A problem arises however when anger is responded to automatically rather than taking a moment to make sense of the threat, or to check how real the threat is. In this case, anger may be ‘acted out’ in the form of an angry response that risks being abusive or violent, and the risk of creating more problems and damaging relationships.
There can be many triggers to anger and understanding one’s own triggers is an important part of developing self-awareness and of maintaining healthy relationships.
‘Conflict is a normal part of life and relationships. Learning how to deal well with conflict can add depth and value to relationships as opposed to damaging them.’
Men in our society have generally been socialised to be staunch and to ‘fix things’.
Often when confronted by a situation that can’t be fixed easily, [e.g. many of the dilemmas facing families in Christchurch as a result of the earthquakes], a sense of powerlessness and frustration builds that many men struggle to know how to deal with. A small, often seemingly unrelated event can set the whole volcano off with the resultant risk of damage.
For others, there is a desire to retreat away from the problem rather than confront it. Escape might be into silence, alcohol, drugs, gambling or porn. Again, if the issue persists there is a risk of it all getting too much and an explosion happening.
Feeling powerless or impotent to deal with things are not feelings that sit comfortably with many men. Reacting with anger can be seen as an attempt to restore some sense of being in charge. It is an attempt to push the problem and the uncomfortable feelings away.
In a lot of cases, it is the wife or partner, or the children who end up being on the receiving end of the outburst from the volcano and who are rejected.
Relief from the angry release of feelings can be short lived and distress is added to by feelings of remorse and guilt.
Breaking the cycle of anger and violence
Working with a skilled counsellor or therapist to gain self-understanding and better self-expression can be an important way of breaking the cycle of violence. Being able to recognize, and then make sense of the buildup of feelings, can lead to the development of a language to talk about them.
Respectful communication is the start of repairing, maintaining and improving damaged relationships.
Safety and trust can be improved by the increased awareness gained in counselling, and if needed, making use of anger management strategies.
If you are worried that anger is an issue for you or someone close to you and would like to start to make changes you can contact Talking Therapy.