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Sam Woolfe - Dec 6, 2019

Men With ‘Anger Issues’: Why the Problem is Often Much Deeper

You may have encountered different men in your life who you believe have ‘anger issues’. You may even feel that you, at one point, have struggled with being angry, both towards yourself and others. There is an understandable tendency to say that angry men have poor character and that they should be avoided and scorned, due to the hurtful things they say and do. And of course, it is true that much hurt can result from expressions of anger. Unmitigated anger often destroys relationships. But it’s also important to keep in mind what kind of emotion anger is and why so many men experience it so intensely. Anger, as we shall see, is a mask for more vulnerable feelings that men find difficult to allow and express. Anger is often a sign of deeper suffering. 

Anger as a Socially Acceptable Emotion for Men

Narrow standards of masculinity mean that there are very few emotions men feel are acceptable in terms of maintaining a masculine identity. In fact, according to the counselor Zack Rawlings, anger and apathy are the only two socially acceptable emotions men feel they can express. Anger and aggression carry connotations of being tough and macho, whereas other feelings, such as fear, sadness, hurt, shame, and inadequacy may appear soft, a sign of lacking strong character and self-confidence.

How Anger Masks More Painful Feelings 

Many psychologists refer to anger as a secondary emotion, in that it tends to mask more painful and deeper feelings and helps us to avoid facing underlying core issues. Indeed, there is some research suggesting that men often express anger and irritability as a way of coping with their depression, especially if their mental health issues are related to feelings of stress and shame. A lot of men struggle with persistent and strong feelings of anger because it may feel too emasculating to face the real pain that lies beneath the anger. Admitting to being overwhelmed with stress or anxiety is often the last thing that men want to do if they are overly concerned with upholding an image of themselves as calm, collected, and confident; able to withstand any problem that life throws their way. However, the more vulnerable feelings beneath anger are nothing to be ashamed of. They are normal emotions that exist within all of us, male or female.

Understanding Men’s Anger

If there’s a man in your life who you care about and who is prone to anger and irritability, this can be difficult to handle. Anger can be a difficult emotion to feel sympathy towards, especially if you find yourself on the receiving end of angry outbursts. It’s vital to remain cognizant of the fact that anger in men is socially reinforced, and from a very young age, so it’s not always the case that men are willing themselves angry and genuinely think it’s the best way of responding to difficult emotions and situations. Powerful forces in our culture and society make it men to express their emotional pain. While it’s challenging, it can make a massive difference not to be critical of anger (whether in yourself or someone else) but rather try to understand it as a signal and find out what specific place the anger is coming from. This will help to foster compassion and ultimately ensure that anger can be contained and explored productively, rather than judged and rejected. 

How to Address Your Anger

If you’re a man and you feel that you struggle intensely and constantly with anger and that this is interfering with your life, it’s crucial to take steps to address that anger, so it doesn’t rule you. Possible ways of moving forward with anger include:

  • Therapy – this can help you to see the underlying pain that the anger is covering up
  • Mindfulness meditation – this will help you to recognize your anger and let it arise and pass without spiraling out of control
  • Loving-kindness meditation – this form of meditation is an avenue for noticing that the anger you feel is the result of emotional pain and, for that reason, deserves a compassionate response
  • A men’s support group – this type of mental health support can allow you to explore your anger with other men who may be experiencing similar issues. This will help you to see that you’re not alone – there are many other men out there burdened by uncontrollable anger and that this is often related to standards of masculinity

As you address the core issues underlying your anger and tackle your pain head-on, over time, you will find yourself less prone to anger and more adept at dealing with difficult emotions. This is a sign of psychological maturity as a man. 

Written by Sam Woolfe

I'm a freelance writer who is interested in mindfulness, mental health and the evolving concept of masculinity.

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