Stuffing Your Anger

One of the worst things that men can do with their anger is to stuff it inside themselves. Anger accumulates over time, and can and be expressed quite explosively without other outlets. Stuffing your anger helps no one, even if it’s a temporary fix to deal with a difficult situation in the present.

What men traditionally do are two things: one, they stuff their anger, withdraw from conflict, and usually say nothing. On the flipside, some men get explosive or rageful. The latter can mean several things. For these men who feel out of control and hopeless without an outlet, they break things, hit walls, and generally have no feeling that there is an outlet for their anger. With either of these two ways of dealing with anger, both are quite ineffective at communicating efficiently and directly with others, who are often the source of what we need and want.

Anger is often a function of needs not being met, and is a layer of emotional experience that masks other, deeper emotions like fear, hurt, sadness, loss. Those primary emotions are very difficult for men to express, because many men don’t or can’t risk the thought of emotional expression to those that are closest to them, such as their wives and girlfriends.

Our culture creates messages that make it very difficult for men to emote. We live in a culture of  traditional masculinity which states that to “be a man,” a “real” man doesn’t cry or show emotional vulnerability. Anger is a much more socially acceptable experience to have, because having the rest of the deeper, primary emotions is not socially acceptable in our culture.

How can you deal effectively with your anger instead of stuffing or exploding? Here are some tips in how to communicate anger more effectively:

  • Ask yourself this question: ” What am I really needing right now in this moment? What do I need or want from the person or situation that has upset me?”
  • Identify the trigger person/ statement/ event that has ignited your anger. many times, men get angry, but they can’t connect their anger to what actually caused it. Identifying the causal relationship to your experience of anger sounds like common sense, but for many men, it’s not, especially when their anger takes over and it blinds rational thinking.
  • Get in touch with the experience of anger. What’s most destructive is when we see our anger with negative thoughts. Anger feeds off of negative thinking, and when were angry we tend to lose awareness of all of the negative thoughts that are contributing to our experience of anger. Breaking that cycle is quick and often easy, except that it requires paying attention to our “felt sense” of anger, whether that’s in your chest or heart region, in your shoulders, in the pit of your stomach. Sitting with that physical experience for as long as you can, often times you’ll find that the anger shifts into deeper emotions, or gradually dissipates on its own.
  • Try to communicate verbally that ” I’m angry”, and take a risk to say it to the person that you’re upset with, like your wife or girlfriend. If you own your anger, and don’t criticize, judge, or threaten the other person, they are much more likely to hear you and continue talking through the problem.
  • Take care of yourself. don’t internalize the anger, or flip it back on yourself. Many guys want to go into wall, or do something irrational. The pressure and seen that builds up from anger is great, and the need to release it is just as great. Taking a step out of the situation, taking a short drive your car, going to the gym – these are all very effective, short-term strategies to help you cope immediately with your anger. But, they are not long-term solutions.
  • If you need to withdraw, lead yourself withdraw. State to the person, “hey, I think I need a quick break. I’m really angry, and I need some cooling off time.” respect your need to withdraw from the person or situation. This is a very good coping strategy for demand for the short-term, but again, it’s not a long-term strategy.
  • Continue to work your stress management routine every week, whether that’s rigorous exercise, hitting the gym, meditating, having time for yourself, or doing whatever you need to do to help yourself relax. Stay away from sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants or depressants that will affect your experience of your ability or anger.

Anger is a really difficult emotional experience to deal with. Most men have a very hard time dealing with and communicating their anger in a way that works for both them and the person that they’re trying to communicate with. the fact that you’ve committed to dealing with your anger in a healthy way shows that you want to control and change that which is not working for you. Keep at it, because this is a long-term strategy, and know that as you continue to work on it, it’ll get easier.


 

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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