What is Healthy Anger?
The modern debate has been whether to keep your anger in , or to express your anger out. The modern narrative has been that anger doesn’t solve any issues. It's better that you hold back your anger.
However, others say that softening your anger is actually repressing it. And that expressing it is much better than repressing it. The downside of anger expression is physical or emotional hurt.
So which is better? Are there only two ways to managing anger? Not according to Robert Masters. He’s a integral psychotherapist, relationship expert, and spiritual teacher. Robert wrote To Be a Man, which will serve as the basis of this ongoing guide I’ll be developing.
Robert believes that there are more than two ways to handle anger, and he’ll serve to explain the societal stigmas that anger has, and why its so important as a man to develop healthy anger.
Why is anger seen as a negative emotion?
People usually get hurt during angry arguments. Emotionally or physically. Hurtful words or punches can be thrown around. In the end, no one seems to benefit. Its a lose-lose situation.
Anger is another emotion that needs your attention and awareness. Because if there isn’t attention and awareness, anger leads to aggression. This is the reason why anger has a bad name.
Many people have trouble differentiating the two. They assume anger and aggression are the same. But they are not. Aggression can be seen as the weaponization of anger. It can be used to dominate, intimidate, dehumanize people.
That is why anger may seem to be a very dangerous tool for people to use. And why society may tell you that anger is never to be expressed.
When there is aggression there is also violence. Aggression also escalates to violence. For two people who get aggressive easily, this could lead to a fight. Anger then becomes the culprit behind violence and physical injury. The saying that “cooler heads should prevail”, is often taken as we should keep your anger in at all costs.
How you shouldn’t Manage your Anger
Repressing Your Anger
One extremely bad habit is repressing your anger. You’ve been told that anger doesn’t solve conflicts or issues. But this isn’t true at all.
Robert Masters calls this method Anger-in.
The downside of repressing your anger is that you keep all this energy within your body. This trapped energy results in a lot of negative self-talk. Excessive self-talk.
Your start to replay scenarios in your head to vent your anger. In the end your head almost becomes an unhealthy place of negativity.
This is what Robert Masters would call anger-out. You express your anger in a way that leads to aggression. Once you become aggressive, it could also lead to violence. Because of this you should never let your anger turn into aggression at all.
The argument for expressing your anger is that you’re releasing it from your body like energy. The truth is that your anger is not like energy. Even if you express it aggressively, the anger itself has not left your body. It still remains.
To understand this better, anger should not be seen as a noun. But more as a verb. Anger is a chain of events happening in your body. At certain times these chain of events become aggression.
Anger-out definitely harms the recipients of the aggression. But most importantly it also harms us as well. When we are doing anger-out, keep in mind we don’t really rid the anger from our body.
This is a meditative approach towards anger. Robert Masters would call this the spiritual version of anger-in. You use your awareness here to stay with your anger.
Whenever you feel angry you use your bring awareness to your anger. You don’t express it at all. Instead you let your awareness of your anger feel how it affects you physically and emotionally.
The danger behind this is that it could lead to repression of anger.
This is the best approach out of all four according to Robert Masters. This is the anger that you get vulnerable in. Instead of leading to aggression, Heart-Anger brings in compassion.
You can be angry at someone, but at the same time be compassionate. , With compassion, you keep in mind how you feel towards that person. At the same time letting yourself feel the other emotions (hurt, pain, fear) that come with your anger.
Anger with compassion can still be fiery, and doesn’t have to be seen as a softening of one’s anger or repression of it.
What is aggression?
Like mentioned earlier, Aggression is when anger is being weaponised. It is used in a way to dominate, intimidate or dehumanise someone. You turn a someone into something.
Recognising aggression is not so easy. Learning to not let aggression arise is even harder.Why does it arise? Because aggression is an avoidance of anger. This happens when your anger stems from feeling hurt or vulnerable.
You don’t want to feel the emotions that have caused your anger. These emotions include, feeling shamed, disrespected and fear. You don’t want to feel these things, so you armor up. You move into combat mode and become aggressive.
