Thursday, April 2, 2015

Penn & Teller on Anger Management

This video is from Penn & Teller's old Showtime series, Bullshit! It is an entertaining and informative video in its presentation of what works and what fails to work when it comes to current approaches to anger management. A friend of mine, Brad Bushman, appeared on this episode as one of the interviewees. Bottom line is that much of what passes for "anger management" is untested and quite probably ineffective. Much of it seems to be based on the concept of catharsis. According to some mental health professionals, by venting (by, say, punching pillows, screaming, etc.) one can release anger and become less aggressive. Bushman runs a demonstration experiment showing that, contrary to the claims made by those mental health professionals, catharsis only serves to make aggression worse. Using catharsis as a means of reducing aggression is somewhat akin to using gasoline to put out a fire. Also, it appears that anger management courses are ineffective for those perpetrating abuse, as their behavior is often motivated by dominance needs as opposed to impulse control problems. All anger management programs do for these individuals is to make them smarter about how they abuse their victims. I would hardly call that therapeutic.

Please note that there is a lot of strong language. This is Penn & Teller, after all. If you are easily offended, avoid this. If not, have fun, and learn something in the process.

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