Anger management for the modern man…
I know a man, who continually tells me that he cannot control himself when he is angry. That he feels he is pushed over the edge and that his partner should know better. Or the world should be different. Or coffee should be made in a bigger size. Or the sun is too hot.
To me, it sounds as though he feels powerless in a really big and confronting world. To me it sounds as though he is scared and uses his physicality to even the playing field and feel strong again. I dont really think anger management is his true issue – I think he has fallen into the trap of overusing his anger.
The same man will cry at the thought of hurting his partner or family – experience deep guilt, shame and regret. The emotional unholy trinity. Rather than show his pain to his family, he chooses to brood and withdraw and shut everyone out. His relationships have been a rollercoaster ride as a result, often ending prematurely and causing all the more pain for this man. Pain which he has no one to share with. But why?
In the groundbreaking documentary (seriously, go watch it now) “The Mask You Live In”, the filmmakers explore how toxic masculinity has been passed down through generations, inhibiting men from talking about their true feelings with one another. Instead of hiding behind masks of machismo and bravado. I am guilty of it myself, and remember countless schoolyard fights which began over someone’s hurt feeling and ended up with someone feeling physically hurt. While I am not a fan of the term ‘toxic masculinity’, I guess I understand why we need the term in the first place.
I myself, felt confused about why it is that men seem to have these issues while women appear so much more open and emotionally attuned. Then it struck me, that maybe men don’t have the same permission where it comes to being hurt – something I wrote about earlier. Maybe men aren’t really allowed to be hurt and scared because if we are seen as hurt or scared, society immediately judges that man as smaller and less capable. Maybe I was guilty of that too? Either way, being in the therapy chair for all these years has taught me that expressing your hurt and fear and being with someone in your hardest moments takes courage and becomes a strength. The clients who can manage being scared with other people, often feel less scared as a result.
The Solution (or at least part of it)
- Figure out why you are scared or hurt… or both! What is it that has prompted this feeling of anger. It didn’t come from nowhere and anger itself won’t make you feel any better about yourself.
- Allow yourself to feel angry, but then try to feel your hurt and fear. It is harder, but that is what true power actually is. Giving yourself true permission to feel your range of emotions is maybe the hardest part of this process.
- Do something different. Take this moment as an opportunity. A chance to change the world by changing your own behaviours. Apologise to someone. Tell someone you trust that you are feeling vulnerable. Write something down in a journal or on your phone. Or maybe, just don’t act out your anger – try acting out your pain or fear?
Our anger has a function. Very often for men, it protects us from our vulnerability and makes us feel strong and sometimes safe in a toxic world. But anger loves itself, and can quickly go from being a way we protect ourself, to the normal way we operate. Lets check ourself a little and make sure we dont turn into the stereotypical man who will not control their anger to save themselves.