Anger: Myths and Management

"Men are more likely to vent, and to let it out. Women are more likely to stuff, and keep it in," Williams explained. "Both are bad. If you always vent, you're venting and exploding, lots of times, when what you should be doing is chilling out, because there's nothing you can do about the traffic jam. If you're always stuffing it, you're stuffing it a fair amount of the time when there's something you should be doing to get that jerk to quit calling you stupid for wanting to go see the latest Julia Roberts movie this weekend."

The Angriest Age

Speaking of movies, there are plenty of big screen depictions of cranky seniors, like "Grumpy Old Men" and the sequel "Grumpier Old Men," starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as irritable curmudgeons. That's the third anger myth: "The older you get, the more angry you are."

But it's a myth, said Williams. "The data show that the angriest people are 14-year-old boys."

"As you go from 14 to 22 or so, it levels off and stays low, through adulthood," he said. "As you get into middle age, in the 50s and 60s, it starts to go up again, but it never gets to the level it was when you were 14."

Williams said that as the years add up, "What else goes up is wisdom and experience. And you do begin to be able to let things go as you get older."

Does that theory apply to Wendy Galfund, the scourge of the supermarkets? Fifteen years ago, "20/20" introduced her to Williams, who counseled her on anger management techniques. Today Galfund lives with her family in a small New Jersey suburb and said that Williams' ideas, like carrying a book to read while waiting in lines, helped her.

"If I'm waiting on lines it becomes more pleasant," she said. "I've done that since I moved out of the city. I have a little book all the time with me. … I still can get crazy, but it does help."

"People learning these anger management skills are able to reduce their anger, and reduce their blood pressure," Williams said. He suggests techniques like meditation, deep breathing, even singing a song to yourself as ways to defuse anger. But when faced with a stressful situation, there is a simple trick to keep in mind.

"Before you do anything, just say 'Stop!' Put a stop sign out in front of your face, and say, 'OK, wait a second, is this one of those times when I need to do something about this? Or change my reaction … to chill out.'"

"If you don't do anything but that, you'll stop before you explode or stuff it," he said. "And you'll be better off."

At Dr. Redford Williams' Web site, www.williamslifeskills.com, you can take an online test to see if you can benefit from his LifeSkills training for anger management.

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