Anger problems are nothing new, but their prevalence seems to be swelling; no doubt a symptom of life’s increasing complexity, among other things. Anger that isn’t dealt with effectively, whether recklessly spewed outward or left to smolder in corked-up silence, chokes our vitality and is often the major ingredient in relationship-failures, both personal and professional. Anger is a basic “survival” emotion; a reaction to feeling hurt or threatened. By itself, it’s a completely valid feeling meant to give us the energy to protect ourselves and assert our needs in the face of any pain or fear that may otherwise hold us back. Its nasty reputation comes from our tendency to let it “escape its box”. When reined in the proper direction with managed intensity, anger is both healthy and necessary.
Anger and Gender: When it comes to expressing any emotion other than anger (shame, sadness, fear, confusion, hurt, etc), it’s interesting to note that men seem to have the most difficulty. Contributing to this, I’m sure, are traditional notions that showing these feelings conveys weakness, while showing anger is at least “strong” or “manly.” This may have been necessary eons ago when environments were more hostile, but now… not so much. For whatever reason, what appears to be anger in males is often another emotion altogether (one way that that some of us are still “draggin’ our knuckles”, socially). Depression in men, for instance, often looks more like “snappiness” or irritability. Many women have issues with expressing anger also, possibly because they feel pressure from the opposite view that “raging isn’t very feminine”. That notion is pretty useless as well, but it might make sense of the fact that a woman who is tearful is often just as likely to be expressing anger as she is sadness. Statistically, women do suffer higher rates of depression than men. Maybe it’s because they stuff their anger more (one of the quickest tickets to depression, by the way)… or maybe women are simply more likely to report being depressed! Whatever the case, the point is that each gender’s expression of anger can be misinterpreted.
We don’t exactly pick our feelings, but we do pick which ones we hold on to. Anger is often treasured, if only unconsciously, because of it’s underlying “benefits”, i.e., it’s ability to buffer pain and/or feel more validating and powerful (which may not be an abuse of the emotion, depending on the situation). Because it’s fundamentally “blaming”, however, anger can also help us avoid looking at how our own behavior contributes to our problems, which is never healthy. At any rate, identifying how we squander anger’s valuable energy is key in freeing us from the need to misuse it.
Ted Crawford is a Clinical Therapist for FGH’s Employee Assistance Program, which provides counseling for hospital employees and their families. He is licensed in Marriage and Family Therapy and works with clients on a wide range of issues including depression, anger, anxiety and trauma. Ted also facilitates the local Domestic Violence Intervention Program for men with anger and control issues.
Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services is an extension of Forrest General Hospital, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs focus on treating gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a focused substance abuse healing program for adults age 55 and over. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual and intimacy disorder issues. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.
Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.