It’s a cliché that women have multiple emotions while men can count them on one hand. A hand that’s spent a little too long working a bandsaw. That hasn’t been my experience. Women and men are capable of desperately clinging to anger as their go-to emotion, or at least that’s what they think they are doing.
With the benefit of hindsight and a lot of uncomfortable introspection, here a few examples of what I was thinking and feeling when I said I was angry:
You are not playing by the same rules as me in this relationship, and the loss of control scares me.
The stress of this new environment is pushing me to my limits and I’m afraid I will fail without more support.
I don’t want to be alone. I’m worried you will leave me. But saying that makes me look weak.
I’m insecure in this relationship and I’m not getting the constant reassurance that my ego needs.
As in most relationships, it was my partner who bore the brunt of my persistent anger. If she pushed back, I would launch into a long and logical explanation of how my anger is fully justified and surely any objective observer could see it was her actions that led to this inevitable outcome. That was all bullshit. Being angry is a cop out. It’s the comfort zone of being upset. Because the world beyond angry is full of lions and tigers and bears.
Regardless of sex and sexual preference, it’s a rare person who wants to admit they are vulnerable. It’s much easier to lie and say, “I’m angry.”
. . .
Angry is the top layer of an onion that none of us want to peel. You start off thinking that you are angry because of some grave injustice done to you by your partner, co-worker, or society at large. That’s the easy answer, and it’s usually wrong. But even if you are convinced your anger is justified, so what? You probably have a personal or professional relationship with the person that you think is causing the anger. Unless you want the relationship to be over, or worse, continue with a festering sore, you have to get past the anger. You have to understand the real cause of your emotional response and deal with it. When you peel back that onion you will find your own fears and insecurities hidden inside.
. . .
My introduction to introspection came from participating in the Retrouvaille program for troubled marriages. And can I just say, introspection sucks. Depending on how well you do it, it’s going to fall somewhere on the spectrum between uncomfortable and terrifying. But it pays off. I won’t pretend that I’m fixed, or have it all sorted out, but I no longer have angry as my baseline and that makes a hell of a difference to my quality of life.
No one program is going to be a magic bullet. It’s the commitment to look inwards that counts. If you can accept the real cause of your emotional response, then and only then can you start to move past the anger. Far too many people let anger become their resting state and it does nothing but poison their personal and professional relationships. You end up bitter, alone and convinced that situation was not of your own making. Do you really want that to be you?
P.S. I first wrote and posted this piece when I was intensely angry. I admit I sacrificed coherence for catharsis. Thanks to Lisa at the Good Men Project for valuable rewrite suggestions.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock