Anger is a cheap emotion. We don't have to work hard in order to get angry, it just manifests itself, almost automatically. Of course there is nothing wrong, as such, with anger. As an animal, it is our first line of defence against attack. But for far too many of us, our mental lives become clouded by an almost constant angry emotional tone. It is as if we are constantly angry at just about everybody almost all of the time.
For men, so it seems, anger can be a particular problem. Some men feel that anger is the only emotion they are allowed to express. All negative emotions, like anxiety, fear, dread, doubt, jealousy, insecurity, etc, get expressed as anger. As boys many men also had angry fathers. We learned that to be a man we had to be angry, and even follow through on our anger, into aggression and violence.
Compassion, on the other hand, is an expensive emotion. It rarely appears spontaneously. In fact we need to work hard to develop compassion for others. We cannot take it for granted. This is especially the case if we are caught up in our anger almost all of the time. In fact cultivating compassion, a sympathetic understanding of another person's situation, allows other more refined emotions to develop, like care, love and even joy.
For some men, those that believe that to be a man means being angry, developing compassion and goodwill towards others is itself a threat to who they think they are. But if you are serious about leaving your angry life behind, this is what you need to do. When anger arises, use this as a cue to understand, compassionately, the other person's point of view. Over time your anger will get transformed, and your perspective on the world will become improved, much happier and calmer.
To turn from anger to compassion is a bold step. It requires effort, yes, but it requires much more than that. It requires courage. The courage to leave behind a very powerful, but unhelpful, view of what it means to be a man. For some men it is the most courageous thing they will ever choose to do.
Dr Phil Tyson is a Men's Psychotherapist based in Manchester in the UK. He offers:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (cbt) for men in Manchester
- Counselling for men in Manchester
- Psychotherapy for men in Manchester
- Telephone and online counselling for men wherever you live
- Supervision and consultative support for therapists in Manchester
- Mediation for employment disputes in Manchester and the UK