Women who hold back feelings of anger may end up more irate in the long run. According to new research, women experience a rebound effect when they suppress angry emotions, which can result in greater feelings of fury.
In the study, Judith Hosie and Alan Milne of the University of Aberdeen compared different methods of regulating anger and sadness in subjects exposed to footage from emotional films. The researchers instructed one group of men and women to express any feelings of anger brought about by the video clips. A second group was told to suppress their anger and a third group was told to substitute a happy memory for any feelings of anger. All three groups then watched a second film and were allowed to respond spontaneously. "The results showed that the women in the study who had suppressed their anger reported feeling more angry, outraged, upset and disgusted than their male counterparts," Hosie reports. Among other things, women who had initially suppressed their anger reported a greater desire to swear than men did.
Other gender differences were highlighted by the study, too. "We predicted that females would benefit more from a strategy such as anger substitution and less from suppressing anger than males," Hosie notes, "and that was reflected in our research." For men, those who had substituted angry feelings with a happy memory reported being more upset, outraged and disgusted than did the anger-suppressing males. The findings, the researchers say, may aid in the development of anger management programs.