Thomas J. Harbin, a psychologist, wrote a book about anger – Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men. Harbin’s book was grounded on the idea that men express their anger differently than women, and often their expression are more aggressive and violent. Using research studies, Harbin proves that anger in men is a problem because sometimes, anger manifests in maladaptive behaviors that can lead to impulsive crimes such as assault, battery, or murder. Through the book, Harbin aims to educate men about their anger and help them acknowledge the nature of their anger and its impact on their personal and professional lives so they can make changes in their lives and eventually learn to control or manage their anger in a positive and productive means.
Initially, the primary objective was to deconstruct each chapter in the book, define the framework of each chapter, and discuss the pros and cons within the discussion. Nevertheless, some chapters in the book are relatively shorter than other chapters. For this reason, the following discussion deconstructs the book by section or part of the book. Beyond Anger has four parts. Part One has six chapters, Part Two has five chapters, Part Three has four chapters, and Part Four has five chapters. Hence, the following discussion will be broken down into four parts and the analysis will be per section and not by chapter.
Part One: Are You Angry
The first chapter, At the Boiling Point, introduces background on the topic, specifically how anger affects the demeanor of men, and as a consequence, how society perceives men’s anger. Unlike women, men are prone to aggressive or violent manifestations of anger, which consequently affect their personal and professional lives, including their relationships with family and friends. Hence, in most cases, men’s anger is detrimental to their lives because it leads to their strained relationship with family and friends and it interferes with their work or the way they go about their daily lives.
Harbin also pointed out that often, men who committed assault and murder did so out of blind rage, the result of their anger and impulsive behavior. Some men, however, want to change the way they deal with their anger but it is primarily a struggle for them. Despite men’s struggles to control or manage their anger, Harbin emphasizes that this is possible. Change is a lifelong process but men can change the way they deal with anger by changing their views and perspectives of the world and themselves.
The danger in anger, according to Harbin, is when it becomes a state of mind. Anger is a normal reaction or response but in some cases, anger becomes a state of mind and as a result, people feel angry all the time regardless of the situation they are in. At this point, Harbin defined anger as an emotion in order to qualify what reactions or responses are acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to anger. Since anger is similar to other emotions such as happiness or sadness, it is but normal, but people’s responses to it, especially men’s define if these responses are normal or not. Similarly, responses and manifestations of anger can be positive or negative. Anger, for instance, can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives, while maladaptive expressions of anger, on the other hand, are destructive.
Maladaptive expressions of anger must be avoided, not only because they affect people’s personal and professional lives, but also because they can physically harm individuals. Based on research studies on the physiological impact of anger, this emotion causes various diseases such as heart diseases, ulcers and stress. At this point, Harbin also described rage as a manifestation of anger. Essentially, rage refers to anger that does not dissipate unlike normal anger that goes away over time. Rage can also be described as pent up anger. As a state, rage refers to the individual’s habitual angry response even to small issues.
Harbin’s definition of anger and descriptions of the way that it manifests in maladaptive behaviors is one of the pros or strengths of Part One because it is proactive and effective in helping men deal with anger. This part of the book is seemingly confrontation such that it lays out all the issues that men with anger problems should confront or acknowledge so they would understand that they do have a problem and that they also need to make changes in their lives. By defining anger and describing how it manifests in maladaptive behavior, male readers would be informed about this issue. Consequently, they would know when and how they exhibit maladaptive behaviors. Furthermore, Harbin also included an instrument or tool that men can use to determine if they have anger problems or issues.
On the contrary, one of cons or shortcomings of Part One is that it fails to acknowledge the tendency of women to exhibit the same behavior. It may be true that maladaptive behavior and responses to anger are more common among men but Harbin should also have discussed the issue concerning women. In this way, anger does not become a male quality or would be attributed as a common trait when it can also manifest in the behavior of men. In some cases, women also committed crimes as a result of their impulsive behavior caused by anger. Therefore, Harbin could have
Part Two: Anger Action Plans
Essentially, Part One is seemingly the first step in addressing anger issues – determining if one has problems in managing or controlling anger, acknowledging problems pertaining to anger, and understanding what anger is and its impact on the personal and professional lives of people. On the other hand, Part Two addresses the “Now what?” question. After understanding anger and using Harbin’s discussions and the tools in Part One to identify if one has problems concerning anger, the next step is to make a plan to deal with these problems. Part Two concerns the planning phase of trying to change and deal with anger management. To push through with the planning, Harbin highlighted the importance of committing to change. If anger can be a state of mind then change can be too, and if one is committed to change, then the actual change will follow.
At this point, Harbin establishes the importance of perspective and the role of thought or thinking in helping men change (Bankart, 1). Speaking from experience, Harbin said that it is easy for people to blame themselves, which then prevents them from realizing that they can do something to change their situation. Moreover, guilt often brings out the worst in people because it conflicts their need to see or view themselves from an evenhanded perspective. When men are guilty, they tend to further bring themselves down, which is a self-defeating act. For this reason, Harbin suggests that men should learn to think clearly by letting go of these self-defeating thoughts that do nothing to encourage them to do something about their problems or issues in anger (Perkins, 7).
