Meeting 2-7
Focus: Anger

The basic structure of this meeting is the same as Meeting 1.1 - refer back for more information.

Some issues may have come up during check-in that the group may wish to spend more time on rather than moving straight into the 'focus'; or perhaps some issue is still to be dealt with from the previous week. When it is appropriate the leader moves the group into the main focus for this meeting.

5) The Big Bit in the middle - the leader announces the focus of the meeting

Focus: Anger

"Anger, and the abuse and violence that stems from it, could be picked as the single-most significant men's issue of our time. Yet all of our emotions are normal, valid, valuable human experiences. We are meant to have them; the feeling itself is meant to be expressed, not repressed - at this basic biological level, our anger is a defence mechanism that emerges when we are hurt or perceive ourselves to be threatened in some way - our anger is a hot strong emotional energy that human beings were 'designed' to use to stop the pain or prevent the harm from occurring eg repel physical attacks."

"So, anger is a normal useful human emotion - we are not abnormal for experiencing anger."

"Having said that, we must realise that IT IS NOT OK TO ACT OUT OF THAT ANGER OR PAIN OR FEAR TO BE ABUSIVE OR VIOLENT TOWARDS ANYONE. Abuse and violence are harmful and destructive and can only cause more pain to all concerned."

"The difficulty here is that few of us have had good/any role models for the appropriate expression of anger. In fact we may not have had role models for the appropriate expression of any emotion; arguably our culture asks males to repress (promotes/rewards) their emotions (disallows) from childhood on upwards (still).

[It would take a whole book to discuss this, but the idea seems to be that males are 'socialised/conditioned/taught' to be 'strong' ie unemotional to somehow better serve their culture (eg soldiers) and 'take care of the problem' - compete, 'bring home the bacon', fight, kill, die…]."

"In this scenario of emotions being repressed, perhaps over a lifetime, the internalisation of these strong emotional energies can become intolerable in their effects of pain and suffering, no matter the supposed 'rewards' being offered. Just as a rope has a certain breaking strain, every man has a breaking point, and can only take so much. "

"It is at this point of crisis, and of being overwhelmed by (finally) irrepressible pain, that some men lose control and become abusive and violent, with sometimes tragic consequences; some others may turn the violence in on themselves, and attempt suicide (too often succeeding, in at least this final task)."

"The better way, of course, is to acknowledge all our emotions as real and normal, and worthy of expression, even anger. And secondly to find appropriate ways of expressing that energy, without causing pain to others, and yet not internalising it and causing pain to ourselves."

Exercises

  1. Lets examine our emotional 'social conditioning':-
    1. Has anyone ever told you it was ok to have all your feelings - that they were normal?
    2. Or has it been the reverse - that you've been told to repress your feelings? Which ones?
    3. How was your emotional growth/expression supported or encouraged by your parents? Others?
    4. Who 'filled the emotional space' in your home as a child? How about now?
    5. Are there any significant times/issues that stand out in your memory as either validating or denying your emotional expression? How do you feel about them now?
    6. What's your perception on how males are raised in this culture with regards to emotional validation?
    7. How do you support yourself emotionally now? Any other groups attended eg 12 step?
  2. Is anger an issue for you now? Are you able to talk about it?
    1. Describe the feeling? How do you react to it?
    2. What 'causes' that emotion to emerge for you - who does what? (or doesn't do). What would happen if they didn't do it? Would you still be angry? - ie are you already angry and then this makes it worse? If so, what else are you angry about?
    3. If something were to be a certain way, would it take your anger away? If so, what is it you want, or what is your expectation? Is it reasonable? If it's another person, if they were to change the way you wanted/expected, would that take your anger away?
    4. Is it realistic to expect another person to change (be a certain way) to solve your problem? Are you trying to control them eg spouse, child, colleague? See note 2 below. Is your anger about betrayal? Is there a feeling of loss or abandonment, even fear, behind it?
    5. Are you in a power struggle with someone? Why is your way so important?
    6. Do you feel helpless? Is your anger about getting even, or not losing?
  3. What can you do to support yourself and get your needs met without forcing someone or something to be a certain way for you?
    1. Can you accept the 'change' - despite how painful it may feel now? Your anger and resentment will probably hurt you the most in the long run.
    2. Are you able to talk of your loss/betrayal, and move into grieving that loss/pain?
    3. Your fear is real and may be devastating to you in the moment - again, finding a place to ask for and receive support could be the best way of taking care of yourself. Where is support available for you?
  4. Have you ever been close to losing control? What was the situation? What were your feelings? Do you have any new perspective now?
  5. Have you ever lost control? What 'pushed' you over the edge? What was the outcome? How do you see that situation now?

Notes for Meeting 2-7

If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of anger, a leaderless men's group may not be able to give you all the support you need in an appropriate fashion. It is recommended that you seek out professional counselling from a qualified and sympathetic therapist; or consider anger management workshops that may be run by a local family services agency. Remind yourself that it is a strength to be able to ask for help even when supposed 'professionals' are unhelpful/unsympathetic - we're still confronting a cultural mind-set that says it's not ok for a man to ask for help.