Human beings are creatures of emotion. Much of the acts we do in our day-to-day lives pivot around an emotional reaction. As men, we often impair and strain our relationships when we get angry. When this happens it’s often because we have moved from anger into blame, rage and victimhood – not exactly sexy. When anger shows up within us, it’s because of one simple reason – we aren’t getting what we want. And often, we’re getting something we don’t want.
When we get angry, a sense of victimhood is reinforced, because we implicitly forget our power to change what is happening, which can escalate to us lashing out and impacting those around us. If we fall into this downward spiral of frustration, wondering if we’ll ever get our needs met, and we end up getting nowhere. We can shift this vicious cycle by mastering our boundaries and understanding the energy arising in our bodies.
Men and anger have a fraught relationship.
For men, anger is the only acceptable emotion, and even then only a little bit of it. We’re not allowed to be overly giddy, conspicuously sad, or scared. But a bit of performative anger, sprinkled in with some physical posturing and perhaps a hinted at sense of threat or consequence – now that’s manly. The very sad thing is that what I am describing is actually men at our worst – performative, posturing, puffing out, and, often, secretly terrified. Men in this state often use threats of physical, logistical or financial consequences to control people and things outside of themselves. They do this because they lack the confidence to set appropriate boundaries in the moment, and are acting out like a cornered dog. This is a very common way for men to navigate challenge in the world – by being angry at, and victimized by – endlessly.
While we’re here, let’s wonder at what healthy anger would look like in a man. To start with, it’s important to recognize that healthy anger would look like any emotion in a confident man: free flowing, vital, powerful, safe (in that the man is taking responsibility for his emotion, not asking others to deal with it), even beautiful. Yes, you read that right. A man in his genuine, righteous anger is a beautiful thing. Why? For one, because it’s so rare. For another, because it reveals a man who has taken control over his life. He doesn’t feel a victim to what has happened to him in the past. He is simply declaring, clearly, perhaps loudly, “No. What has happened here is NOT OK. This is the change I will make.” And it’s done. Perhaps he makes demands, but only when they are demands well within his right to make.
This isn’t a tantrum. This is mobilized outrage on behalf of who or what needs protecting.
We are not angry for the reason we think we’re angry.
We get angry when a violation penetrates our boundaries or tolerances. It can feel as if someone has offended our sense of our own control of our life. We often fall instantly victim to the situation and react in the moment rather than taking the time to set a personal boundary.
When you choose to sit and stew with your anger for minutes, hours, or even days, take that as a sign that you’re not angry for the reasons you think you are. No amount of yelling, changing or ordering people around will eradicate the core discomfort you feel. You’re not angry for the reason you think you’re angry.
When we experience anger it unconsciously takes us back to a childhood experience where we felt overwhelmed. As soon as something succeeds in passing our personal boundaries, our subconscious remembers a time as a child where we were unable to set a similar personal boundary. We are reliving our childhood experience, only this time with the opportunity to give it a different ending.
Learning to not suppress or express anger.
There are two opposite reactions most men chose when feeling a sense of anger. We either suppress it or express it. Neither of these work. When we suppress our feelings, we succumb to the victimhood mentality. By denying our anger, it disempowers us and we fail to honor our genuine emotional truth. Nobody wants this or wants this for us.
If we openly express our anger by raging or yelling at staff, children or partners, it extends beyond the personal boundaries of both ourselves and the other person.
In order for us to heal and manage our anger, we need to discover a third path: we need to host the anger, allow it to move and burn through us, and listen to what it is telling us. This is before we bring our anger to anyone else. First, we let the emotion itself have its way with us, and we really feel – FEEL – what it is doing. Sure, we may need to move – but not to punch a wall! We may stomp our feet, breathe out with rapid force, even shout. We may relive the encounter, this time giving ourselves the opportunity to say NO and to STOP the intrusion from occurring. We may need to do it over and over, letting ourselves feel that we are safe again. We have our own backs.
Placing physical and mental boundaries
By learning to manage and deal with the feeling of anger, it empowers our inner child and permits us to take full ownership of our personal triggers. The next time you feel angry, remove yourself from the situation and place a physical boundary between yourself and the other person. By doing this we neither supress or express our emotions and prevent an unwanted argument. Once we’ve set the physical boundary, we can then ground ourselves, breath and physically output the angry energy, as described above.
With practice we can create mental boundaries by remaining consciously aware – in the moment – of our triggers. By becoming more and more attuned to our critical vulnerabilities, we can begin to recognise when a violation is coming towards us and place a boundary in its path, either spoken (No), physical, or imaginary. With time and with practice, we actually learn that we are safe and that our anger-related feelings get better when we get in front of the potential intrusion before it enters our sphere. We become more confident, and less victim.
A master of emotions
When we take control of our triggers and emotions, we embody a healthy masculine. When we stand tall, in the back of our spine, in our agency, present in the here and now, we calm our natural fight or flight responses and use our boundaries to avert a violation.
A huge part of male embodiment is the mastering of our emotions. It’s going to take some time, but when we learn to manage anger this way, our lives and everything around us gets better. Remember that more often than not, we’re not mad for the reasons we think we’re mad. I urge you to listen to that inner voice and honor your own personal boundaries and sovereignty. Don’t turn it into shame, learn to let it flow.
Remember, don’t stuff it, don’t let it out, learn to let it RIP through your body. Get ugly (to yourself), and learn to become a safe space for your own emotion. Over time, this will translate into being violated less and less frequently.
If you’re feeling that anger has the best of you, book a free Connect Call here, and let’s see if I can help.