By Stephen J. Johnson, Ph.D.
Anger Presents in Different Forms
Paul Ekman, Ph.D., one of the world’s experts on emotions and author of Emotions Revealed, says that anger is expressed in many ways. “There is a range of angry feelings, from slight annoyance to rage. There are not just differences in the strength of angry feelings, but also differences in the kind of anger felt. Indignation is selfrighteous anger, sulking is passive anger; exasperation refers to having one’s patience tried excessively. Revenge is a type of angry action usually committed after a period of reflection about the offense.”
There’s also “outrage”, that can be viewed as an appropriate and healthy expression of dissatisfaction that can make a positive difference in changing things that should be changed. Being “enraged,” on the other hand can lead to unhealthy, inappropriate and damaging consequences.
What about the one who gets angry on impulse? The person, often male, who has strong opinions, suffers fools un-gladly, hates incompetence and sometimes throws an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes Type A tantrum.
There seems to be a need in some men to bring the underlying grief of some unresolved psychic pain to a boil. Men are traditionally taught to be strong, so revealing one’s feelings is often viewed as a sign of weakness. For many men, crying is a feminine characteristic that feels shameful to them. In a reductionist sense, anger is often the only emotion that is left for a man to express without feeling like less of a man.
In addition, men are conditioned to numb themselves to any feeling that would interfere with their ability to perform up to certain expectations. Men place a high priority on their ability to rise to the occasion when necessary. Consequently, it is not uncommon for a man to feel shame in not being able to do an adequate job of exercising his masculinity by defending some territorial imperative, whether imagined or real.
Most people confuse rage with anger. John Lee, author of T he Anger Solution , says “Rage is as different from anger as night is from day, as apples are from orangutans. Anger is a feeling and emotion. Rage has the ability to cover other feelings, but it is not a feeling or emotion in itself. Rage is like a huge dose of morphine. It is a drug that is legal, plentiful, readily available, and can be addictive.”
The reason that rage can become addictive is that it doesn’t satisfy a real need. Anger, on the other hand, is an emotion that expresses our need to defend ourselves against the loss of something we value. Rage is a cover for past losses and so can continue to escalate without end. Have you noticed that the more a man expresses rage, the more rageful he becomes?
Lee offers a number of helpful contrasts between anger and rage:
1. Anger clears the air, while rage clouds communication.
2. Anger rights injustices and wrongs. Rage is an injustice and wrongs people further.
3. Anger concerns the present. Rage concerns the past.
4. Anger is about “me,” about how I’m feeling. Rage is about “you,” my judgment
of your perceived inadequacies.
Men who get hooked on rage are looking for love, but don’t know how to find it. They hunger for someone to love and comfort them, but they settle for trying to control those they have become dependent upon. They feel powerless and small and their rage gives them a temporary feeling of strength and superiority.
We often perceive anger as a negative emotion that can damage people and their relationships, yet anger can also lead to emotional and spiritual growth. In his book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn says, “In the past, we were allied in making each other suffer more, allied in the escalation of anger. “Now we want to be allied in taking good care of our sorrow, our anger, and our frustration. We want to negotiate a strategy for peace.”
Stressed Out Men Become Angry
Most of us recognize that stress is increasing in our lives. We notice it as we drive to work, when we feel rushed and overwhelmed, when we come home to relax, but find more and more things at home that demand our attention. Men and women often express stress in their lives differently. Women often “act in” their stress and feel sad and depressed. Men, on the other hand, often “act out” their stress and become irritable and angry.
Women often internalize their pain and blame themselves for their problems. Men often externalize their pain and blame the women in their lives. Jed Diamond states that, “when I counsel men, I often hear a litany of complaints that often focus on their wives. After listening and empathizing I begin to help them recognize that it isn’t their ‘wife’ that is the problem, but rather their ‘life’ that is out of balance. I also help them see that the stress isn’t just coming from their internal state of being, but also results from the world around us.’
Angry States and Men’s Health
If there’s anything recent research makes clear, it is that anger cannot be vented. On the contrary, letting off steam almost always leaves a person more steamed. In a series of experiments, Aron Siegman, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, compared blood pressure and heart rate readings in young, healthy students as they reenacted episodes of anger.
