On March 19th I’ll be speaking about anger and mental health at the Art & Mindfulness Event for Mental Health at SFU, hosted by Moving Forward Family Services. My speech is titled “Anger and Your Mental Health” and part of my goal is to reach out and connect with men particularly in ethnic communities. I’d like to break the stereotypes and barriers that ethnic men don’t talk about mental health. Needless to say, I’m proud to share that I am an Asian male openly talking about my struggles with depression, anger and anxiety.
Sometimes I get asked, “Jason, aren’t you afraid of the negative perception people might generate after you share your stories about how angry you were in the past?”
The short answer is, no.
My life has been plagued with anger from childhood watching my dad erupt into anger unexpectedly to my own outbursts as an adult whether towards my son, my exes or even to friends. At the time, it was “normal” for me to use anger as a tool for conflict resolution. When I realized that this internalized anger was a subconscious reaction to past trauma, I felt the desire to address this. Part of the recovery process includes taking a deep dive into my own life, my behaviors and being accountable for it.
This includes sharing my stories about my anger without backing it up with the “because she made me angry” script.
Thus any fear that I have in sharing my stories about my anger, are merely disguised feelings of shame. Shame is one of the most debilitating feelings we can hang onto and to stand tall and openly talk about our trauma or about our mistakes, shame can no longer exist. Whenever I think about this, it motivates me even more to talk about my stories.
Anger is something we don’t talk about openly as much as we should. Stories of anger aren’t often dignified because anger usually implies that we hurt someone else in the process. This feeling of shame, guilt and embarrassment makes us not want to talk about it, particularly in men. Instead we use that shame and channel it outward with angry outbursts, blame and criticism. We deflect our mistakes to someone else and shift the focus on them rather than ourselves.
So I’m Angry…Now What?
I’ll talk about this more in my upcoming presentation, but the road to recovery begins with acknowledgment. We also need to begin asking questions about our own lives and challenge whether they were the healthiest ways of dealing with issues. When we ask these types of questions, we gain a greater understanding or get the bigger picture about why things happen they way they do which eventually leads us to a place of understanding. The challenges I’ve had with my anger has a backstory which I share in detail in my book, Living with the Dragon – healing 15 000 days of abuse and shame. But to sit back and remain stuck in a place of blame only gives rise to resentment and more anger.
The backstory of anger often times traces back to a life of depression and anxiety. I had a friend once who told me that her “sadness fuels her anger” which makes perfect sense. Thus, finding purpose and meaning can guide us towards a greater good beyond ourselves and often times is the big underlying question for those living with depression. Read about: Finding Purpose and Depression.
And also remember that anger is a secondary emotion which means there’s a lot of underlying feelings that we’re going through before we “explode” into anger.
I know the more we learn about our negative behaviors and take action on changing them, we are doing a greater good for future generations. We become healthier role models to them on how they can manage themselves and with their future families. Regrettably, we see far too many tragedies taking place around the world as a result of mismanaged emotions. Most recently with the Florida shooting and also back in October in Las Vegas (Read: Vegas Shooting & How men can be heroes dealing with their mental health). We have a responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors to course correct our lives when we hurt others.