In some cases, when we get aggressive/armor up, you can be categorized as becoming reactive with our anger. Let us examine how to manage our anger non-reactively.
Robert Masters talking about his book, To Be a Man.
What is Reactive Anger?
Most anger manifests as reactive anger. And this way of dealing with anger is very unhealthy. What is reactive anger? Reactive anger is automatically acting the same way again and again.
In order to stop being reactive or repressing anger
1.)You have to recognize when you’re being reactive
2.)Stop playing to the signs that trigger your reactiveness
These are the basic guidelines of Robert Masters.
But where does this explosive way of handling anger come from? It comes from our shadow material. Shadow material are things we have kept repressed for a long time, our lazy, sexual, or angry thoughts/feelings that we felt we needed to be kept hidden.
Dramatizing these shadow material is being reactive. An example would be
1.) Over dramatizing what you’re thinking and feeling
2.) a sudden increase of emotional intensity.
Managing your Reactive Anger
If you catch yourself being reactive, you speak out loud by saying “I’m being reactive”. This is not easy. You will get better at catching yourself getting reactive once you recognize what triggers your reactivity.
E.g. Shadow material of being lazy and disorganized. You’ve repressed this laziness and disorganized side of yourself very deeply. When someone calls you out or makes you feel like you’re being lazy. You might become reactive.
This calling out of your laziness is your laziness trigger. You get angry and start to dramatize this shadow material.
When you do catch yourself becoming reactive. You can start by
1.)Breathing deeply into your belly.
2.) Resist justifying your reason for being reactively angry.
E.g. He suggested you try out this work process to increase your work efficiency (your laziness trigger).
3.) Make eye contact with the person you’re angry at.
4.) Connect with the person through eye contact.
5.) Allow yourself to be compassionate to your own reactivity, and hold back the reactive behavior.
In certain environments you might feel overwhelmed and not be able to hold back your reactivity. In these cases you might need to do a conscious rant. Here is the full article written by Robert Masters himself. Below is the summary of the article.
1.)You can do this alone or with a partner(serving as a witness/coach)
The person you are ranting about won’t be your witness
2.)Grab a pillow(optional) and choose a space you can be really loud in.
3.)Establish some ground rules as to what you can do during the rant, or how you want the witness to monitor you.
E.g. 3-5 Minutes of Ranting
No Physical destruction of objects
4.) Breathe in and focus in on what’s really angering you.
5.)Once you’ve settled in on this, let your anger speak out in a raw/honest manner.
Scream into the pillow as a start if need be. After this let loose.
Don’t be polite or censor anything you feel. E.g. ( You : “I can’t believe you can behave like a fucking bitch towards me like this whenever you want! You whore!”).
6.)Allow yourself to feel anything that comes up as you rant.
You might feel your anger initially, but afterwards sadness and some crying might follow.
7.)Use physical actions to over exaggerate when you start to feel self-conscious or your energy is fading.
As you get self-conscious, really use your energy to exaggerate whatever actions you’re doing at the moment.
E.g. Stomp your feet, shake your fists.
8.) Keep this rant spontaneous, dramatic and as full-blooded as you can.
Don’t hold anything back at all.
Being Vulnerable when Angry
The toughest thing for any man to do is to remain vulnerable when angry. Through theory, this sounds like a softening of one’s anger and retreat. But in fact it isn’t. The fieriness of anger is still there, but the person is also feeling vulnerable.
By being vulnerable, you’re letting yourself feel other emotions along with your anger. You may feel pain, sadness, or even fear. As you become more in touch with these emotions, you can become more intimate with your anger as well.
How can you practice being vulnerable while angry? Here is a process for you to implement and to practice. Don’t expect yourself to perfect this instantly.
Recognize yourself being in an angry moment.
Let yourself feel the connection with the person you’re angry with.
Remember the connection you have with the person in the first place. Remember that you care for them.
Tune in to whatever hurt you’re feeling with the anger.
Let yourself feel the emotional pain under the anger.
4.) Don’t hold back on your anger. But be aware of the impact your anger has on the person.
E.g. Understand that the person might be shocked, shut down , or become reactive themself as well.