Anger is an emotion that, if left unchecked, can greatly undermined or ruin the closest relationships that you have. It can also have the power to motivate and transform us into a positive force. Unfortunately, a lot of guys react out of unconscious anger, and often end up falling into the destructive kind of anger.
Rage and physical violence also stem from uncheck anger. For some guys that have grown up in an abusive household for seeing one of their parents react out in physical violence, it can seem almost common to explode in reactive anger. Hitting things or people, putting your fist through the wall, or generally blowing up without getting physical are all ways that anger can feel out of control in those moments where it takes over.
Here are six tools to start with to learn to deal with anger more effectively. If you start using it on a regular basis, you’ll be able to control your anger and stop alienating those closest to you.
1. Stop anger from turning into something verbal or physical.
Saying something that you regret, or putting your fist through a wall, may alleviate some of the angry pressure immediately, but it may have longer-term effects. It teaches you to depressurize yourself through releasing anger, not working through it for a better resolution. Learning to differentiate your anger from the reactive behaviors that result from it is really important. Reacting on the anger, or doing or saying something you’ll regret, is pretty common for men, but trying to develop your awareness not not act on it takes more courage and strength.
2. Use your anger instead of turning away from it.
Especially in intimate relationships, communicating your anger tells your partner that you are fully invested. According to recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology, women tend want to engage with men around conflicts. They want to see men’s ability to communicate their feelings, even if those feelings are negative, which means to women that their partner is invested in the relationship. Women want to see men engaged in the conflict, or at least available, and when men withdraw or avoid their anger, it can be more damaging to the relationship than one would think. Men want women to be happy, and to do that means to engage more around the conflict. IT may be tough, but it will stave off more conflict to come.
3. Don’t identify or label yourself as “the angry guy” if you’re angry.
Identifying ourselves as “the angry guy” is not beneficial. If we’re angry, were angry. Don’t make a big deal about it, and let yourself be angry. It doesn’t mean anything about you as a person if you get angry. Challenge beliefs that have been indoctrinated into you from growing up, and challenge some of the ideas about getting mad. A lot of us men have dysfunctional messages about what it means to be angry, because anger was not acceptable to express in a lot of our early childhood experiences. So, getting mad is not the same as being an angry guy. One is the feeling; the other is an identity label. Don’t confuse the two, or it’ll be made worse.
4. Find more constructive ways to deal with your anger.
Try journaling, or hitting the gym, or learning to develop your communication skills so that you can get better at learning to speak your anger. Learn to work on identifying those points in time where you do get frustrated or angry, and resolve to make it a habit to do something different instead of unconsciously reacting. Practice deep breathing, or mindfulness meditation, or get better at controlling your stress in the other parts of your life. Treat your anger with understanding, kindness and inquiry.
5. “Own” your anger.
A lot of guys ask me what this means when I say this, and owning your anger is the same as taking responsibility for it. When we’re angry, we get into this habit of blaming our anger on other people for their behaviors that caused it. We fixate on the ways that people have upset us, as the reason, as opposed to learning to identify our own anger as a result of someone’s actions. There’s a difference. Learning to take responsibility or “own” our anger is learning to be responsible for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s also going to stop blaming other people for our anger, or victimizing ourselves because we think we’ve been wronged.
6. What’s underneath your anger?
Because anger is empowering, and intoxicating, it also helps men feel in control. That’s why a lot of times when men and women engage in conflict, anger is the place that men feel more comfortable in, because it’s empowering. The fact of the matter is, most of the more essential emotions lie right underneath our anger. If we can learn to tap in to those underground emotions, and learn to identify them, we can start to open up the conversation and transform it, and not just limit it to just our display of anger. Women want to hear from our emotional hearts, and often get put off or intimidated by just seeing or hearing or anger over and over again. Learn to dig a little bit, and you might discover hurt, fear, shame, or some other less “powerful” or less “masculine” emotion. it maybe difficult to feel, but it’s a little more authentic than is just our anger on its own.
Consider the six steps before you get reactive and angry in your next conflict. There are ways through just getting angry and exploding. Anger is a very neutral force, and if you can learn to become more aware of it and make it conscious, you can start to use it for the good instead of falling victim to it’s consequences.