“Simply experiencing the anger, thinking about it, doesn’t elevate heart rate much at all,” he says. “Nor does talking about the incident in a slow, calm voice.”
But once people begin talking fast and loud about infuriating scenes, their blood pressure jumped an average of 20 points.
“In some it went way up, by as much as 100 points,” Siegman says. “Now, if that person were a heart disease patient seeing a cardiologist, the doctor would tell me to call an ambulance.”
Revving a healthy heart in this way, and keeping it on high idle, can over decades also end in an ambulance ride, doctors believe. Every angry outburst releases hormones that tighten arteries and hike blood pressure. In time, artery walls wear out in the same way that squeezing and pumping will wear out the inside of a garden hose. Worn artery walls, most doctors say, are prone to the scarring and fatty buildup that presage heart disease.
That’s why emotional strain – anger, stress, hostility – are considered at least as powerful a risk factor for heart disease as diet or family history. “In my view, it is anger expression,” says Siegman, “that is the single most important emotional factor.”
Even beating on a pillow in the privacy of your room isn’t harmless. In a pair of experiments at Iowa State University, people who took out their anger on a punching bag only became more aggressive. They were twice as likely as angry subjects who didn’t hit the bag to lash out at rivals during a competitive computer game.
“They were trying to get some release, but it wouldn’t come,” says Brad Bushman, the psychologist who conducted the study. “You’re better off doing nothing at all, just sitting there, being angry. The idea that punching a pillow or a bag gives some cathartic release is, it seems to me, an excuse for people to lose control of themselves.”
Anger is the one emotion that wants a fight, of course, and through the ages it’s the only one that has given us the nerve and extra strength to heave intruders from our cave. It is not only a state of mind – it’s a state of physical agitation. And as early as 1896 Charles Darwin speculated that the agitation informed the emotion itself: that what we do tells us how we feel. As psychologist and philosopher William James put it later, “We don’t run because we’re scared; we’re scared because we run.”
On first hearing an insult, says Siegman, we feel an organic, almost subconscious sting. But it is the tight chest, the surprised, wide eyes, the blood warming behind our temples that tell us we’re really offended.
“These responses aren’t secondary to the emotion; they are the emotion,” he says. “Each dimension escalates the others. Your blood pressure goes up, making your voice louder, which then makes your pressure go up higher. And so on.”
What’s Under Men’s Anger?
1. Under anger is hurt and pain.
Most angry men feel deeply wounded. It can help you listen to his anger with love and understanding if you are aware that the angry man is often covering his hurt with anger. Once he’s cooled down a bit. Ask him to tell you more about the hurt and pain he’s experiencing. That may trigger more anger, but most often it will help him get in touch with his sadness. Once he can share his pain, he is well on his way to healing.
2. Be willing to see the fear under the hurt.
3. Once fear is expressed, we recognize that we carry a great deal of guilt.
Most of us feel guilty for what we do or fail to do. Guilt feelings can arise when one can’t control his emotions and acts out like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse. Allowing yourself to recognize your underlying guilt can empower you to deal with the most difficult emotion, shame.
4. Shame is an emotion most men feel, but are ashamed to show.
Where guilt is the feeling of having done something wrong, shame is the experience of being wrong or being bad at the core of our being. We are ashamed of who we are and we are ashamed of feeling ashamed. James Gilligan, M.D. has studied the causes of aggression and violence for more than thirty years. In his book, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, he says, “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed.”
Helping a man accept his feelings of shame may take a long time but it can be the final step in being able to love himself.
5. When depression turns to anger
When people are experiencing an imbalance of neurotransmitters they can get depressed. For example when one is not producing enough serotonin, a neurotransmitter that allows one to be calm, focused and mood-stabilized, they tend to get depressed, irritable, anxious and agitated.
One of the ironies about men’s depression is that the very forces that help create it keep us from seeing it. Men are not supposed to be vulnerable. Pain is something men are supposed to rise above. It is the secret pain that lies at the heart of many of the difficulties in men’s lives.
In his book I Don’t Want To Talk About It , Terrence Real characterizes covert depression in men as “the hidden depression that drives several of the problems we think of as typically male—alcoholism, drug abuse, self-medicating with sex, gambling, domestic violence, workaholism, antisocial behaviors and conduct disorder.”
Vulnerability to depression in many cases is an inherited biological condition. Anyone, given the right mix of chromosomes, will have a susceptibility to this disorder. But in the majority of cases, vulnerability alone is not enough to bring about the disorder; instead it is the collision of inherited vulnerability with psychological injury that produces depression.
Often, anger arises out of the frustrating and debilitating forces associated with other neurological conditions such as bipolar disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. A short fuse is one of the more common symptoms. I believe our prisons are filled with men who were never diagnosed or treated for many of these conditions.
Accepting all our feelings including anger, hurt, fear, guilt, and shame can allow us to heal old wounds and find the love we so desperately need.
Explosive Rage and Violence
It’s true that women can become violent and can contribute to the general culture of violence, but in many ways violence is a men’s issue. More men than women perpetrate violence and are also more likely to be the victims of violence.
According to the World Health Organization, there are three types of violence that are all interrelated:
Self-directed violence includes suicidal behavior and personal harm such as self-mutilation. “There are more than one million people who die by suicide each year in the world, which is more people than those who die from war, terrorist attacks and homicides every year. So more people kill themselves than are killed by other people,” says Lanny Berman, Ph.D., president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). Further, “There are more than one million people who die by suicide each year in the world, which is more people than those who die from war, terrorist attacks and homicides every year. So more people kill themselves than are killed by other people,” says Lanny Berman, Ph.D., president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). Further, worldwide, males kill themselves 4 times more often than females and in the U.S. the suicide rate for males is 4 to 18 times higher than it is for females, increasing dramatically with age.
Interpersonal violence is divided into two categories:
1. Family and intimate partner violence typically taking place within the home.
“Between 75% and 80% of anger-rousing events are interpersonal,” says Colorado State university psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, who has made a career of studying and testing anger-management programs, “so it’s your spouse, your kids and your coworkers who are getting it.”
Deffenbacher says that no counseling program is powerful enough to erase all anger or to touch deeper fantasies of rage. According to news reports, for example, Columbine High School killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold passed an anger management course with glowing comments from their teachers.
2. Community violence — Violence between individuals who are unrelated, and who may or may not know each other, generally taking place outside the home.
Collective violence is the instrumental use of killing by people who identify themselves as members of a group against another group or set of individuals, in order to achieve political, economic or social objectives.
Factors contributing to explosive rage and violence:
1. The Male Brain is Not Wired for Empathy
At its core, violence is a failure to empathize. Empathizing is the drive to identify another person’s emotions and thoughts and to respond to them with an appropriate emotion. Violent men see themselves or others as objects rather than human beings.
Although most men are able to empathize with others and would never kill another human being, it’s more difficult for most men to empathize than it is for women. Why is that so? Research shows that our brains are more wired for systemizing than for empathizing. In his book, The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male & Female Brain, Baron-Cohen says, “The female brain is predominantly hardwired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hardwired for understanding and building systems.”
Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of T he Male Brain says that there are two emotional systems in the brain that connect us to people. Women’s brain structure makes it easier for them to empathize. The male brain makes it easier to solve problems. Her team of researchers found that the male-type brain “keeps a firm boundary between emotions of the ‘self’ and the ‘other.’ This prevents men’s thought processes from being infected by other people’s emotions, which strengthens their ability to cognitively and analytically find a solution.”
Have you noticed the frustration many women feel when they share their hurts and pain with a man? He immediately locks into the problem-solving mode before he has taken time to listen closely and empathically to her. When she talks to a girlfriend, she may get a lot more empathy, but much less problem-solving help.
Antidote for Low Empathy:
Most men can learn to become more empathic. Put yourself in the place of the other person. Listen for feelings first. Resist your initial desire to problem solve.
2. Males Have Higher Levels of Testosterone
The answer to why men act out their anger more than do women lies in part within the realm of brain science. Current research indicates that the reason people function in certain ways may have more to do with what’s going on with them neurologically than we had ever considered. The presence or absence of hormones and neurotransmitters in one’s bloodstream largely determines one’s behavior.
