Hulk Smash… or Hulk Pass?

hulk    As seen in any Hulk movie, Bruce Banner is a pretty normal guy with one exception. When he builds up too much anger, Banner transforms into The Incredible Hulk, a Marvel superhero. The comic and movie are based off the popular myth that it’s better to express anger to others than to hold it in. In terms of the Hulk, anger is a monster within us that must be unleashed in order for us to move on. This belief is very popular due to people’s own experiences of feeling better after expressing rage and aggression – for example, expressing road rage or punching a pillow. The relief felt after these acts is misperceived, however, because it is actually due to the fact that anger defuses on its own after a while (Lilienfield, Lynn, Ruscio, & Beyerstein 2010).

    Where there’s a problem, there’s always therapy. Many of us would be more than willing to participate in one of the options available for releasing anger called “Destructotherapy.” During this therapy, people go out to a junkyard and destroy old cars with sledgehammers while a heavy metal band plays in the background (Lilienfield et al., 2010). After this chaos, the subjects are supposed to feel freed from their trapped rage. The only problem is that research shows that acting on your anger increases  aggression instead of simmering it down. The best way to deal with anger is to focus on remaining relaxed while expressing your feelings calmly.

    One study done to prove that aggression isn’t the best answer involved subjects who had their essays criticized. They were told that their essays were horrendous to induce anger. Half of the subjects were then allowed to punch a punching bag, which of course they enjoyed. After they let out their rage and aggression, they were given a chance to expose the person who evaluated their essay to loud noises. The group who punched the punching bag used louder noise to punish the person than those who didn’t punch it (Hammond, 2014). This study contributed to the fact that releasing anger only builds up your aggression and makes it worse. So the next time you think about “letting off steam,” “getting things off your chest,” or “getting it out of your system,” analyze the situation and calmly come to a more constructive solution. After all, if the Hulk passed instead of his usual smash, his rage wouldn’t create such problems. 

Hammond, C. (2014). Is it bad to bottle up your anger? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140729-is-it-bad-to-bottle-up-anger

Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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