That’s My Secret, Captain: I’m Always Angry (Part 1 of 2)
Emotions are powerful tools in the human experience of life. But we must be able to control them
By Quentin Steen, Representative
We are complex beings. For the most part, the complexities I’m referring to are those found within the physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual realms of what makes us human.
It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. There are others, but I’ll stick to these for the purpose of this article.
The better we understand these complexities, the better we know ourselves. Of interest to me—one of personal growth in my mental health journey—is the emotional realm. This is the realm in which my feelings find their residency.
There was a time in my not-so-distant past that the only feeling I thought I had was anger. This, of course, is not true for any of us. It wasn’t that I didn’t experience other feelings; rather, anger was the emotion that I could most easily identify with.
I remember watching Marvel’s The Avengers movie with my wife, Tracy, when I was reminded of the part I speak of. The movie’s premise is Loki, Thor’s brother, has allied with a race of aliens who plan to take over the earth.
Earth’s mightiest superheroes, which include Iron Man and Captain America, must team up to prevent this from happening. One of those is Doctor Bruce Banner, the scientist who becomes the infamous Hulk (my favourite character) when angered.
Toward the end of the movie, the Avengers are facing off with the alien race set on earth’s destruction, and Iron Man has managed to lead a giant monster toward the rest of the heroes. In fine form, Bruce Banner shows up a little late to the party. Captain America suggests to Bruce Banner that he needs to get angry immediately to take the monster down.
“Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry,” says Captain America.
Bruce Banner calmly turns to him, and before he transforms into the Hulk to take the beast down, he says, “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.”
This is the point at which my wife turned to me, and in her unique former therapist way, and said, “Hmm, that sounds familiar? Sounds like someone we may know.”
Emotions are powerful tools in the human experience of life. Being angry can help motivate people to do things immediately. It can help you get results.
But, since anger is an emotion, and emotions are tools, we must be able to control it. The problem is we usually let our emotions control us.
This is the Bruce Banner story and my concern for years, until one fateful day in one of my therapy sessions, my therapist asked, “Quentin, what you are feeling right now.”
I quickly responded, “I’m angry.”
In Goodwill Hunting fashion, he continued, “What else do you feel.”
I had nothing.
We spent the rest of the session discussing feelings. Over the next 30 minutes, it became apparent to me that it was a topic I knew very little about.
The specific situation we were exploring at the time will stay with me for now. The point I will never forget—and the beginning of a self-revelation that has continued to be part of my personal work to this day—was when he explained that perhaps focussing our therapy on my anger issues solely was misplaced. That maybe the anger I felt was a secondary feeling to a primary emotion driving the anger.
Suffice it to say, he was 100 percent right. It took me a while to realize that the situation we were exploring left me feeling hurt. Because I’m uncomfortable with feeling hurt, I run to what I know best—my emotionally green state of anger.
The truth was I didn’t know what to do with the hurt. Instead, I would rather smash it than sit with it.
When challenged in the past, I would justify my anger behaviours or outbursts as a natural response to my inherent aggressive nature as a man. After all, it’s not my fault; it’s a guy thing, right?
Wrong. The truth is I was not emotionally intelligent enough to know better or to explore why I act the way I do.
He wrapped up the session by passing me a feelings chart. It was part of my homework for our next session. If you’ve sat on similar “couches,” you might know what I’m referring too.
In next month’s Mental Health Moment, we’ll unpack part two of this article—what I learned and continue to learn about my emotions that might help you, especially during these times.
Quentin Steen is a certified mental health first aid instructor for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!
4 Mental Health Resources to Help You During the Pandemic
- If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, CLAC has a number of resources and interactive tools available to help you at My Health and Wellness.
- Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
- WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.