My turning point was realizing my stubbornness was keeping me from moving forward. It was rubbing off on my son, and he had started to act like it was not okay to express himself or have emotions. My anger and pain got me nowhere in life.” – Aaron’s Recovery Story
Let’s look at nine common myths that some guys unfortunately buy into to justify their anger.
1. Myth: We shouldn’t have to hold in our anger at all, it’s better to vent and let it all out immediately
- Fact: Lashing out (e.g., yelling, hitting, breaking things) doesn’t solve anything, and instead we usually end up saying and doing things we regret, making us feel worse later. For many men, to feel angry is to feel out of control, irrational, uncivilized, and this frequently causes us to feel shame, regret, and anxiety.
2. Myth: It’s okay to clamp down on our anger and ignore it, it will go away in time
- Fact: If we ignore our feelings and completely suppress our anger, we’re not addressing the real problem or fixing it. Time may help distance us from our anger, but if we don’t address its roots, the same or similar situations will continue to trigger anger in the future.
3. Myth: Men can’t help but get angry – it’s in our nature
- Fact: Men, women, everyone – we all feel anger – and although we can’t always control what’s happening around us, or how it makes us feel, we can control how we express ourselves. Even if someone is purposely pushing our buttons, we can still choose how to respond.
4. Myth: No matter what I do, I won’t be able to manage my anger – my father was angry – it’s something I’ve inherited from him
- Fact: Research tells us that although people may be born with tendencies to be more emotional than others (e.g., angry or anxious or sad), how we are raised has a far greater impact on our behaviour than our genes. The bottom line is that we have more control over our actions than we may think, and we can learn and unlearn ways of managing our anger
5. Myth: If someone doesn’t show their anger, it’s because they’re either a wimp or a saint (or someone sworn to non-violence)
- Fact: Acting on our anger isn’t a sign of strength – it’s a sign that our anger is overpowering us and we’re not in control. Real strength is being able to stay calm and navigate a challenging situation while keeping our cool (and is very obtainable by guys without sainthood).
6. Myth: Showing our anger and intimidating others is what earns us respect and authority
- Fact: Intimidating others may help us get what we want right away, but it won’t earn us respect. It can make us look like a loose cannon and not someone who can be relied on. The best coaches and leaders don’t rule over their players with fear – they build trust, inspire, and motivate them to be their best.
7. Myth: Showing our anger protects us, and stops people from taking advantage of us
- Fact: There may be specific times in our lives when this is true, but if we’re constantly using anger as a tool to protect ourselves, we’re likely avoiding dealing with some problems that are triggering our anger.
8. Myth: There are good reasons to hold onto grudges or stay angry about something that happened in the past
- Fact: It’s normal to feel angry when we’re taken advantage of by someone or treated like crap. But if we get caught up in holding a grudge and can’t let it go, then our anger may seep into other aspects of our lives, affecting us throughout our everyday life.
9. Myth: If someone doesn’t want to deal with our anger, they shouldn’t piss us off in the first place. It’s not our fault if they make us angry
- Fact: Sometimes people make us angry on purpose, but most times they don’t know they are triggering our anger. Even when people do intend to make us angry, we don’t need to let them influence how we act – otherwise we’re only playing into their games.
The next page will take us to our first Workbench Exercise, giving us the opportunity to reflect and learn about our anger.