Why not all anger is unhealthy and how to experience healthier forms of anger
First Step Men's Therapy helps men across Ontario, Canada develop healthier relationships with themselves and others. We offer individual, couples, and group counselling to men and their families online using our secure telehealth platform.
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Anger can be healthy or, in some forms, unhealthy - just like any other emotion
Many of the men that come into our mental health clinic report some level of unhealthy anger. Often, I hear sentences such as:
"I don't know why insert person name just makes me so angry"
"My partner says I have a horrible temper"
"Sometimes, I just explode on my partner and kids"
"My insert parent name had horrible anger issues, and I am worried that I am following in their footsteps"
"The only emotion I seem to know how to express is anger"
Anger often comes from a belief that something has been taken away from us
Often, within a few sessions, I explore what anger looks like within a client's experience and how it shows up for them in their life. Anger often shows up when one perceives that something has or will be taken from them. Many times, clients often report other emotions that accompany their anger. Some of these might include:
Men are often taught to hide emotions or keep them "inside"
Men are often taught to hide or shield themselves from expressing these feelings, while in society anger has been normalized to be an emotion men can express freely, unlike some of the other emotions listed above. Men who feel helpless aren't necessarily conditioned to show or display helplessness, unlike anger.
It is important to note that anger is an emotion, and as such there are healthy forms of anger and more unhealthier, or toxic forms of anger. Anger that is healthy is expressed in a way that doesn't cause harm to others or impact one's ability to feel safe, yet allows the individual to express their anger and not be overwhelmed or consumed by it. Healthy anger is motivating, freeing, and gives one a sense of letting go of difficulty feeling. Unhealthy anger is repressed, consuming, disruptive, and at times, unsafe.
The role of assertiveness within anger
Often, for many men, anger is a form of communicating unmet needs in either a passive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive way. Assertive communication, or the ability to stand up for one's self and express oneself in a respectful, direct way, is often lacking with men that struggle with unhealthier forms of anger. Typically, men learn this at an early age and carry into adulthood.
Some of the common things I hear from men include:
"I don't want to hurt them by telling them how I feel"
"They should know me by now"
"It's easier to deal with it on my own"
"They don't understand me anyways"
"If I tell them how angry they made me feel, they will leave or won't think about me the same way"
Therapy can be a helpful way for men to learn about the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger, understand the source of unhealthy anger, help to manage and cope with anger that can be overwhelming or toxic, and differentiate between assertive communication and more passive or aggressive forms of communication. The goal with anger should not be to become anger-free, but to learn and cope with anger as one might cope with any other emotion.
Anger Therapy: Click here
First Step Men's Therapy is a virtual men's mental health clinic located across Ontario, Canada. We work with men on a wide range of mental health issues, including anger, anxiety, depression, sex addiction, porn addiction, substance addictions, trauma, PTSD, first responders, grief, low self-worth and self-esteem, sex therapy and performance anxiety, and childhood wounds. We work with men in cities such as Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, London, Hamilton, Niagara, Halton, Windsor, Ottawa, Sudbury, Kingston, Peterborough, North Bay, Thunder Bay, London, and St. Catherines and across Ontario.