In 1995, the Department of Justice collected studies on anger and violence and found that there is absolutely no evidence that men are angrier than women. There are differences, however, in the ways that men and women express their anger. Women tend to be more subtle in their displays of anger, and as a society, we pay more attention to the testosterone-driven displays of aggression by men. In other words, the violence that men commit is obviously more dangerous.
Males produce a significantly greater amount of testosterone than do women. Testosterone drives men to manifest more aggression and have a more ravenous appetite for sex. Testosterone also triples in males during puberty, explaining why adolescent boys tend more toward aggression at this time of their lives.
Theresa Crenshaw, M.D. is one of the world’s leading experts on how hormones influence our behavior. “Testosterone is a steroid hormone manufactured in the testicles, ovaries, and adrenals,” she says. “It is a predominantly male sex hormone that women have too, although in much smaller amounts. In fact, after puberty men have about 8 to 10 times more of it than women.”
She offers a colorful description of the personality of testosterone: “Testosterone is the young Marlon Brando—sexual, sensual, alluring, dark, with a dangerous undertone. Testosterone is responsible for our a ggressive sex drive. It is also our ‘warmone,’ triggering aggression, competitiveness, and even violence.”
Testosterone levels are related to criminality and violence. James Dabbs, Ph.D. is one of the world’s experts on testosterone. In his book Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior , he says, “While there is no direct tie between testosterone and human criminality, there is an indirect tie. Testosterone leads toward violence, and violence is often criminal.”
Dabbs studied 4,462 men and found that “the overall picture among the high-testosterone men is one of delinquency, substance abuse and a tendency toward excess.” These highT men, which made up about 10% of the sample, “have more trouble with people like teachers while they are growing up, have more sexual partners, are more likely to have gone AWOL in the service and to have used hard drugs, particularly if they had poor educations and low incomes.” A separate study by Dabbs of young male prison inmates found that high testosterone levels were associated with more violent crimes, parole board decisions against release, and more prison rule violations. Even in women, Dabbs found, high testosterone levels were related to crimes of unprovoked violence, increased numbers of prior charges, and decisions against parole.
Antidote for High Testosterone:
Strengthen family ties and encourage fathers to stay involved with their children. Delinquent behavior is more common among children raised with absent fathers. Dabbs wife Mary, a fellow researcher, reflected on their years studying testosterone: “It’s ‘guystuff,’ and guystuff seems to be about building stuff, fixing stuff, and blowing stuff up.” She concluded that it’s the job of parents to encourage the building and fixing, and discourage the blowing up.
3. Males Generate Lower Levels of Oxytocin
Research scientist Paul Zak, Ph.D. feels that the hormone oxytocin may be the key to much that is good in relationships. In his book, T he Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity he says, “Beginning in 2001, my colleagues and I conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone’s level of oxytocin goes up, he or she responds more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers.”
He found that not only did oxytocin make people friendlier, more empathic, and more trusting, but it also stimulated the release of other hormones that improved the quality of their relationships. “When a positive social stimulus prompts the release of oxytocin, the Moral Molecule in turn triggers the release of two other feel-good neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin reduces anxiety and has a positive effect on mood. Dopamine is associated with goal-directed behaviors, drive, and reinforcement learning. It motivates creatures to seek things that are rewarding and it makes it feel good to keep doing those things.”
Oxytocin generates the empathy that drives moral behavior, which inspires trust, which causes the release of more oxytocin, which creates more empathy. “This is the behavioral feedback loop,” says Zak, “we call the virtuous cycle.” But oxytocin doesn’t seem to be an equal opportunity hormone. It evolved in women to help with childbirth, breastfeeding and bonding and is not as available in men as it is in women.
Testosterone also blocks the effect of oxytocin, and as we know, guys have much higher levels of testosterone. Shelley Taylor, Ph.D, is a world-renowned expert on stress and health. In
her book The Tending Instinct, she suggests that the difference in oxytocin release in men and women accounts for women’s greater willingness to reach out for others when they are under stress (what she calls “tending and befriending”) rather than the male reaction of “fight or flight.”
