Myths about Anger from SAMHSA
Myths About Anger
Myth #1: Anger Is Inherited. One misconception or myth about anger is that the way people
express anger is inherited and cannot be changed. Evidence from research studies, however,
indicates that people are not born with set and specific ways of expressing anger. Rather,
these studies show that the expression of anger is learned behavior and that more appropriate
ways of expressing anger can also be learned.
Myth #2: Anger Automatically Leads to Aggression. A related myth involves the misconception
that the only effective way to express anger is through aggression. There are other more con
structive and assertive ways, however, to express anger. Effective anger management involves
controlling the escalation of anger by learning assertiveness skills, changing negative and hos
tile “self-talk,” challenging irrational beliefs, and employing a variety of behavioral strategies.
These skills, techniques, and strategies will be discussed in later sessions.
Myth #3: You Must Be Aggressive To Get What You Want. Many people confuse assertiveness
with aggression. The goal of aggression is to dominate, intimidate, harm, or injure another per
son—to win at any cost. Conversely, the goal of assertiveness is to express feelings of anger in a way that is respectful of other people. Expressing yourself in an assertive manner does not blame or threaten other people and minimizes the chance of emotional harm.
Myth #4: Venting Anger Is Always Desirable. For many years, there was a popular belief that
the aggressive expression of anger, such as screaming or beating on pillows, was therapeutic
and healthy. Research studies have found, however, that people who vent their anger aggres
sively simply get better at being angry. In other words, venting anger in an aggressive manner
reinforces aggressive behavior.
Reilly PM, Shopshire MS, Durazzo TC, and Campbell TA. Anger Management for Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Clients: Participant Workbook. HHS Pub. No. (SMA) 12-4210.
Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, 2002.