Explosive emotions can be disastrous to men’s personal and professional relationships and experts agree that the most troublesome and potentially dangerous emotions for men are anger, hostility and jealousy.
In theory, for men, anger seems a good idea. As a kid your dad would probably say, “Get mad with it” if you were struggling to loosen a bolt on your bike. Childhood anger is labelled as a tantrum and “letting off steam” in adult life.
It is glorified in popular culture. Some of the most memorable scenes in movies revolve around anger; take Dr Bruce Banner before he changes into the comic strip character the Hulk. He says, “Don’t make me angry, you won’t like it if you make me angry”, but the audience wants him to get angry.
Some sociologists believe the emotion is not negative per se, depending on the manner and degree they are expressed. When men demonstrate these so-called negative emotions appropriately, and analyze them properly they can actually improve their relationships, their careers and wellbeing. In other words channelling this anger into something positive.
However some psychologists see them more as ‘toxic emotions’. Very few men can channel these emotions, and when they are expressed inappropriately these ‘explosive’ emotions can even be physically damaging.
The jealous man who obsesses about what other’s have, finds it difficult to relax, and stress is his constant companion. When a man is constantly angry or hostile the body is basically in a forever fight or flight mode, which can wreak havoc on the entire body.
According to a study carried out way back in 1992, the American Journal of Cardiology reported that the heart function is actually impaired by anger. When heart patients described past incidents that still infuriated them the pumping efficiency of their hearts temporarily declined. In addition a person who is angry all the time is prone to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, backache and headaches.
In early man anger was a way of dealing with his enemies. A society without appropriate anger would mean no resistance against attack or injustice. But today anger has nothing to do with life and death but more to do with trivial things such as being stuck in a traffic jam or an incompetent waiter in a restaurant.
The effects of anger are not just physiological but can be the difference between a job promotion, being fired, gaining a reputation as an office hothead and the ruin of an entire relationship.
Men particularly are seen as the explosive gender and this should not come as any great surprise. Society tolerates anger in boys much more so that in girls. As young boys they are bought up to control their emotions. They are taught not to cry or show sadness but to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’. As they get older they are encouraged to get involved in competitive sport were anger is acceptable and even a good thing. Then there is the biological component, the influx of male hormones in puberty that actually surge aggression leading to an expression of anger. That is why young teenage boys become a nightmare for many parents. However, when that anger is expressed in adult men its more likely to result in violent behaviour. But again society is more likely to accept this and give men permission to be angry and violent as violence is seen as a masculine trait and channelled aggression is vital in such establishments as the armed forces.
Anger in men is often accompanied by hostility (angers first cousin) and although the two emotions are exhibited simultaneously, experts say there is a difference. Anger is often a reaction to a specific incident, hostility is pervasive, the ‘feeling’ that people are out to get you. Anger often has a rational reason for the emotion where as hostility can appear to have no reason. Hostility is connected to cynicism. You don’t trust people, life stinks and to top it off, you don’t expect it to get any better.
Although women are stereotyped as the jealous gender men actually express this more powerfully than women, however it is more likely to manifest itself as anger or hostility.
Men don’t like to admit they are feeling jealous about something or someone. They will bottle it up until it either explodes in anger or they show increasingly hostile behaviour. Jealously is an integral part of cynicism and a cynical person basically doesn’t trust other people and that is what jealousy is all about – the believe that other people can’t be trusted.
The pattern that emerges is that all these emotions are interlinked, one often leads into another and without addressing them at source they can result in destructive actions.
Therefore men have to take a step back and consider what are their underlying feelings. What’s going on is usually more than simple anger, hostility or jealousy. When it comes to anger men often find themselves out of control of a situation and of the actual emotion itself. Jealousy seems to arise from a lack of self-confidence and hostility may have at its root helplessness, lack of control or cynicism.
It is possible to do a few simple things to change the outcome. Instead of getting angry with the sales girl who keeps ignoring you, you become assertive. Don’t scream or shout but keep your head and calmly, but strongly state you position by saying something like “I need to pay for this now. If you can’t do it, Ill go to the manager” Exercise is another great way of physically releasing emotional stress. It often results in you being able to control the anger and see things more rationally. It can sometimes help to visualize the potential physical damage cause by negative emotions. Think what’s going on inside your body while you are experiencing all this anger. At the end of the day you are the one that is most likely being damaged the most.
However if the violent emotions cannot be controlled then professional help should be sort. Leaving this kind of behaviour unchecked is dangerous for yourself and others.
So before you go off at the deep end try to look at the whole picture. You may discover that there is really no one to get angry at. It might be just bad luck or circumstances you can do nothing about.
Treating these so called toxic emotions as a warning sign, not an excuse to become violent or walk out on a relationship or job, can mean the difference between keeping a job and losing it, enjoying an intimate relationship and watching it disintegrate – perhaps even between being healthy and landing up in hospital.