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On the last track, we discussed "the timeout technique" and "the power technique" to help depressed male clients and their significant others deal with power struggles. As you know, anger and masculine depression are strongly linked.
One way of defining depression is to call it anger turned inward. While depression and anger might seem as though they are opposites, the underlying emotions are often the same. People who are angry feel intense, loud, powerful while people who are experiencing depression come across as though they have given up the fight. However, the nagging feelings beneath the surface are painful emotions.
In this section, we’ll discuss two techniques for controlling anger.
With your next male client would it be advantageous to consider to what level his anger becomes distorted? I found it helpful to explain to Michael, a 31 year old computer programmer that his anger is often accompanied by fear and pain. However Michael, like many other male clients was only aware of his anger because he had dissociated from it. Michael was unaware of most other feelings. Thus, his anger turned to rage as he felt his masculinity was threatened. Combined with the perception that women are subservient to men, Michael's distorted anger had the potential to lead to violence against women.
Domestic Violence Statistics
I like to use these statistics with my male clients who are suffering from depression, to let them know that other males are struggling with abuse issues as well.
2 Techniques for Controlling Anger
Technique # 1: “Claiming Strengths”
For the "Claiming Strengths" technique I gave him a sheet of paper and told him "you have three minutes to list ten strengths and then list five areas in which you could improve." At the end of three minutes, Michael had stopped listing strengths after three and had moved on to write down areas in which he could improve. I asked Michael "why did you switch to weaknesses when you weren't finished with strengths?" He said, "I felt uncomfortable listing good things about myself. I can’t think of any really good strengths anyway.”
As you can readily see, Michael was using a filter to diminish his strengths and focus on his weaknesses. I then gave him a list of possible strengths and asked him to underline the ones that applied to him. He was able to underline quite a few. When I asked him to reflect on his choices, he said, “Damn, I guess I didn’t know I had this many strengths.” We spent the rest of the session discussing in more detail specific examples of times when he exhibited these strengths.
Technique # 2: Four W's and an H
I asked Michael to think of a time when he had recently been angry. He said, “Okay, I’m picturing this meeting I had last week, where something had gone wrong with a computer I was working on, and all the guys in the office started joking about how I always had problems and how I was really dumb and spacey.” I ask Michael to ask himself some questions about his feelings. I use the what, who, when, where and how questions from, Wells' Keeping Your Cool Under Fire. As I list Wells' questions, think which of these questions you could ask your male clients and what questions you could add of your own.
questions are as follows:
Since Michael was a computer programmer tended to be extremely analylitical, I told him to resist judging his answers for validity, accuracy, or rationality. I stated, "The important thing is to simply explore your feelings so you can better understand them."
You might consider replaying the preceding list of what questions and evaluate if you have a client with whom they may be appropriate.
I asked Michael to ask himself some “who” questions, such as these:
I asked Michael some “when” and “where” questions:
After Michael had answered these questions, I told him that we could turn to “the what, who, when, and where questions” into a “how” questions to facilitate a future plan. For example, since Michael could not control the ridiculing behavior of others, I ask him "how would you like to react to this in the future? How might you go about accomplishing that goal? How do you design the steps from here to reach your ideal outcome?" Michael used these how questions to look for cause-and-effect relationships. More specifically, he was able to work backwards from effects to causes.
Michael and I talked about the importance of attitude in changing behavior. Just by altering the way he viewed himself, he was able to see how his negative attitudes were causing his anger to worsen; and perhaps acted as a catalyst to draw the ridicule of fellow employees. Think of your Michael who is suffering from depression and is possibly suicidal. Would asking him the “what, who, when, where, why, and how” questions help him to better understand and label the feelings behind his anger?
In addition to the "4 W's and an H questions" I found a good companion technique, to link anger and depression, to be the ABC's technique. In the next track, we’ll discuss the ABCs to use with you depressed male client.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Kelly, E. L., Novaco, R. W., & Cauffman, E. (2019). Anger and depression among incarcerated male youth: Predictors of violent and nonviolent offending during adjustment to incarceration. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(8), 693–705.
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