I recently wrote about how many men are unaware of just how angry they are. This anger shows up in irritation, depression, or other passive-aggressive ways, such as sarcasm. Many of these guys I meet are afraid of getting in touch with their anger because they don’t know what will happen if they let it out. They don’t want to be the guy who’s the stereotype of toxic masculinity. They are feminists. They acknowledge their male privilege. However, they still get angry even though they received the message that anger is not ok.
Goldilocks & Anger
In my work with these guys, we make it very clear that our goal is not to just unscrew the cap and let you release all your anger wherever you are and however you want. But I do see it as a fine line approach that will be full of trial and error, especially if you were raised with the idea that no good comes from anger.
In the previous article, I spoke about how you can begin to become aware of where your anger goes, whether physically (stomach aches, etc.), emotionally (depressiveness, etc.) or interpersonally (sarcasm, etc.) This is an important first step: to acknowledge that you are angry and that it’s manifesting in unhelpful, uncomfortable ways.
Just letting all the aggression out—or the Too Much approach—can lead to violence, destructiveness, and a sense of being out of control. With guys like this we explore ways to connect with anger early on, before it feels out of control (and it never is truly out of control, but that’s for another post). Some helpful questions: What are your early signs of anger? How aware are you when that anger seed is planted? That’s the time to act.
The Too Little approach is for whom this post is mostly for: guys that push that anger down and may even believe they never get angry. This leads to all of the difficulties I mentioned above. With these guys we work on acknowledging that there is anger—rage even—inside that is not being allowed to come out at all. It festers and leads to a generally unhappy, unfulfilled life.
The Just Right approach (well, let’s acknowledge that this is never the way we handle our anger all of the time–there’s no perfection in the quest for anger expression): There is a way of healthily allowing ourselves to be angry and express anger wherever we are and to whomever we’re with. In this, we know the relationships of the people we’re with and what expressing our anger in this situation will lead to. Our anger can be connected to our being more assertive, to our calling out wrongs, to our letting others know that we are having a response to something they said or did (notice I’m not saying they “caused” our reaction, but we can communicate our response.)
Anger Can Increase Intimacy
In our intimate relationships—our close friends, our partners, maybe even in our families depending on the history—our anger is necessary if we want deep relationships with each other. Knowing that your partner and good friends can handle you getting angry (in a non-violent, non-scary way of course) is important and many of the men I work with have partners that really want this. They want to know how passionate these men can be, but many guys are reluctant and scared to show it because they don’t want to be that Masculine Stereotype.
For people in therapy, this is a perfect place to “practice” your anger expression. To bring that anger into the therapy room can be helpful and healing—we can learn what is too much and all the defenses we use to “hide” that anger. If you’re not in therapy, do you have people who are able to connect with you and your anger—is it safe for everyone to do so?
This is why it’s so important to allow our kids to get angry at us because they are learning how to get angry and traditionally are often told how their anger is not acceptable. When a child is an “angel” at school all day, but lets it all out at home, it’s often an indication that they know that you are the person who can handle their “worst self.” So that’s good parenting (whether it feels that way or not!)
Now…who can do this for you?
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