frustrated student working late hours in the night at home

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Anger issues? Try shredding them

frustrated student working late hours in the night at home

People have been looking for healthy ways to handle anger in a meaningful way for years. Funnily enough, the answer might be found in some of the most destructive members of society: our toddlers. 

For some, destruction helps relieve feelings of anger. Here’s an example of an exercise researches did in Japan:

University students were asked to write an essay. Then, the researchers gave all the students low scores in all the categories on purpose. They were then instructed to sit silently and absorb their grades for two minutes. Then they wrote down everything they thought about the feedback, especially how it made them feel. They were assured that no one would read it. Then they instructed some of the students to shred their reflections, some to throw them in the trash, and the last group were told to keep them. 

The result? The journaling exercise helped all of them in some way, but the ones who held onto their notes also held their anger longer than those who physically got rid of them. It was concluded that the mental benefit comes from the person ridding themselves of the object that embodied their feelings. They filled the paper with their emotions and destroying the paper helped them rid themselves of the emotion. 

This method has been used throughout history. There is a Japanese festival at the Hiyoshi shrine in Kiyosu, where visitors smash plates that represent things that make them angry. Some people use the therapeutic practice of writing a letter just to burn it and let go of complicated feelings. Equipping people to be able to process their anger can help mental and physical health, not to mention reducing cases of violence. 

Anger is not the only emotion to shred. Anxiety, loneliness, sadness or even envy may be helped with a similar exercise. It remains to be seen if venting digitally and deleting has the same benefits. It seems the physical act of destroying it really has the most powerful effect.  

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago