do it if you can be reasonably sure that you won't be subject to harmful retaliation, etc. If, however, you have people who won't try to destroy your life for letting out some anger, I would recommend trying it and seeing how you feel. I find that if I vent my anger in a constructive way to the person I'm angry with, they will often accept it and apologize, etc. I then also apologize if I was rude due to my emotions and that is usually appreciated as well.
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#14 StringJunky

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 02:21 AM

I think there is alot of talk here about anger but not enough on how one deals with that anger. If a person takes 2 deep breaths and counts to 10 or leaves the situation to re approach later is that considered repressing it?


No I don't think so, that's a sensible and mature response if the situation is volatile and you re-assess when you or the situation has cooled down. Better to speak your mind with a calmer voice rather than an angry one.

I don't believe so it is not being angry that is the problem it is how you deal with that anger, The person leaving the situation is still very much angry but chooses to deal with it in a non aggressive way. This could quite possibly be running an aggressive thought scenario (I.E. a fantasy of beating the hell out of the offending party) or thinking of different ASSERTIVE ways of talking to the person, Not a real repression of anger in my opinion.


i can only speak for myself here but aggressive thought-scenarios don't work for me because there is no resolution of the real situation ie the perpetrator(s) of my distress is not being brought to rights about it because I haven't actually expressed myself to them. Aggressive thought-scenarios imo are actually a symptom of repression...it's potentially the beginning of all sorts of later personal problems especially if you make a regular habit of avoiding justified confrontation resulting in several aggressive thought-scenarios running sequentially or simultaneously!
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#15 Marat

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 04:49 PM

Some cultures seem to have a very creative solution to anger in which people freely and easily express their negative emotions towards each other, but somehow this doesn't lead to rage, hatred, or physical violence, but is instead readily integrated into normal patterns of social interaction. This is in contrast to other cultures which seem to have to repress feelings of anger completely, since if they are expressed, an emotional explosion with socially intolerable consequences results. I have often been present in foreign cultures where I was certain the situation was about to come to fisticuffs, based on my American assumptions of how people respond to various insults and abusive behaviors, but was astonished to find that the tension magically simmered down and the people all remained friends.

Are Americans more inclined to repress anger because in a culture with so many different subcultures they can never be sure of the other person's response to expressed emotion? In contrast, perhaps more homogenous cultures feel like one big family so they can express insults with fewer social risks.

A far preferable strategy to either expressing anger or repressing it is just to develop a certain intellectual detachment from yourself, other people, and the immediacy of life, so that whatever happens it doesn't engage you in any strong emotional way so that you have to suppress or censor your feelings.
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#16 lamp

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 05:29 PM

I think repressed anger causes a person to suffer, which can lead to depression and even further self-destruction. Anger is an emotion which makes you want to solve a problem. I think the best way to deal with this emotion is to realize that you're angry because you sub-consciously want to solve a problem, and then simply try to solve the problem with a clear and calm mind.
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#17 dace

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 03:59 PM

A far preferable strategy to either expressing anger or repressing it is just to develop a certain intellectual detachment from yourself, other people, and the immediacy of life, so that whatever happens it doesn't engage you in any strong emotional way so that you have to suppress or censor your feelings.


You have to be careful with that tact though, people may come to see you as a weak link, and you will then have lots of others unloading their repressed anger at you; (even if you aren't the primary target) also, very few people are capable of intellectual detachment, so others may come to view you as eccentric and weird, which could further the problem.
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