I want to talk briefly about the experience of many men that I see in therapy. Namely, that they often feel that they are only able to access one of two states of being: they can be okay, or they’re angry. Some men will go so far as to say, those are the two emotional states that are permissible to them; that their families, friends, and colleagues are really only comfortable with them being okay, and if the occasion calls for it, anger can be called upon to get the job done.
Maybe you can relate.
Anger can absolutely be an appropriate emotional response in certain situations. Anger is protective, it provides defense when needed, and can serve to establish or maintain boundaries that others may be disrespecting or ignoring. For many men, the problem can be that anger serves as a filter for other, more defenseless emotions. Anger can function much like a scab on a wound. It’s thick and crusty, keeping potential threats away from the vulnerable, and sensitive part underneath. In toxic relationships, that kind of defense may well be necessary.
Remember, anger is a defensive emotion; It pushes back, and pushes away potential threats. All of us could benefit from learning how to use anger well, as a tool when called for. The problem arises when anger is used to keep our loved ones, friends, and even colleagues away from our more vulnerable emotions.
Anger becomes the filter for our fears, our hurts, and our grief.
Our more vulnerable emotions are the very emotions that pull people towards us instead of pushing away. These emotions expose us and allow us to be seen by those who care about us. So many men are suffering from feeling unseen, which leads to deep loneliness, and that is, in part, because they are living lives that make room for only two states of being: okay or angry. They haven’t had the safety to practice exposing the more vulnerable emotions.
If anger has been a destructive force in your most important relationships; if you have inadvertently pushed loved ones away in anger, there is hope for learning a new way. Developing a practice of mindful presence could really benefit you, or there are groups available that focus on learning to use anger appropriately.
If you need help in curbing the destructive path of anger; if you know you need to learn to be more vulnerable in your most important relationships counseling could help. Please feel free to give us a call at Cedar Tree Counseling. We’re here to help.
Men & Couples Therapist | MA, LMFT
I help men and their families, who are hurting, angry, and struggling to find their way through life’s challenges, to create real and lasting change.
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