Anger as the most acceptable emotion for men

Have you ever wondered why is anger the most acceptable male emotion?

From our family of origin to our relationships, the expression of male rage and anger is often seen as a sign of strength. But is it healthy? And what are the implications of this societal norm that is so deeply rooted in our culture?

Let’s talk about the complex world of men’s feelings, as well as why anger is often the go-to emotion for men… and the impact of this on their mental health.

The Social Sanction of Anger in Men

Anger, in many societies, is seen as a masculine emotion as it’s often viewed as a sign of power and control. This perception is not without its roots; historical perspectives on masculinity have played a significant role in shaping this norm. Men are often taught to suppress emotions like sadness or fear, and instead encouraged to express anger. Historically, men have been seen as the stronger sex, expected to show little emotion. Anger was seen as a sign of strength, and was therefore acceptable. The way that was passed down was- and you guessed it right- through the family of origin that has a crucial role in shaping our emotional expression. Boys often learn from their fathers and other male figures what emotions are acceptable to express. In many families, anger is the only emotion men are encouraged to show. As a result, men often bottle up feelings other than anger. 

Additionally, media plays a significant role in shaping societal norms. In the case of men’s emotions, media often portrays anger as the go-to response. This portrayal reinforces the idea that anger is the most acceptable male emotion.

Suppressing emotions can have serious consequences, such as mental health issues and strained relationships. Emotional suppression can lead to anxiety, depression, and struggles with self-esteem. These mental health issues can further exacerbate feelings of anger and frustration, leaving a man stuck in a cycle that is difficult to break.  

Suppressing emotions can also strain relationships. When men express only anger, it can create a hostile environment making it not acceptable and comfortable for their partners. This can lead to a cycle of male rage, further damaging relationships. Anger can serve as a defense mechanism for men as it can be a way to avoid showing vulnerability or other emotions.

Therapy and Expanding Emotional Awareness

Therapy can be a powerful tool for men to expand their emotional awareness. It provides a safe space to explore and express a wider range of emotions. This can help men break free from the constraints of anger as the only acceptable emotion and help them understand what primary feelings are hiding under their anger.  

Therapy can also help increase emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is crucial for personal and professional relationships. It involves understanding, managing, and effectively expressing one’s own emotions. In couples therapy, we take a look at how both partners are expressing their emotions throughout our work together.

Strategies for a Wider Emotional Expression

Men can adopt various strategies to express a wider range of emotions. Mindfulness, self-reflection, and emotional education can help men understand and manage their feelings. Support groups and communities can also provide a safe space for men to explore their emotions. We can also work together in couples therapy to develop these strategies.

Redefining Acceptable Male Emotion

The societal norm of anger as the most acceptable male emotion needs redefining. Embracing a wider range of emotions can lead to healthier relationships, improved mental health, and overall life satisfaction for men. By challenging stereotypes linking masculinity with emotional stoicism and promoting emotional diversity, such as hurt, sadness, fear, or vulnerability, we can foster a more inclusive understanding of masculinity.

Encouraging emotional expression in boys can lead to healthier psychological outcomes. It can reduce aggression and other behavioral issues often associated with emotional suppression. Role models who display a range of emotions can positively influence boys’ emotional development. This shift can help boys to understand that it’s okay to express feelings traditionally seen as ‘unmanly’, such as sadness or fear.

If you need help understanding the feelings that make up anger, reach out. Building these skills can be beneficial both in individual and couples therapy.