Harnessing Anger

Harnessing Anger

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Three or more team meetings, depending on team size (2-3 men per night)

WHY DO THIS? Anger is a core emotion. Learn how to use it instead of suppressing it.

WHAT SUPPORT IS NEEDED? A facilitator who can ‘read’ emotions well or is intuitive

WHO CAN HELP? Steve Fitzsimons, any man who has been through a similar anger process

WHAT IS THE TEAM’S ROLE? Requires physical support for teammates, may get very physical. One man must be designated a Safety. Be willing to take direction from a facilitator.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Many men grow up being taught to suppress our anger. We don’t get a chance to learn to hold anger as a valuable tool. We never learn to differentiate anger from rage. This process is designed to help a man release rage, get in touch with underlying anger, and realize anger can be a useful tool. It is not intended to be a one-time solution. It is intended to be a periodic tune-up to help a man get his life in balance.

Casual clothes (jeans and T-shirt) are recommended. Nice clothes from work are not. Hold the meeting in a space where men can shout out loud without raising concerns from neighbors. Works best with 8 or more men. Can be done with 7 men but does not work well with less. All men should take off watches, rings, anything that might cut or scratch during a struggle.

Safety – One man must be designated as safety with a role of being sure no lasting damage is done during the process. His job is to stay focused on the Man who is processing and prevent that Man from doing harm to his teammates.

The team leader starts by creating the ‘container’, the space to do deep masculine work. The team may already have a process for this or can use the suggestion at the end of this section. Once done, the leader invites one Man to step up and talk about his anger (use a question like “Who will be first?” Then let the Man select himself. Wait in silence until a Man steps out.) Let the Man talk about his anger and its source, then focus him on one issue, one conflict, or one behavior that has angered him. Probe to find out what is the source of the anger, what boundary has been violated? What value has been compromised? What fear has been engaged? You will know you have found it when you see the Man getting angry.

Select one of four processes to give the Man the outlet he needs for his anger or rage, or mix and match. (Trust your instincts). The point of these processes are to get the Man to release the rage and get in touch with actions he may need to take once he can see them clearly.

Option 1 – Single Pass Gauntlet

This option may be selected if the facilitator feels the Man needs a highly physical outlet for his rage.

Ask the Man to identify one other man who can be the focus for his anger (the focus man). The Man who is taking his turn stands on one side of the gauntlet, the focus man stands on the other side. The Man must break through the gauntlet to get to the focus man. The focus man makes comments the entire time (maybe loud or rude or button-pushing comments) to help the Man taking his turn work through all his rage while breaking through. The rest of the team forms the gauntlet by standing in two lines, facing each other in pairs, and linking arms exactly the same way as we do for the Trust Fall. 

For example, the Man taking his turn may have anger toward his father for giving him the message he is not good enough. Something about the focus man reminds this Man of his father. The focus man will make comments about the Man as he breaks through the gauntlet, such as, you’re too stupid to get good grades in school, you’re too lazy to ever make a good living, you spend all your time getting high and will never amount to anything, I’m ashamed of you, etc. He is trying to provoke the Man who is breaking through to anger or rage.

The primary job of the safety is to be sure the Man taking his turn does not throw a punch to break through, or does not use techniques that may harm the other men such as karate chopping, kicking, etc.

The facilitator quietly coaches the men forming the gauntlet whether to make it harder or easier for the Man to break through, depending on how tired the Man is getting. It is not important for the Man to get all the way through. It is important for the Man to struggle and make progress and release his rage. As the Man gets through each pair, the facilitator quietly coaches the separated pair how to participate. They may add their comments to the focus man’s, or do the opposite and support the Man breaking through.

Option 2 – Three Pass Gauntlet

This option might be selected by the facilitator when the Man breaking through needs to believe in himself, or needs to realize his opinion of himself is more important than his father’s (to use the same example cited above.)

Similar setup as Option 1. Pick a focus man, form the gauntlet in pairs as before, except the men forming the gauntlet stand shoulder to shoulder facing the Man and keep their arms at their sides. For the first pass the pairs of men press their shoulders together and the Man breaking through must push his way between each pair. For the second pass the Man breaking through has to talk his way through. No pushing or shoving allowed. He must verbally convince each man in the gauntlet that he deserves to get by. For the third pass the Man breaking through can only use eye contact and body language to convince the men in the gauntlet that he deserves to get through. The focus man stands on the far side of the gauntlet and makes similar loud or rude comments.

Physically, this option is much easier for the Man breaking through than Option 1. It is a much harder emotional or spiritual challenge.

Option 3 – Breakout

Physically, this option is intended to be a hard physical struggle for the Man in the center. It may be a chosen if the man in the center needs to be provoked by multiple voices, or if the Man breaking through is very strong and needs to struggle against the entire team instead of just two men at a time.

