Understanding Anger In Men
Most of us believe we can tell when somebody is angry.
We don’t need to see angry outbursts.
We can look at the expression on a person’s face or their body language and come to a quick conclusion about their underlying emotions.
Anger is that powerful antagonistic emotion you feel when you are upset with something or someone.
It is a healthy emotion and a natural response in a healthy relationship. You get upset, you have negative feelings, your heart rate rises, and you react angrily.
Creating a different perspective about how to interpret situations that might trigger you, and understanding the warning signs is often the first step in controlling angry behaviors.
To have a healthy relationship the best way to channel your anger is to practice taking deep breaths and short breaks as well as using positive self-talk to deal more effectively with relationship issues.
We are designed to use anger as a mobilizing force to protect ourselves.
It is a necessary, natural, and fundamental emotion we all experience from time to time.
It is only when anger gets out of control and turns destructive that it becomes counterproductive. The challenge is to find effective ways to express angry thoughts in difficult situations.
Uncontrolled anger or rage, sometimes diagnosed as intermittent explosive disorder (IED), is a mental health condition, often leading to violent behavior, can have a profoundly negative affect on a person’s life.
Almost any type of impulsive, unpredictable, or ongoing angry behavior can be the cause of chronic conflict, creating family problems, chronic stress, relationship issues, and a variety of physical problems.
Men are more likely than women to express anger aggressively. Although women have feelings of anger, perhaps as often as men, they are more prone to contain their anger better than men and deal with it in a healthy way.
In our society it is viewed as more acceptable and gender appropriate for men to behave aggressively and demonstrate more expressions of anger than women.
Anger is an emotion with a wide range of expression, from irritation to rage. It is basic to the fight or flight response that originates in the brain in a structure called the amygdala. This part of the brain is our warning system, sending out the alert when threats are present.
Some men perceive threats almost everywhere in daily life and have very little tolerance for even the little things. They can regard an otherwise small event as a provocation causing them to react inappropriately or too aggressively.
Not all threats are the same, however. Therefore, we have to be able to differentiate the level of threat (or if a threat even exists) in order to bring to bear the proper response to it.
This is a perceptual process and that’s where the problem lies.
Anger is recognized as a secondary emotion. Therefore, a man might be feeling hurt or invalidated and act out angrily rather than express his hurt feelings more effectively.
There are a lot of men who were never taught better ways to express themselves.
Whereas women may be taught that emotions vary and learn that there are many to choose from, men generally have a much more limited menu.
A man is often taught early on that anger is an acceptable and natural response. Anger fits into a very narrow array of emotional expressions that includes excitement and happiness and very little else.
Many males identify anger as masculine but expressing fear, sadness and loneliness as weakness, even feminine.
Some men have “shorter fuses” than others. They are prone to irritability and angry outbursts more so than average. They seem to have a lower tolerance for frustration and stressful events.
Others can brood and become withdrawn, tense and sometimes depressed, keeping their anger inside, not knowing how to process their feelings in a positive way.
The tendency to become an angry person, chronically frustrated or irritable may be genetically driven, runs in the family. Some are born with a heightened sensitivity to anxiety or frustration, and, from an early age may become easily upset and irritated.
Most, however, seem to come from exposure to family members or families where criticism, chaos, domestic violence, and physical abuse were expressed freely.
Growing up in a hostile environment one learns early on how to defend against threats. Sometimes becoming more angry or hostile than ones’ own father or mother helps to empower you.
Otherwise you might accept the insults and become passive, a type of “doormat” that others can step on.
Some men who have developed passive styles may express their angry feelings indirectly. They can become saboteurs in an adult love relationship, causing their partners to become frustrated and insecure.
Confounding behavior like this can cause a partner to doubt the man’s real intention and may ultimately result in a breakup. This style is often referred to as passive-aggressive and frequently is not fully understood by the person who is guilty of it.
Men will often feel guilt, shame and remorse, sometimes leading to depression, when they have become angry or even raged against those they love. It can feel like the aftermath of an explosion for him and those around him. He looks around and sees the devastation his outburst has caused. He can feel helpless and hopeless, not knowing what to do or how to change his dysfunctional behavior.
Alternatively, when a man is unable to express his anger appropriately, that is in an assertive, healthy and productive way; he will likely suppress it or hold it in.
Here the attempt is to redirect the power of the anger by distraction. The danger in this method is that suppressed anger or anger directed inward can cause irritability, stress, and depression and can ultimately lead to a variety of health problems.
The style or pattern of expressing anger that a man develops from childhood, like all patterns or habits, is difficult to break. Fortunately, however, a man can change this type of behavior. It takes awareness, motivation, commitment and persistence to make that change.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with people struggling with powerful issues such as depression, addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, and work-life balance.