I want to take a little time today to talk about anger. Not just in boys, although, I do feel and witness boy’s emotional needs still being suppressed in everyday life. This can lead to all sorts of implications for young boys and men, but this isn’t a problem exclusively for boys and men, but for us all.
It really makes me feel sad, that there are so many people, young and old, who tremble at the thought of expressing an emotion.
Survival mode is usually why people do this. They cut off from who they really are to remain part of the pack. They break with their own authenticity to maintain attachments and connections to their families and peers, which long term leads to a fairly bleak and inauthentic existence, masked with all sorts of BS to avoid the feelings.
The Shame Game
People still feel so much shame about being a human being. The reality is though regardless of your life experiences, and what has happened to you. WE ALL HAVE FEELINGS. None are more valid than others. Feelings are like an internal call to action to bring something to your attention. Ignoring them is detrimental to your development, your happiness and your mental health. A good friend of mine, says the following ‘You got to feel it, to free it.’ I’ve always loved that expression, and I use it often. Even for myself (us therapists have feelings too!)
You may have learned to cut off to survive difficulties in your life, or you may be teaching someone that having feelings is not ok. Either way, the suppression of emotions, never ends well.
You may not be ok with emotions, but like I tell all my clients, young and old, big negative emotions are a bit like suitcases that you have to carry around with you everywhere you go, and every event in your life that stirs up these feelings, becomes just more stuff to put in the suitcases, and over time, those arms get tired, and your suitcases become full to bursting, and then one day….BOOOOOOM…the cases burst open and your arms are too sore to pick up the contents and repack.
So, attending to and understanding your emotions, particularly anger is the key to change. Simple statements, such as ‘big boys/girls don’t cry’, are beyond damaging to a persons ability to being ok with feeling what they feel, and being able to talk about what is really going on for them. Society, family, peers, in most cases are our biggest influencers, and shutting down emotions is usually more comfortable than going towards them.
What happened to you?
So, where does that leave people? Usually wandering around trying to find ways to avoid what’s going on in their internal systems. What you see, isn’t always what is truly going on.
What myself and the team see working with young people in schools is that anger is very present and is rarely unmitigated. Most only see the anger, and the impacting behaviour. Our job is to help a young person identify and work with what lies beneath the anger and manage BIG emotions in helpful productive useful ways, rather than unproductive painful and damaging ways.
Gabor Mate poses this question ‘Ask not what is wrong with you, but what happened to you?’, when we talk about people who are traumatised and in addiction. The same applies to anger. Understanding what happened to you, will help you to arrive at underlying feelings and beliefs.
The robot pretence can only stand up for so long, and the humanness of you will leak out regardless – usually, in some seemingly unconnected behaviour, like an angry outburst. But we see you, hiding out in there. Unfortunately, many people don’t see past the anger, and that’s all that is understood about a person, but you are so much more than anger. Young people can quickly become tarred with the ‘they are trouble’ brush, and without a compassionate ear and a space to heal, they will inevitably live up to societies expectations of them.
Angry people create lives of pain for themselves and other people. Talk to anyone imprisoned, and it’s anger related behaviour that led them to their current status, and what lies beneath the surface, is always something painful to be avoided and to be hidden from the world. Anger may be protecting vulnerable stuff, but in the end what will your anger cost you?
You may or may not have heard of the iceberg in reference to anger. What you see, the anger, is the tip of iceberg, but what lurks unseen, beneath is a complex blend of emotions and feelings. Anger protects those from being exposed to the scary world that we live in.
However, without ever talking to, understanding and healing the bit below the surface, the anger will probably remain the biggest obstacle in gaining any real depth of happiness and truly genuine way of connecting with others.
As a society, in schools, we punish anger and the subsequent behaviour, the rule of thumb being, exclusion, punishments and isolation – which when you think about it, doesn’t really feel like it makes sense does it? An entirely different approach is needed, and we are very lucky to have a number of schools how have the knowledge and skills to see that anger cannot be cured by expulsion, but by compassion and understanding and taking the time needed to walk alongside a person and hold them in safety until they can understand their own stuff.
Remember all behaviour is communication so if you have an angry person young or old person in your life, guide them towards helping themselves. Being angry all of the time is bad for not only the mind, but for the body, your health and also your general wellbeing, and in the end it will spill out, so let’s deal with it before it causes you the shit storm that will inevitably arise.
Much love and light my friends, Nicola