Anger Management and the difference between men and women- Part One
All people are born with the capacity and ability to feel every emotion. This article, which focuses on men and anger, will be followed next month by an article about women and anger. Why two separate discussions? For starters, the way and the degree to which emotions are expressed is by and large learned, meaning that our upbringing and our culture influence the way we show our feelings. Often within a culture or society, expectations run along gender lines. This different socialization process is neither “good” nor “bad,” it simply “is,” and is something that should be acknowledged when it comes to anger management.
Generally in our (American) society, men are taught to be powerful, stoic and to avoid displays of emotion, especially sadness or hurt. Men are taught to be rational, to be brave (“take one on the chin”) and to solve problems, rather than to talk about them. Men who display overly emotional behavior can be subjected to many negative stereotypes, including that they are less manly, are “girly-men” or even homosexual. The overriding message is that men aren’t supposed to be emotional.
However, as you might have guessed based on the first paragraph, men continue to experience the full range of emotions, but society dictates that they usually do not show them. The one exception to this seems to be that men are allowed and even rewarded for displaying anger, particularly aggressive anger. Over time, men learn to very quickly ignore or deny other feelings when they arise, resorting instead to the powerful and socially acceptable feeling of anger.
This pattern is harmful because it denies the true feeling, which builds up and is not resolved. Men in this position may find themselves “out of control,” angry all the time and beginning to experience negative consequences.
A first step, which is addressed in anger management classes, is to learn to identify underlying emotions, which may precede feelings of anger, such as feeling hurt or feeling disrespected. By learning to accept those feelings as a normal part of being human, men can begin to be more comfortable with showing them and communicating about them. The result can be less aggressive, problematic anger and perhaps the start of a cultural shift in the relationship between men and their emotions.
Daybreak Counseling Service