To express the full spectrum of emotions is normal. However, what I have experienced in working with many men and women is that often the range of feeling responses are reduced leaving just one feeling to dominate. Where one emotional expression is overly pronounced it ends up dwarfing and distorting all the others. It could be any one of the five in the feeling grid but typically for men it is anger.
Anger is often perceived as being the male emotion because it is perceived as the strong emotion while sadness, shame and fear are often perceived as weak emotions. Everything about expressive anger is big, the blood pumping and preparing the body to fight, defend and shout with the physical body becoming bigger and more rigid.
Anger is a normal emotion neither good or bad – however it can become unhealthy in the way that it is over or under expressed like any other emotion. Anger is acceptable within the male code – being angry proves ones masculinity where being sad ‘Big boys don’t cry’, or scared ‘show no fear’ and Shame ‘you are weak/ stupid’ all question men’s ability to be a proper man! Anger is ultimately man’s DEFENCE SYSTEM – it seeks to protect his fragile self from expressing any sense of being hurt. Many men have learnt that the best form of defence is offense.
When the emotional spectrum is reduced or pronounced through one emotion, men often lose the ability to express the full range of emotions and then easily express the wrong emotion at the wrong time. Typically for many men anger is the only emotion in his toolkit and therefore is left to express all the emotions through this one medium, often leaving those around him confused with that is happening. For instance a man may come to therapy because of relationship difficulties – the primary feeling could be sadness but because the man has lost the capacity of expressing sadness it is often expressed through anger either externally or internally. This can often cause further difficulties, confusion and misunderstanding within the relationship.
The goal within emotional fitness is learning to seek to express the right feeling, at the right time and at the right person/situation.
More on anger soon.
Tip from the #OMM coach – When you are feeling angry, what vulnerable feeling are are you seeking to defend yourself against?