Pain & Anger


{1} Research shows that negative emotions such as anger can increase sensitivity to pain, making you feel worse.

{2} Anger can increase muscle tension that can increase pain.

{3} If you suppress anger and turn it inward, you may feel depressed, your self-esteem may suffer and you may feel hopeless and helpless.

{4} Directing anger at others causes relationships with family, friends, coworkers and your doctor to suffer.


You might be shaking your head right now (perhaps in anger), thinking, “Am I supposed to pretend like I’m not angry when I am?” or “Should I just put up with things and hide my angry feelings?” No. It’s rarely helpful to deny your emotions. But you can learn to manage your anger.

When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within by Matthew McKay, PhD, and colleagues talks about anger as a two-part process.


{1} Internal, Physical Sensations.When you’re angry, you’re stressed. Your body is telling you that something is wrong and is expecting you to do something you feel incapable of doing. You may experience an upset stomach, tense muscles, a jittery feeling, a racing heart or difficulty concentrating. Stress-reduction techniques (exercise, daily relaxation), and reducing caffeine intake and other stimulants are proven methods of reducing levels of stress.

{2} Triggering Thoughts. Two kinds of triggers—“blamers” and “shoulds,”—can make you feel like an angry victim. The thoughts that others are not doing what they should can trigger righteous anger.


“Blamer” thoughts assume that others are really in charge of you. You relinquish personal responsibility and control and cast yourself as a victim. Here are a few examples: “He made me stay at the mall too long and now my back really hurts.” Or, “The doctor was in a rush and I didn’t get to tell her about the side effects to the drug. Now I’m stuck with it.”


“Shoulds”assume that other people know and agree with your own behavior “rules.” This is often not the case. Rather than assuming that others share your beliefs, it’s helpful to talk with them about what each of you wants and needs. A “should” example is, “Why can’t he ever make dinner when I have had a bad day? He should think about how I feel.”


Once you have a triggering thought, the anger can seem justified. However, if you stop to examine your thoughts and question your angry “blamers” and “shoulds,” you will begin to recognize other ways to think about the situation.

{1} Being mindful of your thoughts comes first.

{2} List your own blamers and shoulds. Try to identify the situations where you can take control and not be an angry victim.

{3} Talk to the important people in your life about your mutual needs and shoulds.

Starting today, you can change how you feel by managing your anger and your thoughts.

Linda S.Ruehlman,PhD

Linda S.Ruehlman,PhD

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