See Inside December 2005

Control Your Anger

Should you regulate your emotional reactions or let them rip?

It's the first snow of winter. You step outside your front door to revel in the cold morning air, entranced by the falling flakes. Every object is still, blanketed in white. The landscape is deeply quiet. Suddenly your crotchety neighbor starts up his roaring snowblower, shattering your peace. Callous clod! Youd like to walk right over there and clobber him. But of course you dont. You step back inside, your moment of bliss ruined and your fury churning inside you.

Whether they evoke joy or rage, calm or anxiety, glee or grief, the most commonplace events unleash manifold emotions within us. And we are almost constantly trying to control them. Virtually no reaction passes through our consciousness without alteration. We love to hear the boss praise us, but if our favorite colleague is in the room we downplay our joy as a way of appearing humble. If that same colleague says something particularly stupid, we bite our tongue to keep from laughing and making his plight worse. We humans are not just emotional animals: we are animals who control our emotions.

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