Exploring Dimensions of Anger in Teen Boys
Anger is a universal emotion, yet it can be experienced in so many different ways—from annoyance to frustration to outrage, to name a few. As a secondary emotion, anger is an umbrella term for a number of underlying issues that are often more easily summarized as anger. While girls are more likely to express feelings of sadness, boys are more inclined to vocalize feelings of anger, even if it is masking deeper sadness or insecurity. Boys have been socialized to believe that it is socially acceptable for them to express anger, but unacceptable to express other emotions perceived as a sign of weakness. Differentiating between the dimensions of anger is essential for teen boys struggling to accurately process their emotions.
Defining Anger in Teen Boys
Psychologist Ephrem Fernandez defines anger as “a conflicting emotion related to aggressive behavior and limited self-awareness” and outlines its features along six dimensions:
- The direction of anger (internal vs external)
- The anger reaction (retaliatory vs resistant)
- The mode of anger (physical vs verbal)
- Anger impulsivity (controlled vs uncontrolled)
- Objective of anger (restorative vs punitive)
Fernandez argues that the type of anger we use to express our feelings varies depending on our mood and circumstances and is neither good nor bad. While either side of each dimension has a different outcome, there is no right way to express anger, other than naming it. Anger management begins with identifying that you are feeling angry, possibly based on physical sensations, and describing potential triggers before considering the impact it may have or how to respond differently.
Common types of anger include:
- Behavioral Anger — This type of anger is often expressed through physical aggression, either towards someone or by breaking or throwing things. It is often unpredictable and impulsive and can be destructive in relationships. This is similar to volatile anger and explosiveness related to both small and bigger situations.
The best way to manage this type of anger is to take a step back and remove yourself from a situation if possible to reflect on triggers and constructive responses. By identifying physical signs of this type of anger, you can use relaxation techniques to stop it from escalating into an outburst.
- Chronic Anger — Chronic anger isn’t as situational, but refers to a general resentment towards other people and anger towards oneself. It can lead to a negative worldview and hopelessness.
By looking at underlying causes and beliefs related to this chronic anger, you can begin to challenge these beliefs and replace them with a more forgiving and realistic perspective.
- Shameful Anger — Shameful anger is associated with self-judgment. If you’ve been feeling hopeless, worthless, or humiliated, you may internalize this through negative self-talk or self-destructive behaviors like substance use or self harm. This can lead to lashing out at others to hide feelings of low self-worth.
Like with chronic anger, reframing self-defeating thoughts can help you rebuild your self-esteem. Mindfulness can encourage you stay in the present moment rather than turning to self-destructive behaviors.
- Overwhelmed Anger — This type of anger is similar to behavioral anger in that it feels out of your control, but it is internalized rather than externalized. It usually occurs alongside hopelessness and frustration when you’ve taken on too much responsibility or been faced with unexpected life events that have affected your ability to cope with stress.
It’s important to reach out when you’re feeling overwhelmed and to realize that you don’t have to manage it on your own. By consulting other resources or sounding boards and reducing levels of stress, you can regain a sense of control of your emotions.
- Assertive Anger — Not all anger stems from negative emotions. Assertive anger is a healthy way of expressing feelings of frustration as a catalyst for positive change. This type of anger can be used to overcome fear, address injustice, and achieve your desired outcomes in life.Learning assertive communication and becoming more aware of your emotions helps cultivate this skill.
Equinox RTC Can Help
Equinox RTC is a residential treatment center for teen boys, ages 14 – 18. Our students struggle with anger, depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. Many of the boys we work with have difficulty managing their anger and differentiating between emotions. We strive to help students develop healthy habits and lead themselves back onto a path of success through meaningful therapy and a nurturing environment. We teach students how replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with constructive ways of dealing with emotions through adventure activities, teamwork, and community service. At Equinox, teenagers work towards building accountability, respect, and a solution-oriented approach to solving their challenges.
For more information on anger management in teen boys, call 877-279-8925. We can help your family today!