Why are Men So Angry? A response from Anger Alternatives

A recent article by Jessica Valenti in The Guardian put forth some ideas on why Men are so angry. What follows is the response from Jerry Medol, Founder of Anger Alternatives. It’s worth reading her article to fully understand this insightful response.

“Why do Men get Angry?” A Response

Like so much of what is written about anger, and men’s anger in particular, in Ms. Valenti’s article she strings together an assortment of true and unfortunate incidents and projects them into conclusions that in my opinion, takes her to paranoid behavior and victim mode.

There is no way to justify the victimization and losses that happen in the name of anger, but still let’s look at some real linkages and maybe with some understanding we can de-mystify some of  the fears expressed in this article.

From my years of experience, the cited Harvard researcher Ronald Kessler’s, description of explosive anger – defined as a response “grossly out of proportion to the situation” , is over simplistic. First of all explosive anger is not anger it is rage. And rage is not a response, it’s a reaction. The word anger covers a lot of territory from irritated to enraged, but rage itself: losing control of thoughts and feelings, is not anger.  It is rage

The other citation of Jackson Katz, author of The Macho Paradoxstates that for men, “anger is much less treacherous emotional terrain than other emotions –and much more socially acceptable.” Mr. Katz is correct as far as he goes, but again, this is also overly simplified. Men and these days women too, are taught and encouraged that anger and violence are acceptable, and most often they are not taught alternatives. The society tells us to hit. Learning to not hit takes work.

The reason this distinction is important is because anger is healthy and manageable. And when anger is managed appropriately rage and violence can be pre-empted. Handling anger appropriately results in credibility and power and handling anger inappropriately can lead to impulsive regretful behavior with sometimes disastrous results.

I suggest the author look a little closer at the subject she is writing about.

In this world most men and women deserve credit for how they manage and adjust to various anger situations. Change is constant in all of our lives and every change requires adjustments. How we handle those adjustments is everything.

Anger isn’t a problem. Anger is a natural and normal feeling that comes from not wanting to be hurt. How we handle anger is the question, and too often isolated, shamed and hurt people handle their anger poorly. That’s a problem.

Anger is not violence. Violence is a behavior. And too often anger that is not managed well gets out of control and results in violence.  Every radical and unacceptable incident of rage was preceded by lesser levels of mismanaged behavior that was probably received with shame and criticism instead of care and guidance and accountability.

Feelings are real and in this world many of us have experiences of being rejected, or disenfranchised. Most of us have been hurt in many different ways. In our lives we might feel, and in truth be, uncared about. The fact is that any significant anger issue will very likely be accompanied by a lot of other stressors. “Stuff” doesn’t usually happen one thing at a time, and as you add stressors, the effect and intensity multiplies several fold.

The incidents In Ms. Valenti’s article are about mismanaged anger on different scales and she is correct when she says that when anger is abused it creates consequences to us and to others. But the question needs to not be “Why do Some Men get Angry”, rather it would be better to address “How do we make it fashionable and socially acceptable to take responsibility for our anger related feelings and behavior?”

Jerry Medol. Director

Anger Alternatives <anger.org>



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