8. Anger iceberg (with consequences)

Context: This exercise is used to deepen a person’s understanding of situations that involve anger, the range of feelings experienced and its consequence.

 When to use: This exercise is used when practitioners work with men to deepen understanding about situations, anger and its consequence in their life.

Conducting the exercise: Ask the man to complete the short sentence “I felt angry when….” i.e. “I felt angry when Tom ignored me and did not do what I asked”.  When completed, the participants put the sheet to the side as it will be used later in the session. Recognise and briefly discuss the following points:

However, anger is necessary as it helps people to recognise the need for maintaining boundaries i.e. to be able to say “NO!”, “ENOUGH!” or “GO AWAY!” and mean it

 On the whiteboard, draw the outline of the iceberg (see below).

 Ask the person for words that describe their common experience of anger. These are words that describe what other people would see when they are angry. Write these words on the tip for the iceberg.

Describe the impact anger has when it is inappropriately expressed with those who are most loved or closest to us (write these words to the side of the iceberg):

 Emphasise that anger is a secondary emotion. Other more vulnerable feelings sit below the surface of the iceberg and are primary emotions, which continue to drive the anger when it is not resolved.

 Some examples of other feeling words that fill the underwater part of the iceberg are:

  • Fear

  • Helpless

  • Powerless

  • Out of control

  • Drained

  • Depleted

  • Empty

  • Stressed

  • Hurt

  • Pain

  • Pulled in many directions

  • Impotence

  • Worthless

  • Anxiety

  • Put down

  • Incompetent

  • Loss of self worth

  • Loss of confidence

  • Sad

  • Lonely

  • Rejected

  • Unwanted

  • Criticised

  • Judged

  • Misrepresented

  • Betrayed

  • Abused

  • Used

  • Discarded

  • Traumatized

 When people are able to name the feelings, they create a stronger connection that strengthens their ability to respond positively to anger. Through expanding their vocabulary in describing the feeling world, people are likely to increase their level of intimacy, closeness, safety, and trust in their important relationships. This is a significant discovery for many men as feelings are often separated from actions and consequences and may be minimised. This exercise highlights the direct connection between how we respond to our feelings and the ultimate consequence that occurs. See example below:

After the ‘Iceberg’ is filled with feeling words ask the person to pick up the sheets that they completed earlier in the session, completing the sentence “I felt angry when….”.  Ask them to cross out the word anger and replace it with another feeling word, whatever other feelings they were experiencing at that time. The words may or may not be located under the surface in the ‘Anger Iceberg’.

 Once this is complete ask them to read aloud what they have written. After they have read out their example, use empathy skills to suggest a few more feelings they may have experienced. This will help broaden their understanding.


 This concept can be used in everyday life:

Extension questions:

  1. What impact does your anger have on key relationships around you?

  2. What difference would occur if you chose to focus on and express the feelings beneath the surface of the iceberg?

  3. What difference would other people (your children) notice about you?

  4. What impact does the expression of the underlying feelings have on your relationships?


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