As men, we’re often taught that anger is one of the few emotions we can openly express without threatening our masculinity. Think about the messages, boys don’t cry and men should be strong and stoic.
As men, it’s crucial that we learn to have our full spectrum of emotions. Joy, sadness, love, fear. But anger is the only one that we’re conditioned to express. And while anger in an important emotion, it can be corrosive and toxic if expressed in certain ways. We’re in a bind.
What is anger?
Anger is a powerful emotion that can bubble up from annoyance, frustration, disappointment or shame. Anger falls on a spectrum from low-grade annoyance to full on rage. It’s a perfectly healthy emotion, but if expressed in an unhealthy way it can be destructive.
The presence or absence of anger can cause all sorts of issues. People who are uncomfortable with any expression of anger can often become conflict avoidant or passive aggressive. People who have no control over their anger can become full of rage, violent or abusive.
Anger in relationships
If you’re not able to communicate or control your anger, all sorts of relationship issues can surface. Some people bottles things up and then explode, others can become so full of rage that they see red and act without thinking about consequences.
- If you’re in a relationship with someone that is abusive or violent, you should seek support and make sure that you’re safe.
Dealing with your anger
Below are some tools to help you better deal with your anger in a constructive way. It will take time, trial and error and patience to change your relationship with anger. However, it will be helpful for you and those you love in the long run.
Tools for managing anger in relationships
Don’t talk when you’re angry. When we get angry we become physiologically flooded and that makes it difficult to think clearly. I’m not suggesting that you ignore the anger, however it can be helpful to take some time for self-reflection before trying to continue a conversation when you’re flooded. You’re more likely to say or do something you’ll later regret if you fight when you’re angry.
Learn to soothe yourself. Once you realize you’re flooded with anger, what do you do next? As with any powerful emotion it can be helpful to have a toolbox full of self-care activities that you can use to calm yourself down. Some people find walks, music or yoga helpful to soothe when flooded.
Respond with softness. Once you’ve taken some time to cool down, restart the conversation from a place of softness. By softness, I mean remember that you love the person you’re talking with and give them the benefit of the doubt when you’re beginning to talk about what it was that angered you.
Try and see the other person’s point-of-view. While it is appealing to imagine that we’re totally right and our partner is totally wrong, it can be more productive to try and see a disagreement from the other person’s point-of-view. Again, if you’ve taken some time to cool down and center your thoughts, this will be an easier task.
Talk about ground rules when you’re not angry. After you’ve had great make-up sex, or some other bonding activity, take time to process the fight. What went well? What could’ve gone better? While it may seem counter-intuitive to talk about a fight when you’re not fighting, this is a great way to problem solve and become better partners going forward.
Tools for managing anger on your own
Practice deep breathing. Try something simple on your own, like 3-3-3 (inhale for 3, hold for 3, exhale for 3), or download a mindfulness app on your phone. It’s important to have tools like this in place when you get triggered.
Go for a walk. Instead of blowing your top and saying or doing something you will later regret, slow things down and take a walk around the block. Clear your head and allow your central nervous system to calm down. It can be very difficult to think clearly when you’re full of anger. (or any strong emotion for that matter)
Laugh. Call a funny friend or watch puppy videos, anything that will get you laughing. If you’re laughing it will be harder to stay triggered and angry. Once you’ve had a chance to calm down and think things through, return to the issue in a more constructive manner.
Seek support. You don’t have to do it alone. You aren’t stronger or manlier because you didn’t ask for help. It can be hard for men to seek support. See more about that here.
How do you deal with anger? Spend some time thinking about the way you handle this emotion. Are there things you can improve? Remember, you don’t have to do it alone.