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Section 11
Men's Anger Management

Question 11| Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed "the timeout technique" and "the power technique" to help depressed male clients and their significant others deal with power struggles. As you know, anger and masculine depression are strongly linked.

One way of defining depression is to call it anger turned inward. While depression and anger might seem as though they are opposites, the underlying emotions are often the same. People who are angry feel intense, loud, powerful while people who are experiencing depression come across as though they have given up the fight. However, the nagging feelings beneath the surface are painful emotions.

In this section, we’ll discuss two techniques for controlling anger.

With your next male client would it be advantageous to consider to what level his anger becomes distorted? I found it helpful to explain to Michael, a 31 year old computer programmer that his anger is often accompanied by fear and pain. However Michael, like many other male clients was only aware of his anger because he had dissociated from it. Michael was unaware of most other feelings. Thus, his anger turned to rage as he felt his masculinity was threatened. Combined with the perception that women are subservient to men, Michael's distorted anger had the potential to lead to violence against women.

Domestic Violence Statistics
Regarding Michael's potential for violence against women, I found it helpful to inform Michael of the following statistics regarding domestic violence. As I read this four sets of statistics, ask yourself if any might be beneficial in your next session with your Michael.
-- 1. One quarter of all women’s emergency hospital visits, suicides, and emergency psychiatric service requests are linked to domestic violence.
-- 2. Domestic violence kills or injures more women than breast cancer and accidents combined.
-- 3. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by their partners or ex-partners.
-- 4. An American woman is abused by her partner about once every 15 seconds.

I like to use these statistics with my male clients who are suffering from depression, to let them know that other males are struggling with abuse issues as well.

2 Techniques for Controlling Anger
Two techniques you can use to help your male client who is suffering from depression and possible sicide become less defensive and thus control his anger are “Claiming Strengths” technique and the “4 W's and an H Question technique.”

Technique # 1: “Claiming Strengths”
I used the “Claiming Strengths” technique with Michael. In our first session, Michael told me he was often angry at work and felt that comments his coworkers made were aimed to hurt him. Michael had become constantly defensive. The first step Michael needed to take was to learn how to “get off the defensive.”

For the "Claiming Strengths" technique I gave him a sheet of paper and told him "you have three minutes to list ten strengths and then list five areas in which you could improve." At the end of three minutes, Michael had stopped listing strengths after three and had moved on to write down areas in which he could improve. I asked Michael "why did you switch to weaknesses when you weren't finished with strengths?" He said, "I felt uncomfortable listing good things about myself. I can’t think of any really good strengths anyway.”

As you can readily see, Michael was using a filter to diminish his strengths and focus on his weaknesses. I then gave him a list of possible strengths and asked him to underline the ones that applied to him. He was able to underline quite a few. When I asked him to reflect on his choices, he said, “Damn, I guess I didn’t know I had this many strengths.” We spent the rest of the session discussing in more detail specific examples of times when he exhibited these strengths.

♦ Technique # 2: Four W's and an H
Now that we’ve examined the “Claiming Strengths” exercise, let’s look at the “4 W's and an H Question technique.” In my next session with Michael, I explained to him "another step to loosening your defensiveness is to become more aware of your internal dialogue regarding judgments toward himself." This exercise helped Michael identify his feelings as facts that exist and that were part of his life. Would this technique be beneficial to a depressed male client you are currently treating…to look at feelings as a fact of existence

I asked Michael to think of a time when he had recently been angry. He said, “Okay, I’m picturing this meeting I had last week, where something had gone wrong with a computer I was working on, and all the guys in the office started joking about how I always had problems and how I was really dumb and spacey.” I ask Michael to ask himself some questions about his feelings. I use the what, who, when, where and how questions from, Wells' Keeping Your Cool Under Fire. As I list Wells' questions, think which of these questions you could ask your male clients and what questions you could add of your own.

-- The“what” questions are as follows:
-- 1. What am I feeling or experiencing right now?
-- 2. What feels threatening in this situation?
-- 3. What is the worst that might happen and what do I feel about that?
-- 4. What events were occurring before my feelings changed?
-- 5. What events changed about the same time that my feelings changed?
-- 6. What did my body tell me before and after the change?
-- 7. What is missing?
-- 8. What belongs in this situation but isn’t here?
-- 9. What hunches or intuitions do I have right now?

Since Michael was a computer programmer tended to be extremely analylitical, I told him to resist judging his answers for validity, accuracy, or rationality. I stated, "The important thing is to simply explore your feelings so you can better understand them."

You might consider replaying the preceding list of what questions and evaluate if you have a client with whom they may be appropriate.

-- Next, I asked Michael to ask himself some “who” questions, such as these:
-- 1. Who are my allies? Who are my competitors?
-- 2. Who would gain what if the worst happened to me?
-- 3. Whose interests might be advanced by keeping me in the dark?
-- 4. Whom can I trust with what?
-- 5. Who else might be involved? What could they gain?

-- Next, I asked Michael some “when” and “where” questions:
-- 1. When did I first feel any change?
-- 2. When did I first feel a threat?
-- 3. When have I had this feeling before? What is the similarity?
-- 4. Where was I when I felt this way before? Is there a relationship between this setting and my feelings?
-- 5. Where are my feelings picking up a threat, if any?

After Michael had answered these questions, I told him that we could turn to “the what, who, when, and where questions” into a “how” questions to facilitate a future plan. For example, since Michael could not control the ridiculing behavior of others, I ask him "how would you like to react to this in the future? How might you go about accomplishing that goal? How do you design the steps from here to reach your ideal outcome?" Michael used these how questions to look for cause-and-effect relationships. More specifically, he was able to work backwards from effects to causes.

Michael and I talked about the importance of attitude in changing behavior. Just by altering the way he viewed himself, he was able to see how his negative attitudes were causing his anger to worsen; and perhaps acted as a catalyst to draw the ridicule of fellow employees. Think of your Michael who is suffering from depression and is possibly suicidal. Would asking him the “what, who, when, where, why, and how” questions help him to better understand and label the feelings behind his anger?

In addition to the "4 W's and an H questions" I found a good companion technique, to link anger and depression, to be the ABC's technique.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bailey, C. A., Galicia, B. E., Salinas, K. Z., Briones, M., Hugo, S., Hunter, K., & Venta, A. C. (2020). Racial/ethnic and gender disparities in anger management therapy as a probation condition. Law and Human Behavior, 44(1), 88–96.

Charak, R., Eshelman, L. R., & Messman-Moore, T. L. (2019). Latent classes of childhood maltreatment, adult sexual assault, and revictimization in men: Differences in masculinity, anger, and substance use. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 20(4), 503–514.

Dahl, J., Vescio, T., & Weaver, K. (2015). How threats to masculinity sequentially cause public discomfort, anger, and ideological dominance over women. Social Psychology, 46(4), 242–254. 

Genuchi, M. C., & Valdez, J. N. (2015). The role of anger as a component of a masculine variation of depression. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(2), 149–159.

McDermott, R. C., Schwartz, J. P., & Trevathan-Minnis, M. (2012). Predicting men's anger management: Relationships with gender role journey and entitlement. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 13(1), 49–64. 

Neilson, E. C., Smith, L., Davis, K. C., & George, W. H. (2021). Acute alcohol intoxication, state anger, and sexual assault perpetration: The role of state emotion regulation. Psychology of Violence.

What are two techniques to help your client become less defensive and lower his anger?
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