Psychological Self-Help

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obnoxious football player doesn't do anything to reduce your anger (indeed,
probably increases it). We can learn to control our anger but as a basic drive
it remains there seeking some expression. That's the theory (both Freud and
Dollard and Miller, 1950). 
Displacement of anger
There are two implications of this theory (both seriously questioned
recently): 
1.
The unexpressed anger will spill out in other directions
(displacement). For example, Dollard and Miller described a
teenage boy who was unable to go on a trip because his friend
had a cold. Not long after this he got into a big fight with his
little sister. This displaced aggression is directed away from the
real target and towards a safer target, called a scapegoat. This
provides a partial release of the pent up frustration but the
initial disappointment may never be admitted and experienced
fully. Indeed, displacement can also be a defense against
recognizing the real source of anger (see chapter 5).
Displacement is referred to several times in this chapter,
especially under prejudice. 
2.
When the angry feelings build up inside, presumably like
pressure in a hydraulic system, it is thought by many therapists
to be relieving to express the feelings and get them completely
"off your chest." This is called venting or catharsis, a
cleansing of the system. Early in Freud's career, psychoanalytic
therapy depended heavily on catharsis--uncovering old
emotional traumas and venting those feeling until we had some
understanding of the internal stress and a thorough draining of
the pent up emotions. It is a popular and common notion that
feelings need to be expressed openly and completely. Clearly,
when a child wants something he/she can't have, it is likely to
cry, get angry, and even hit, i.e. vent feelings. We may not like
it, but we see the frustration as an understandable reaction. 
However, considerable recent research has been interpreted in such a way
as to raise doubts about the value of trying to drain off our anger. First of all,
it became pretty clear that watching violent behavior (films, TV, sports)
carried out by others increases our own aggressive responses rather than
draining off our anger (Bandura, 1973). It seems reasonable that seeing
aggression acted out on the screen might provide a model and some
encouragement to an already angry person. Certainly, watching a film is not
the same as a catharsis in therapy, where a painful, personal experience is
relived in full fury with the specific intention of emptying the person of toxic
venom (anger). 
Hokanson and others (Forest & Hokanson, 1975; Murray & Feshbach,
1978) have studied how to reduce anger arising from being shocked by an
aggressive partner in an experiment. When given a choice among (1) being
friendly to the mean partner, (2) shocking one's self, and (3) shocking the
partner back, only attacking back (with shock) relieved the subject's
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