My experience across all the men I’ve worked with, with few to no exceptions, is that they have, or have had, serious problems recognizing/dealing productively with their anger.
A man who doesn’t realize he’s angry, or who has never consciously explored his relationship with it will end up harming himself and those he cares about.
Anger comes out one way or another, whether overtly or covertly.
A man who suddenly explodes into a rage because the pressure has been building up and he has no way to release the pressure becomes a ticking time bomb. People around him learn to walk on eggshells and anticipate in advance his emotional outbursts. They enter into a state of unending hyper vigilance, one where they never feel safe.
Passive aggression can also be incredibly harmful. Passive aggressive men covertly manipulate other people’s emotions to keep the waters around him calm, only because he is too uncomfortable to enter into those waters himself. People can’t trust him to be honest when it’s most important. He can’t be trusted to stand up to protect his own well being or the well being of others, if he perceives that there’s any risk of others getting upset at him for doing so.
In my experience what’s required in both cases is a safe space to fully inhabit and feel anger.
Anger is a fear response. In order to resolve patterns of anger, whether overt or covert, a man needs to be be *shown* (not simply told) that his natural response to feeling fear is ok. That it is welcomed. That he is safe and that the tender parts he’s protecting beneath will not be harmed.
This kind of safety allows a man to begin to work through the layers of hardness and shame and fear and begin to get to the truth of anger: That a boundary has been violated and needs to be righted.
And what’s beneath anger is, pretty much without exception, grief.
When a man is held in a safe space and in full approval of his emotional expression I’ve seen something so beautiful happen more times than I can count. The armor will at some point begin to fail. The facade begins to fall away. The tears begin to come fast and strong.
When a man feels fully safe in his anger he begins to feel safe revealing what’s been hiding beneath the whole time.
Anger is too often the iron gate that protects the tenderness of the heart. It’s the guardian that never learned to soften.
Men who’ve lost access to feeling safe in their anger have lost access to their grief. Men who’ve lost access to grief have lost access to their own humanity, and to the recognition of the same in others.
A man who has learned how to rage AND grieve truly and fully is, for me, an infinitely more trustworthy man than one who doesn’t. Since he has full access to both elements he’s never left in the catch 22 of a bifurcated decision between overt aggression or covert passivity.
This is the middle way. An integrated way. A way that allows him to heal the separation within his own heart.
A man who has a full, healthy relationship with his anger is a man who knows how and when to speak up in service of himself and others, and he also know how and when to listen. He is clear and sharp. He knows how to hold fast to his internal GPS.
A man who has a full, healthy relationship with his grief is a man who knows how to feel the deeper layers of his truth, and to feel the truth of those around him. He is available for softness and care in the moments when it’s being called for.
A man who’s willing to walk this middle path is a man who feels safe enough in his own skin to embody the fullness of his humanity. In doing so he becomes a safe space for the world around him to, in turn, reclaim its humanity as well.
P.S. If you’re a man who’s ready to reclaim the fullness of your humanity in the way I speak about above, the Men’s Leadership Intensive by the Brotherhood Community is a 4 day experience that delivers exactly that.