By Dan Griffin
One of the most helpful tools I have encountered in my recovery – and in my life – is the idea of the anger funnel. Put simply the anger funnel says that all of the feelings I experience in life go into a funnel and come out as some form of anger primarily because of how I have been raised as a man. Being told very early that it was not okay to cry and that other more vulnerable feelings were weak, I, like many other boys, learned very early that feelings were not okay. Other than anger. Nobody made fun of me for anger.
Many people refer to anger as a secondary emotion meaning that there is another emotion underneath it that is getting overpowered by the anger. For some, anger is so deeply programmed that they do not even have awareness of the other feeling that is underneath the anger. It just feels like the anger is all there is. But that is rarely the case.
As someone who struggled deeply with anger for most of his life I didn’t understand how it was a block for a more authentic life. I didn’t understand how it was blocking me from experiencing life in all of its wonderful forms and experiences. Like many men I have known who have struggled with anger I came by it honestly growing up in an angry home. My father was a very angry man – or so I thought. At least by what I saw, he certainly seemed angry to me. It is weird to think of my father as afraid, having hurt feelings, or having a trauma response because that is not something he ever admitted. But I know now that is more likely to have been the case but, like so many young boys, he had those feelings taken away from him and was taught that anger was the only thing that was okay. It was a different generation. A different time.
I learned quickly as a boy from my father but also on the schoolyard that all of the feelings that I had were to be avoided. They were weak. They were shameful. They were not manly. They would get you laughed at. Beat up.
So, the secret to anger is that it is really smoke and mirrors a lot of the time. Now to the person experiencing it may not feel that way and it certainly can be very destructive. But when it comes to being able to solve the anger problem the answer lies with what is underneath. It is not anger management as much as it is emotional regulation. You don’t manage your anger as much as you lean into the other feelings, the more vulnerable feelings.
Today, while much of our world’s population is at home and feeling stressed with few outlets it should be no surprise that anger is a very common problem in homes all across America. People do not know how to deal with the stress they are feeling. Some are not even aware of the stress that is weighing them down, they just go from day to day avoiding how they are feeling. And then they blow up – at their kids, their dogs, coworkers, or even themselves.
When you’re feeling angry one of the best questions you can ask yourself is: “What else might I be feeling at this time?” Fear? Hurt? Sadness or grief? Take a deep breath – or two. Look within. But you can even reason it out. Often it is fear. Fear of losing something you already have or not getting something that you want. Whatever the feeling may be if you take a long deep breath you are more likely to get to what is going on. You are able to respond to the situation instead of reacting. Sometimes, the feeling is anger and it is good to feel it but almost always there is something else underneath it. Give yourself the gift of a full repertoire of feelings and a more authentic life that comes with it.
Dan Griffin, M.A., is an internationally recognized author, thought leader, and expert on men’s relationships and masculinity. Dan’s work and life is dedicated to exploring and redefining what it means to be a man in the 21st century. Dan is dedicated to helping men be better men by understanding the impact of the Man Rules® on their lives and finding the success in their personal lives they are striving for in their professional lives.
Griffin’s book, A Man’s Way through Relationships, is the first book written specifically to help men create healthy relationships while navigating the challenges of the “Man Rules,” those ideas men internalize at very young ages about how to be real boys and men. Dan was honored to serve as a Senior Fellow at the world-renowned leader for treating addiction and trauma, The Meadows, from 2015 through 2017.
Griffin’s professional background includes over two decades in the mental health and addictions field. He is also the author of A Man’s Way through the Twelve Steps, the first trauma-informed book to take a holistic look at men’s sobriety. He co-authored Helping Men Recover, the first comprehensive gender-responsive and trauma-informed curriculum for addiction and mental health professionals.
Griffin earned a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Kansas where his graduate work was the first qualitative study centered on the social construction of masculinity in the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dan grew up in the DC area and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Nancy, and his daughter, Grace, and has been in long-term recovery from addiction since he graduated college in May of 1994.