Do you typically get angry and rarely express your more vulnerable emotions such as sadness, fear, or anxiety?
How can you tell whether you are using anger as a defense mechanism against the expression of your more vulnerable emotions?
Typically men are challenged in expressing their more vulnerable emotions, such as admitting to being sad, or owning up to having moments of fear and anxiety…
Men often don’t grow up having a lot of male models possessing those qualities of vulnerability. The most prevalent form of male model is the man who can fix everything, sees value in succeeding, and is able to overcome and avoid vulnerability.
Many men I have had in my sessions are absolutely dumbfounded when I ask them such questions as:
“Tell me about your sadness?”
“Where do you feel fear inside your body?”
They initially have no idea how to respond to them because nobody has ever asked them questions like this before.
So many men tend to rely on their anger to get them through. If the man experiences fear or sadness he is more likely to thrust forward the part of him that will deny the existence of these emotions, and anger will be right behind the denial part to back it up.
If these feelings and emotions persist, anger will bark, “Don’t get too close!!!”
There is no outright formula to determine whether an emotional response is a defense coping mechanism or not. It is part of the emotional cat-and-mouse game between authentic awareness and defense deception.
The two best tools in the self-growth tool box in determining this difference is healthy suspicion and time.
Consider applying these tools to yourself in your everyday interactions:
- Become healthfully suspicious towards yourself.
- Over time notice if you direct anger to keep the more ‘vulnerable’ emotions at bay
- Over time observe yourself to see if you cry or become angry rather than admit, for example, to your moments of fear or anxiety.
Then if you notice yourself doing any of these, become really honest. Name your healthy suspicion to yourself:
“I am wondering if my anger is a defense and I am really feeling something else.”
“I wonder if my sadness is distracting me away from another feeling.”
Then ask yourself:
“What am I really feeling now?
What is beneath the anger or sadness?”
This way the actual emotion or feeling is given the opportunity for expression, representation, and maybe even release.
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