Anger can kill romance, disrupt aspects of work, eat away at relationships, be used as a tool to gain more power, release pent up feelings and also can be a useful way to communicate when done in an appropriate way.
Men in particular often have difficulties with anger. We have been taught that feeling angry is healthy for a man, but feeling hurt, scared, sad, guilty, or any other emotion is weak and shameful. Most boys have most of their emotions forced underground at an early age. In this way, our culture has a lot to answer for. The problem is that these feelings don’t just go away. In fact they build up over time and can cause a lot of emotional pressure.
The result of strong emotional pressure is that for example, rather than feeling sad or hurt about their partner not listening to them, people will often just get angry. Sometimes people can respond too strongly to a situation like this, because of the pressure from other stored up feelings. This means that situation itself is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. This type of anger is quite destructive for both parties. The partner just gets defensive and hurt, and the person themselves don’t feel they have been heard.
One way around this is to ask yourself “what is underneath this anger?” Try and identify what it is that you are feeling. Do you perhaps feel emotions such as hurt, sadness, guilt or shame? Once you have worked this out, then try and tell your partner for example, that you feel hurt when they do a particular thing. If you are feeling really upset, it’s better to go for a short walk, or even spend five minutes in the toilet cooling down. Expressing your emotions while angry is not overly conducive to effective and loving communication. Talking about how angry you felt at a certain time when feeling more calm and rational can be very positive. This can be more effective if you are open to really listening to the other person and have an open mind to what they have to say.
Holding on to anger and pretending it is not there can be very destructive. Anger does not just disappear, it usually leaks out in other, sometimes very powerful ways. For example, suddenly becoming silent and having “that look” on your face for example can be quite aggressive in some situations. It is better to cool down and then talk about how you feel rather than holding it in. If it is inappropriate to talk about it, at least acknowledge to yourself that you are angry.
Another thing that causes anger is the way that we think. If you say to yourself that your partner “should” (ie. must) communicate when you want them to, and it is terrible when they don’t, it is likely that you will get quite upset off with them.
One way around this is to identify what you are saying to yourself. If you can find these types of demanding thoughts, challenge them. Why must they do what I want when I want it? If you can change demanding thoughts into preferences, it can help to reduce irrational anger.
If you can talk about how you feel with people when appropriate, identify and challenge demanding thinking, and cool off before reacting, anger doesn’t have to get in the way of getting what you want in life. If you need support in dealing with anger, contact our psychologists today for assistance.
Delaney is a senior registered psychologist working with people of all backgrounds and with a special interest in LGBTI+ people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Indigenous people.