Navigating Anger, Part 3: Why We Get Angry

Doug could fight with the best of them and I only saw him lose to one guy, his older brother Donnie.  In the basement at their house, Donnie would tease Doug, the words would escalate, then Doug would lunge at his brother, and the fight was on.  I would cringe in fear and fascination at the ferocious intensity of their sibling pugilism – and be thankful I wasn’t fighting either of  them.  What I remember most though, was that Doug’s rage at his brother would, inevitably, morph into tears and he would end up crying like the boy he was.

Anger morphing into sadness or loss is a key component to understanding the complex range of emotions that can be present in anger.  Fundamentally, anger is an emotional sign that a basic need in a person is being denied.  When we get stuck in anger, if we work back from the angry emotions and ask ourselves, “what fundamental need do I have within me that is being frustrated and/or denied to cause me such anger?”, we can begin to unravel the mystery of anger.

In navigating the masculine journey, most men are taught from a young age “big boys don’t cry.”   The upshot of this rule is that, if tears are not acceptable, then feelings of sadness and loss are not acceptable either.  Here is the catch-22: men who think it is unacceptable to be sad feel angry!

In a men’s circle, creating the environment for the safe expression of anger is a critical condition in helping a man find and feel the deeper needs of his heart.   We have an expression in my Rattlebone men’s  group: “your anger is welcome here.”   We know that getting to the core of a man’s anger releases him from the emotional prison of self-defeating behavior and opens him up to his deeper feelings and needs.

This can be tremendously liberating for men who go through life feeling chronic anger and rage.  Once they find the courage to allow themselves to work down through their anger, in a safe and respectful way, they find, to their relief, that their anger comes from the denial, in one form or another, of a fundamental need they have.   They discover that they are angry for legitimate reasons and that, as men, they can learn to help themselves to meet their own needs.

Helping men discover their own God-given needs and how they can confidently address them, gives men the deep satisfaction of mastery over their feelings.  Correspondingly, they feel a sense of wholeness and maturity that they may never have known before.  They also discover that dealing with anger maturely serves their growth and that it is a sign that they need to address something within themselves.

Categories Blog Post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on August 7, 2012

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  • Marg

    I like the series on anger is good and needed I think.

  • http://www.menalive.org.au Robert Falzon

    Thanks Patrick– very well written and deeply insightful. For many young men anger is the only portal for all the spectrum of emotions. If a young man is not taught or transitioned into manhood then he only has anger to express his inner man.
    My own experience also suggests that anger is unexpressed or unresolved grief .

    Keep writing you are great and this is much needed.
    Peace

  • http://www.masculinejourney.ca Patrick O’Connor

    Thank you Marg and Robert.
    Yes, I agree that anger is unresolved and unexpressed grief. Men need a safe place to unload these hidden feelings, in order to enter into mature manhood, lest they take out their frustration on innocent family, friends, and co-workers.
    As for the “only portal” a young man has to express his inner man, that’s very true. It is a terribly frustrating place to be in, and that’s why men young and old need safe places to learn about their deeper emotions. Thanks Robert.

  • sandi coryell

    Much needed thoughts, Patrick!

    • http://www.masculinejourney.ca Patrick O’Connor

      Thank you Sandi. Anger is tough for everyone, for the whole world!

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