This post concludes the anger series, in which we’ve looked at getting assertive, stuffing anger and blowing up in anger (video). I think this post is especially pertinent to men, because men tend to hide from their feelings, including anger. Being afraid of your anger is like an extra layer between you and the anger, and prevents you even further from making emotional contact or being intimate with your wife, girlfriend or partner.
We have certain cultural messages that are quite schizophrenic around anger for men. On one hand, we are told to keep our cool and stay in control by not “losing it,” which would include angry displays. When we think of getting angry, a lot of men I talk with have these warped fantasies that, if they actually were to get angry, they would turn destructive and start to smash like The Hulk. The problem gets compounded because we assume this false identity of the “angry guy”, and then we reject it.
We think that to get angry is to be an angry person, and the two are very different things. One is an emotional feeling (anger), and the other is a label or an identity (“angry person”) that we, or others, attach to us. We then have to “manage our anger” or “get it under control.” We characterize it in television and movies as something that is deviant, that other’s close to us or in society simply don’t want.
The fact is, not too many people really “do” anger well. We usually play games around it with others, without being straight about expressing it. We people please, manipulate situations, or stuff our anger because it’s not “acceptable” and others will reject us. Sometimes, we stuff it and it turns into depression and anxiety, especially for men who “flip” it back onto themselves instead of finding healthy expression for it into the world, and to the people that need to hear it.
For men, we push anger way down deep, and then we get scared of it. We actually are getting scared of who we think we’ll turn into if we express it. In our minds, we construct all sorts of fantasies about how we’ll be when we get angry, which may be far from the reality of actually just communicating our anger. I know in my mind, I can flip over parked cars, kick over fire hydrants and destroy small cities in my mind, and, of course, when I get around to communicating my anger, it comes out .1% as strong as those fantasies. Fantasies are not reality.
So, what can you do? Start by asking yourself these questions first:
1. Look inside yourself, and see how you handle anger: do you push it away? Are you scared of the person you think your’ll turn into if you express it?
2. Ask yourself: what messages did I get growing up about anger? How were they positive? How were they negative?
3. How did my parents display or communicate anger when I was a child? Or, did they stuff it or hide it from me?
4. How did my Dad show me about anger? Did I get a healthy or unhealthy education about it?
5. Who can I practice stepping up to and communicating my anger? Who’s safe to talk with about this?
6. Will I die if I express my anger? Will others? Will I be rejected, which, for some, may feel like death.
7. What are the potential benefits to me if I can communicate my anger in a healthy way?
Dealing with anger in the “right way” is a positive step towards emotional and psychological health, and to better relationships with others, whether those be at home, work or with friends. It will help you become a better person if you can learn to deal with the fear of getting angry, and not hide in the shadows because it has a hold on you.