Ed sat across from me in an intensive session, not able to wrap his head around the idea that his wife desperately needed him to have some sort of feelings for her. A long marriage, kids, and financial success were in the balance, as she was ready to divorce him because he could not express any kind of deeper emotion and was stoic and cold. I could see him struggling with this notion that he had feelings and needed to share them.
One of the first things I do in counseling is see where your deep feelings begin to come forth. We all have feelings, even if they are denied or pushed aside. I can’t make much progress until you trust me enough to tell me what is going on and how it hurts. I have had men who can put up walls and defend themselves for hours. But it does little good to talk to a counselor if you don’t discuss your feelings.
Anger as a Cover-Up
I can’t tell you how many men say things like, “I don’t know what I feel.” Men do have emotions, but frequently feel like they can’t show more vulnerable emotions like fear. They struggle to accept themselves when they think they come across as needy or not capable. So, when their wives tell them that they feel abused (not necessarily physically, but emotionally or verbally,) many men respond with self-protection and self-deception. They push away feelings like fear, guilt, and sadness, and substitute them with a false aura of strength, frequently using anger as a cover-up.
So, these men get angry quickly in a vain attempt to control and self-protect. When something activates their fear, they push it away with anger and, if it works to make them feel better about themselves, the anger is reinforced and becomes a learned behavior. If you are practiced at getting angry, you will become pretty good at it and quickly go there when you feel like you need to self-protect.
Many men try to tell us that they cannot control their anger. While anger may feel uncontrollable, it IS possible to learn to learn to manage your anger. To say you can never gain control of anger is self-justification to continue what you’re doing instead of learning, growing, and improving. You must accept that you can control you and no one else makes you do anything. You, in fact, have power over your addictions, anger, and responses to other people.
Learning to recognize when you’re using anger to cover up more vulnerable emotions is an important step in growing and healing your relationship. When you realize that you’re actually feeling something other than anger, you can begin to discover the real feelings going on underneath the anger, at your core.
Are you ready to overcome your anger?
At the Marriage Recovery Center, we can help you identify these self-protective patterns that lead to anger and give you the tools to figure out what else you’re feeling. For more information, or to learn about our other programs, contact our Client Care Team here or call our office at (206) 219-0145.