The gauntlet men form a tight circle around the Man taking his turn. The focus man stands outside the circle making comments. If it looks like the Man in the center is going to be able to break out too easily, the other men can shift to shore up a weak spot, or can hold the Man back by grabbing his arm or belt. The facilitator coaches the men forming the gauntlet how hard to make the breakout. The facilitator decides if the men forming the circle should make comments. Maybe all should make comments to fully provoke his rage or anger. The facilitator must make sure the Man in the center has the opportunity to fully experience his rage and release it during his breakout struggle and guide the men forming the circle how to make that happen.

Physically, this option is intended to be a hard physical struggle for the Man in the center. It may be a chosen if the man in the center needs to be provoked by multiple voices, or if the Man breaking through is very strong and needs to struggle against the entire team instead of just two men at a time.

Option 4 – Club and Target

Give the man a club and a target to beat with the club. In&Out recently did this process and used an aluminum baseball bat as the club and two old tires as the target. When I did this process with anther group the club was a badminton racket and the target was a stack of gym mats. Whatever is used, they must be strong enough for the Man taking his turn to whale on it with all his strength for as long as his strength endures.

It is important the Man with the club has work gloves and safety glasses on. The rest of the team forms a loose circle around the Man, far enough away that they will not be accidently hit with the club but close enough they can form an effective container and make comments so the Man with the club can easily hear them. Give the Man an option to select a focus man as before, but it is not necessary.

This is a good option to select if the Man taking his turn wants to do something that feels really lethal. I picked this method because I was angry with my mother for being a lazy narcissist and not being there for me when I needed her when I was little. There was a long-suppressed part of me that wanted to kill the bitch. It’s probably not the best option for a Man who has an issue with another man and is eventually going to need to have a face-to-face discussion with whoever made him angry. That Man may get better benefit from one of the first three options.

Closing Processing

When the gauntlet is done, the Man has broken through to the focus man or is clearly exhausted and has made all the progress he is going to make, the facilitator must focus the Man who just finished on feeling the refined anger in his body. Now that he has let go his rage, what is underneath it? If the Man used a focus man, the facilitator must ask the Man to tell his focus man what he did that hurt the Man and what he needs to do to make it right. The facilitator and team should keep the anger fueled if necessary, don’t let him get in his head right now.

It may be important for the Man to be able to clearly tell his focus man what he needs from him. He may have suppressed his need to say these words for his entire life, so give him the time and help to find the right words so the message will be heard. The focus man should not make this too easy. Once the Man makes a clear statement about his anger and his needs, the focus man should respond. The response may be a simple statement like. “I never knew, I’m so sorry”. Or maybe more, trust your gut. The facilitator may prompt the focus man to say more until the process feels complete.

To close, ask the Man what is going on in his body right now and what he is going to do when he gets in contact with his real focus man. Remind him of the 72 hour rule.


Suggestion for Creating the Container

Start by forming a circle, invite the men to look deeply at each other man, really see them. Notice more than usual. Are they alert or looking tired? Do they look engaged or doubtful? Etc. Ask the men to breathe in and breathe out a few times. Remind the men of the intimacy of the circle. Each time they breathe in they are inhaling what the other men just exhaled. Modern biology teaches that each exhale contains cells from within our bodies. Each exhale includes cells from the men in the circle. Modern physics teaches that the boundary between our skin and the adjacent air is not static. The electrons that make up our cells are constantly migrating, probably exchanging with the next man. The point is, we are in this together.

Call in the energies of the four directions. The East is the place of the rising sun, the place of beginnings, birth and creativity. The energy of the east is the fire to create something new, then show it to our community even when we know we may get ridiculed. It is the anger that feeds our drive to create something anyway and show it to the world. Invite the energy of the East to fill the circle.

The South is the place of heat and passion. The place of beaches and hot babes in bikinis and lust. The energy of the south is the anger that allows us to figure out what we want and go out a get it by any means available. Invite the energy of the South to fill the circle.

The West is the place of the setting sun, the place of endings and death and fear. The energy of the West lets us look at Death and tell it to fuck off because we still have things we need to do. The anger to turn our backs on Death and do what has to be done. Invite the energy of the West to join the circle.

The North is the place of darkest winter, the place where our senses fail us and we can only rely on our own determination. The North is also the place of brightest summer, where anything is possible if we can only conceive it. The anger in the North allows us to dream our dreams and pursue them, even while staring in terror at the never-ending Void. Invite the energy of the North to fill the circle.

When the process is done for the night, do not forget to thank the energies of each direction for their support and then release them.

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John Butler

Momentum is a local, not-for-profit men’s community.

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