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"Learning skills to identify and manage anger can lead to growth and change for the better."

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This article is part of a series of collaborations between HeadsUpGuys and Mantle: Men’s Health

What brings you here today?

  • “I’m losing patience”
  • “I’m frustrated”
  • “I’m annoyed”
  • “I’m pissed off”
  • “I’m yelling at the wrong people”
  • “I’m blowing up way more than I used to”
  • “I’m snapping at the kids over the smallest things”
  • “I’m getting angry all the time”
  • “People keep telling me I have an anger problem”
  • “I need help with anger management”

Sound familiar to you? As a team of psychologists, we hear this kind of stuff from men a lot – and believe it or not, a lot of men do come to therapy. For many men, anger is something they can quickly identify and is something they are willing to talk about before most other things. Anger is often the one emotion that men feel is socially acceptable to express, while keeping other emotions like sadness or fear to themselves. A lot of men who come for therapy describe getting too angry, feeling guilty after they’ve ‘lost it’, and needing help to manage their anger.

“They forgot my side of French fries and I absolutely lost my shit”

“She kept nagging me, so I eventually blew up and told her to leave me the hell alone”

“He cut me off on the road and I saw red”

So, what is anger all about? Anger is often easy to see and relatively easy to describe. Anger is a commonly experienced emotion that can range from minor annoyance to extreme rage (‘seeing red’). It’s typically triggered when a person believes they have been wronged by someone, that something unfair has happened, or that their well-being and social status has been threatened or not respected. 

It’s important to point out that anger is often a learned way of dealing with the world (no one is an inherently angry person) and can become our default emotion early in life. Often, our use of anger is influenced by societal norms around how boys and men should and shouldn’t behave. [1] For many, we learned early in life from watching other men that anger is the way to manage difficult situations. We often don’t have other skills to manage these situations adaptively, so we get angry. 

Anger can also be the surface manifestation of deeper, underlying issues – the ‘tip of the iceberg’ so to speak. Issues like financial stress, relationship issues, trauma, or job dissatisfaction can lead to feelings such as sadness, anxiety (fear), stress, hopelessness, and feeling trapped, which can be difficult for many men to acknowledge and express. So instead, anger is the way we try to deal with these issues and emotions – throwing our phone in frustration rather than cry, storming off in a huff rather than speaking up about how we’re feeling, or throwing a punch rather than calmly negotiating or resolving an issue.[2] But regular anger outbursts can undermine relationships and damage physical health in the long-term. One perspective is that prolonged release of stress hormones that accompany anger can destroy parts of the brain associated with judgement and short-term memory and weaken the immune system. [3]

Learning skills to identify and manage anger can lead to growth and change for the better. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing some evidence-based strategies that are helpful for managing anger and can set us on the path to becoming the best partner, father, son, brother, friend, leader, or work colleague we can be. 

As a starting point, try this breathing technique.

  • The first step is to recognise when you are getting angry. It will either be a physical sensation, or you’ll start to have angry thoughts.
  • As soon as you feel the anger rising, tell yourself to STOP, COOL IT, SLOW DOWN, CHILL, or RELAX (whatever word or phrase works for you). 
  • Use a breathing technique that involves slow cyclical breaths over five seconds, in and out through the nose. A good technique is to Breathe IN counting 1,2 and then pause, then Breathe OUT 3,4,5 and then pause. Repeat this for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Practice regularly (practice makes progress) – when you are in front of the TV, in between golf swings, reading a book, in between sets at the gym or driving the car.
  • After a while, this breathing technique will become automatic, and you won’t even have to think about it. It is essentially a reversal of habit, which takes about 3 weeks of regular practice before it starts to feel normal or part of your routine.

Keep an eye out for more tips that are coming in our series on managing anger.

Guest Authors:

Mantle provides specialist, confidential virtual Mental Health services for Men. We know that a lot of Men are notoriously time poor and how busy work and family lives can be. We also know that the stigma surrounding Mental Health creates a barrier to Men seeking out and engaging with support. Whether it is lifestyle, relationship, or emotional challenges that are impacting your performance, or more therapeutic services as part of a broader mental health plan are needed, we have a range of options to suit and support you.

The Mantle team are qualified, award winning, registered Psychologists. We specialise in working directly with Men, and draw on the latest evidence-based, academic research and techniques.

mantlehealth.com.au

References

  1. Genuchi, M. C., & Valdez, J. N. (2015). The role of anger as a component of a masculine variation of depression. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(2), 149–159. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036155
  2. Seidler, Z.E., Rice, S.M., Kealy, D., Wilson, M.J., Oliffe, J.L., & Ogrodniczuk, J.S. (2022). Men’s shame and anger: Examining the roles of alexithymia and psychological distress. The Journal of Psychology, 156, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2021.1977598
  3. Psychology Today. [2022]. Anger. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/anger

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