Posted by: coachingparents | February 26, 2009

Don’t Let Your Anger Kill You!


“Get up to your room!” Frank shouted at his kids.  The two of them sprinted out of the living room and up the stairs.

They’d been lucky this time. Although they’d been terrified by his screaming, they were far enough away to avoid the blows that sometimes followed. And as they huddled together in their room, they hoped they wouldn’t hear the footsteps coming up the stairs. For if they did, there would be more anger and more fear.

Sadly, this scenario plays itself out in millions of households across the country. For centuries, men have learned to use anger in an attempt to control their kids. And while it does have short-term results, the long term damage is tremendous, both for the children and for the fathers who carry this anger.

In fact, a 2002 study on men’s anger at Johns Hopkins University (Archives of Internal Medicine 2002; 162: 901-906) showed just how damaging anger can be. The study followed 1,055 men for an average of 36 years following their schooling. It examined the risk of premature and total cardiovascular disease associated with anger responses to stress during early adult life.

The results of this study were that young men who quickly react to stress with anger have three times the normal risk of developing premature heart disease. Also, these men were five times more likely than men who were calmer to have an early heart attack, even if they didn’t have a family history of heart disease.

While it has been clear for a long time that anger damages relationships, the health problems associated with anger have never been made as clear. Anger not only hurts your relationships, it can kill you.

Anger like Frank’s damages relationships more than any other single factor. It hurts loved ones, and creates mistrust. It has caused his own children to fear him. And it prevents him from getting underneath his anger to experience his own fears. For underneath all of his anger is fear. Fear of not being able to control his kids, or even a fear of failing completely in his life.

Frank, like many other men, keeps this a very private matter. A sense of failure and shame surrounds men who struggle with their temper. These feelings cause these angry outbursts to “stay in the family,” causing the cycle to stay the same, or even worsen. And the simple truth about men improving their anger is that it’s a matter of choice. It’s a choice to continue to alienate loved ones, and it’s a choice to take responsibility for your anger.  

Here are some options for men seeking to improve themselves:

  • You are the only one who can make you angry—accept this responsibility and you’ve a come a long way towards getting better.
  • Write down the irrational thinking that contributes to your anger (people should always treat me kindly, etc.). Ask yourself where you developed this thinking and give yourself some alternative thoughts that are more productive.
  • Become more aware of tuning into your body when you begin to become angry. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to do this. The idea is to focus on you, not the “target” of the anger.
  • Prepare yourself before a stressful situation and “practice” your new, calmer response to it. Be aware that it might take some time to feel comfortable with this new response.

Find the stressors in your life that might be contributing to your anger—do what you can to reduce these stressors, and add some self-care into your life.  When talking about health hazards for men, anger needs to be included alongside the other lifestyle factors that can shorten men’s lives. Managing your anger is a learnable skill, and it benefits everyone around you.

And just as importantly, it may save your life.

Warmly,
Mark Brandenburg
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
http://www.markbrandenburg.com

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Responses

  1. Hi,
    Your article hits home. Anger is a learned behavior and thankfully can be unlearned.
    It starts when a parent realizes that their anger is causing stress and negative behavior in the home. These anger issues stem from their own childhood and show that they have a “hole in their soul.”
    Respectivey submitted by “Nurse Audrey.”


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