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Are People Angrier Nowadays? And What Can We Do To Manage It?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In public and across social media, anger is boiling over. Arguments are quick to erupt and sometimes turn physical.

We wanted to know: Are we angrier nowadays? And what can we do to manage it? Good Question.

From chaos in the clouds with people fighting on airplanes, to brawls at school board meetings over mask mandates, to protesters clashing with counter-protesters in the streets, people are fed up.

Does it seem like people are just angrier nowadays?

"I think a little bit, or at least people are expressing their anger more," said Aaron Sharff, as he awaited his flight at MSP Airport.

Sam Franklin doesn't need the latest viral video to know that anger and the public expression of it are more prevalent.

"It's like a balloon so filled with air that it's gonna pop," Franklin said.

She also leads a weekly anger management group that is getting more participants.

"I think just the increase in the amount of referrals and people seeking anger management has gone up. More people angrier, more people are having a hard time keeping it in and finding healthy ways to manage it."

Is it OK to feel anger?

"Yes, you're always allowed to feel your feelings. I think it's how you act on them is what's important," said Abigail Earnst.

Anger Generic
(credit: CBS)

Franklin agrees, and said anger gets a bad reputation because for some people, it can lead to harmful behavior.

"Anger is really there to let us know that people have harmed us, and to give us a drive and to give us the energy to protect ourselves," said Franklin, adding that people are feeling harmed recently due to the current events.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a loss of life, jobs and freedoms. At the same time, systemic oppression of people of color has been rising to the surface.

"It's hundreds of years old, and that anger has been building and building and building," she said. "So what happens is when we hold on to anger, we can't protect ourselves. It just builds … and it explodes."

Is there a right way to express your anger?

"I would say maybe there's a healthier, more effective way in ways that don't lead to harm to others," said Franklin.

Removing yourself or avoiding a situation that causes anger is a good step. After that, people must figure out a way to calm down or discharge anger that has already formed. That could be through exercise, deep breaths or channeling it toward positive action.

"I think the first thing is to not suppress the anger. It's to acknowledge when you're getting angry and kind of look at it, take a step back and saying 'Is this person or this situation harming me in some way? Is there a way that I can protect myself that doesn't involve unnecessary harm to others?'" said Franklin.

Beyond helping ourselves, Franklin said we can help others recognize their anger in an empathetic and caring way. Be sure to set boundaries as well, especially if that person's anger is causing you harm.

"What we can do is sometimes we shame people for having all this stored up anger and then we hurt them again, instead of understanding that it comes from a lot of harm, and that they need some help to work through that harm," she said.

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