If there could be a point in time where a couple realizes that there is a problem, I would have to say that one that I hear more often than not is when the guy ends up with his fist through the wall, or does a number of other scary behaviors that frighten or intimidate their partner. In this blog post, I want to talk about the volcanic anger that guys experience, and how to help stave it off before it erupts.
I’m not just talking about “those guys.” One universal phenomenon that I see with many men is that they say that “I’m not that guy.” A lot of men are quick to push away the label of “angry guy”, because “that’s just not me.”
I think that there is a difference between being angry, and identifying yourself as an angry guy. The two are different. Having an experience of anger is different from taking on the identity of “angry guy.” the angry guys are always other guys — the violent types that have their fragile, crying women backed up into the corner, cowering in fear. You know who I’m talking about.
Once we get past that distinction, I’m interested to know what happens between point A and point B. This is the hard part because we unconsciously get sucked into reactivity when we get angry, and for many people, it’s extremely difficult to slowdown and become mindful of the thoughts and feelings that arise in us when our partner triggers that anger in us. It’s like she’s lighting the fuse, and it’s a matter of time until the explosion. The reactive experience seems out of our control, and then our fist ends up in the wall.
I could talk about ways to cool down, like simple breathing or “going to take a walk”, but that doesn’t relieve you of the experience of anger.
What’s really important is to get in touch with the anger and to see it as an experience that you’re having, no different than happiness or sadness or whatever. To see it as an experience instead of your identity, it creates more ease about allowing yourself to have that experience. So many guys that I talk with are afraid of their anger, and thus afraid of being “that angry guy.”
The ideal situation is to extinguish the lit fuse while it’s creeping up towards detonating your bomb. How do you do this? It’s critical to stay connected to your wife or girlfriend, get in touch with your anger (bonus: getting in touch with the physical sensation of anger in your heart or chest panel as it comes up and speaking from that place) and to communicate what is happening with you in the present moment.
To speak from your anger, and not to react against it, is so key. Being able to speak your needs and that you’re angry, by simply saying “I’m furious” or “I’m so angry at you”, are things that will actually bring you closer, and shorten the distance between you and her. It sounds a little strange, but so is putting up this through the wall. Ultimately, counseling is cheaper than drywall repair.