Aside from changing or controlling the way men think, Harbin also discussed the importance of controlling anger. Harbin suggested various techniques and strategies that men can adopt so they can control their emotions enough to stop them from acting on their anger in a maladaptive manner. Hence, self-control is an important factor that would help men curb their anger and control their responses or impulses towards it. Harbin also discussed one aspect of anger, which is suppression. As previously noted, pent up anger becomes rage and the latter is a manifestation of uncontrolled anger that often results in maladaptive behavior. Often, anger builds up when people miss the chance to communicate their needs. When men fail to communicate what they need, they feel neglected and over time, this neglect translates into anger. To prevent episodes that could possibly lead to anger, Harbin suggests that men learn to communication, which admittedly is not their strong suit compared to women.
Harbin’s proactive stance serves to be pro or the strength of Part Two. In this section, Harbin attempts to lay the groundwork of the first step in controlling anger - planning. During this phase, men learn that it is important for them to create plans and in the process develop or adopt strategies that they can apply when confronted with anger. Through the information that Harbin presented in this part, readers feel empowered to act on their plans. On the other hand, the cons or the weaknesses in this part of the book has something to do with the stereotyping yet again. In Chapter 11, particularly, Harbin characterized men as individuals that are weak in communicating but in reality, this skill can be learned or developed and is not a trait that is particular to men. Furthermore, Harbin failed to discuss specific techniques and how men can apply these techniques to stop their anger even before it starts.
Part Three: Get Real, Get Help
Part Three moves along the stages of learning to control anger. After acknowledging the problem and planning to take action, Harbin discusses ways to act on plans, specifically by learning to ask for help. Harbin underscored the fact that sometimes, self-help is not enough. Men must learn to similarly manage their guilt and pride and ask help from family and friends. Other people can offer a better perspective of their situation, which they may fail to see from their own perspective. At this point, Harbin also discusses the importance of taking aggressive steps to control responses to anger lest men’s behavior becomes violent. Men should understand that violence is not a good way to respond to anger nor is substance abuse. For this reason, Harbin suggests that men should learn how to deal with anger in ways that are non-violent and do not involve substances. Finding ways to cope is important because in some cases, it becomes the source of depression for men.
Harbin’s warnings or cautions are the pros or strengths in Part Three of the book because it educates men about the dangers of letting anger control their thinking and behavior. With adequate warnings, readers will understand that resorting to substances or violence only worsens the situation. Furthermore, Harbin’s warning also raises the urgency for men to act on their problems with anger because if it leads to depression, then they would find it doubly difficult to change their behavior. At this point, men could need not only help and support from their family or friends but also from professionals, especially when they are dealing with depression and violent episodes.
Part Three is also a solid part of the book because it encourages men to seek help from family, friends, and professionals, which could be the least in their priorities because of guilt and pride. Men need to understand that they should ask for help, especially when they are in situations that could significantly lead to irreversible circumstances such as crime, addiction, and other conditions because of depression. In terms of the cons or weaknesses of this part of the book, criticisms are not necessary because Part Three is the strongest section in the book. It is both informative and encouraging because of Harbin’s warnings and caveats about the dangers or detrimental impact of anger and other factors that could exacerbate anger.
Part Four: Anger-Free Families
Since the book follows stages of change or transformation, Part Four appears to refer to the final stages of change, particularly from the perspective of other people in an individual’s support system. After planning and acting on this plan, men should have learned to control their anger, specifically by knowing or understanding how to let go of it and not allow it to affect men’s personal and professional life, and most importantly their relationship with family and friends. During this stage of change, men also need to learn to make amends. This is important in helping men deal with their guilt so they can become clear-headed in dealing with their situation. Harbin also emphasized the important role of family and friends in helping individuals deal with anger. Harbin discussed the role of fathers in helping their sons because they are the role models of their children, as well as the approaches that women should adopt in helping their significant others that are dealing with anger issues.
The expanded scope of the book in Part Four is this section’s strength. Harbin not only discussed ways that men could deal with their anger issues but also talked about the ways that other people in their lives, such as parents and significant others, can help men deal with the problem. Hence, Harbin offered a systemic perspective, which is effective, because men can work with their support system to enable them into action and change. Nevertheless, Harbin failed to mention the role of people in the workplace, which is also important, especially because anger can also affect a man’s professional life. Herein lays the weakness of this section of the book. It could have been helpful for Harbin to point out how work similarly affects men’s anger and responses. Harbin could also have discussed various ways that men can deal with anger when it occurs or stems from workplace situations, which are difficult to deal with unlike issues with family and friends.
Based on the foregoing discussion, Harbin’s Beyond Anger appears to be a step-by-step guide for men that have issues in dealing or controlling their anger. Harbin’s book is not only informative but also steering because it guides men into acknowledging their problems, planning to change, and to carry on with their plans. Harbin’s main objective was to show men how to deal with their anger, which if left uncontrolled, could destroy their personal and professional lives and affect their health and wellbeing. Moreover, uncontrolled anger could lead them to commit various crimes such as assault, battery, and murder. In Beyond Anger, Harbin aims to enable men to confront their problems when it comes to dealing with anger through adequate information and encouraging or inspiring words.
Bankart, C. Peter. Freeing the angry mind: How men can use mindfulness and reason to save their lives and relationships. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2006.
Harbin, Thomas J. Beyond anger: A guide for men: How to free yourself from the grip of anger and get more out of life. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1999.
Perkins, Bill. When good men get angry: The spiritual art of managing anger. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011.