Thanks for coming back for Part III and reading more about the surprising reasons for counseling for men! If you’re looking for how men’s counseling can help you with assertiveness, fatherhood, social anxiety, making friends as an adult, or in (or wanting to be in) a relationship please check out parts I and II.
If anger, your job, or just general irritation is your thing, keep on reading.
Although, as we are seeing, all of these are pretty intertwined. People talk about the mind/body connection and how taking care of yourself physically can help your emotional state. I’m talking about how many of the issues that men face, many of them seem to be just a part of your personality, but are all connected to how you connect with others and yourself.
- I’m an angry guy.
- I don’t really get along with others at work, ever.
- I’m a curmudgeon.
These may be ways you have of defining yourself. And that’s fine if you’re ok with it and if it’s not inhibiting your life, or getting in the way of your career, or love life.
I’ve often found that men are under a lot more pressure than they realize. When we start to undo some of this, we begin to see ourselves in a different, more relaxed, happier light.
So let’s take a look at some examples.
First off I’ve written a bunch about anger and you can find some more in depth posts here and here and here. What I want to state up front is that anger is not something we’re supposed to get rid of. All these “anger management” courses, they make me angry. We don’t have Sad Management or Happy Management. Why does “anger” get singled out as the one emotion that needs to get “managed?”
A violent, aggressive expression of anger can be damaging. It can be hurtful. Acting primarily on the anger impulse is a reason for many firings, for violent relationships, and for crime. Those behaviors need to be “managed”, absolutely.
When I’m working with someone whose anger seems to have led to concerns we do a few things. One is just learning to feel the anger before it’s at that explosive place. If you become more aware of your anger right at the start of it you can be more in control of your actions (i.e., when that first incident happens in the morning as opposed to the buildup of frustration throughout the day when you feel you just can’t hold it back anymore.) Rarely do people really go from 0 to 100—usually they’ve been simmering by a thousand little or medium sized cuts throughout the day or the week. That huge explosion is usually made up of all of that even if it seems to “come out of nowhere.”
Also, and here’s the dirty little secret of anger: much of the time it’s not really anger that’s “exploding.” Most of the time there is a more vulnerable feeling that the anger is covering up: insecurity, sadness, fear—it’s just that the anger is more accessible to many men. In counseling we can sort through that and figure out how you don’t have to be defined as the guy whose anger controls him.
8. Career Advancement
Stuck in a job you hate? Not able to advance? Feel trapped?
You’re not alone—in fact comic strips like Dilbert are popular because people have internalized the belief that they’re not supposed to have a positive work environment. It should suck. And we should all enjoy going to happy hour and complaining about how bad our boss is and how annoying everyone else is.
We know deep down that it doesn’t need to be this way, but what to do about it?
Well, first off, are you in the job you want to be? Did you choose this career path because it was someone else’s idea of how you should live your life? Was it chosen for the money when your heart was elsewhere? Or are there other personality issues that are stopping you from enjoying it or moving ahead as you’d like? Do you like how direct you are and that you’re a person who says what he means, but to many others, including your boss, you come off as confrontational and threatening? Do you have habits of being late or procrastinating which don’t actually affect the quality of your work, but definitely get in the way of getting you promoted? Do you continue to work for people who’ve been promoted according to the Peter Principle?
Engaging in counseling to better understand what’s happening can remove the blockage that is stopping you from moving ahead at your current workplace or into a new, more fulfilling, job. We talk about that elusive piece that isn’t so concrete. You may have read all of the right books, gone to seminars, downloaded free e-books from gurus or even hired a career counselor…but there was just something that wasn’t clicking for you. This is the piece that we examine and often can only be figured out in the context of a working counseling relationship. It’s elusive because this isn’t the way you normally go about solving a problem. It’s not so concrete which is why your job evaluations haven’t been helpful. No one’s been able to tell you definitively what needs to change: This is what counseling was made for.
9. Irritation/Permanently Pissed Off
This is another quality that people just say is a personality trait. It goes along with the “curmudgeon” or the guy who’s just permanently in a bad mood. What is it that keeps you there and do you have to stay there?
Well, firstly, do you want to?
In my experience, many people who are generally grouchy are really good at keeping people away. The danger of becoming less grouchy is that people might come back! You might have to then deal with other people’s idiosyncrasies and you might not want to.
If you like being the guy that most people leave alone, that’s fine, but if this is not a part of who you are (that you like), you can shift it. Seriously. This isn’t something imprinted on you at birth.
Plus, irritation, like anger, can hide a load of other stuff. We’re talking about all the vulnerable feelings. It may be more socially “acceptable” to be the pissed off guy instead of the depressed guy. And irritation, is a symptom of depression for many men. Now this doesn’t mean, let’s undo the irritation so you can just look sad all the time—no, that wouldn’t be helpful and you may prefer to feel (and appear) irritated instead! The idea is to get through all of that stuff so that your life is not dictated by your mood.
Being angry, frustrated, irritated all the time means that you’re limited. There aren’t many choices you can make for how your day goes because your mood will strongly dictate who you’re around or what you’re doing. If you want, you can still avoid some people, still decide to not go to that social event—but now you’re making the choice and not your annoyance. Counseling gives you choices.
Next week we’ll have number 10…
Until then, as always, if you want to talk more about these issues or anything else that needs clarity, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. Talk soon.
And if you’d like to read more about why counseling for men could be beneficial, please check out this link.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He practices counseling in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.