How can we better express anger?

After watching True Detective Season 2, I can’t help but think about a defining moment for one of the main characters, Ray Velcoro.

If you watch episode 1, I’m not spoiling anything, but as the audience we find out that Ray’s partner had been raped, and Ray goes out to his underworld connections to find out who had done it.

From the rest of the episode, we see the explosive violence Ray is capable of.

This type of portrayal isn’t a reach for a lot of men, who have likely seen this explosive anger from themselves (and if not themselves, from other men). Certainly, pop culture has shown us the problematic trope of the traumatized man whose rage explodes through verbal or physical violence at the drop of the hat.

It’s good entertainment, because it creates tension and fear. It’s problematic for real life, as most men never learn how to express anger otherwise.

When I started writing this, I wondered, “How DO you express anger or rage safely?” I’m not the Hulk fighting Thanos – I’m just upset that I dropped a bowl of soup, or I rolled poorly in skeeball league night.

And then I realized – it’s two things.

1. Learn the difference between your other emotions and anger.

Are you actually angry, or are you experiencing shame? Or frustration? Or fear? Disappointment? Anxiety? Nervousness? Embarrassment? Often what feels like anger or rage is being upset at another emotion that’s really underplaying it all.

If you’re performing poorly in a competition, you’re probably disappointed at yourself. You might be embarrassed you did so poorly in front of your friends or partner. You might be upset that you didn’t win, or that you weren’t able to overcome the obstacle.

Think about the words you’re saying to yourself, and stop and think if you’re really angry, or if angry is just the go-to response for what you’re feeling.

2. Try to express it with words, and without shouting.

I still have trouble with this.

I’ve lived my whole life where men shout angrily at sports competitions. Where people scream at televisions when their team makes a bad play.

But screaming never solves anything. It traumatizes those around us. Even worse, it normalizes screaming as an acceptable behavior.

Talking it out forces you to take a breath, and realize that throwing a chair or punching a wall isn’t helping anyone. Screaming at people doesn’t motivate them, it just makes them fear you, which doesn’t bring out the best in anyone (think of all the movie villain henchmen who turn on their bosses once the boss makes a slipup – maybe Palpatine wouldn’t have been thrown into a reactor core if he wasn’t such a shithead to Vader).

Talking it out isn’t easy, as it feels like it’s the more awkward option than screaming in frustration. But it’s the choice we need to start making.

We also need to change the culture to support this. So be a friend and if someone is trying to vent their emotions in a healthier way, lend ’em an ear and give them the support they need.

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