Antidote for Low Oxytocin:
Fortunately oxytocin can be raised relatively easily. Two of the best I know are to get a good massage regularly and being willing to trust others instead of being defensive and fearful. Zack found that those who got a massage had a 9% increase in their oxytocin levels. But when people got a massage and also increased their bonds of trust, their oxytocin levels rose 243%. Obviously, a good love making session can do wonders as well.
4. Males Have Fewer Friends Than Females
At most men will have one close friend. Often it’s their spouse. If problems arise in the relationship, most men are left completely on their own.
Men’s friendships have typically been described in terms of bravery and physical sacrifice in providing assistance to others. But rarely do these historical accounts celebrate interpersonal relationships characterized by closeness and compassion for other men. Gender researcher R.R. Bell says, “This has been so because masculine values have made those kinds of feelings inappropriate and highly suspect they were unmanly.”
Researchers have found that men have significantly fewer friends than women, especially close friendships or best friends. Instead men often have “activity friends” such as a weekly tennis partner or drinking buddy. The friendship is often based on the exchange of favors rather than emotional support. Men often are able to advance their careers with these kinds of friendships, but they fall short of what most of us need. As a result many men feel isolated and angry.
Herb Goldberg, Ph.D. expressed the dilemma many men face in his book The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege : “The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”
Men are often cut off from the healing value of friendship and the problem gets worse as we age. Men tend to become more isolated as we age. Studies show that far more men than women had trouble trusting and reaching out for help from others, including health care professionals. A postmortem report on a 60-year-old man who had committed suicide said: “He did not have friends…He did not feel comfortable with other men…he did not trust doctors and would not seek help even though he was aware that he needed help.”
Cut off from others and experiencing increasing inner pain, men often become depressed. In the research I did for my book, T he Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Aggression and Depression , I found that men have much higher suicide rates than women do and that suicide rates increase dramatically as men age. Men between the ages of 65 and 85 killed themselves almost 10 times more frequently than did women of the same age. Further, unlike women, men often “act out” their depression and become more aggressive and sometimes violent. The comedian Elayne Boosler captured these male/female differences when she observed, “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
Antidote for Lack of Friends:
It might seem obvious that men need to have more close friends. But it isn’t easy developing new friendships, particularly as we get older. But it may be the most important thing we can do. Men’s groups and retreats help to build a sense of community. I’ve witnessed many men become friends and bond with men through these opportunities, whereas without them, they typically would have just grown older with fewer and fewer friends and allies.
5. Men React More Violently to Shame Than Women.
We’ve all experienced shame in our lives. We feel small and vulnerable. We want to disappear. “Shame,” says author Merle Fossum, “is feeling alone in the pit of unworthiness.” He describes shame as being much more deeply rooted than most people believe. “Shame is not just a low reading on the thermometer of self-esteem. Shame is something like cancer—it grows on its own momentum.”
Both shame and guilt are ways in which people experience feeling bad. Yet the two are quite different. Guilt involves feeling bad about what we do or fail to do. Shame is feeling bad about who we are, about our very being. I’ve found that men and women often experience shame differently. Women are more ashamed of their bodies, while men are more ashamed of their feelings or how they are perceived by others. Also, women are generally more aware of their feelings of shame. Men deny their experience of shame and hide it from themselves and others.
I think most males grow up feeling that there is something inherently bad about us and that there is something inherently good about females. It may help account for men who act superior and put women down. We hunger to feel good inside, but afraid we can never be anything but damaged goods. We want to be loved and respected for who we are, but feel our only hope is to achieve outward success in the world. But no matter how much we achieve, we never feel completely worthy.
James Gilligan, M.D. is the former director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School. He has spent his professional career working with violent men and his books, Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, Preventing Violence: Prospects for Tomorrow, and Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others , help us better understandthe relationship between men, shame, and violence.
When we hear about some particularly violent crime committed by a man, we are often mystified by what may have caused it. After working with thousands of violent men, Gilligan was able to get to the core cause. “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed, and that did not represent the attempt to prevent or undo that ‘loss of face’—no matter how severe the punishment, even if it includes death.”
Men crave respect and can become violent when they feel put down. “The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly, when I asked them why they had assaulted someone,” says Gilligan, “that it was because ‘he disrespected me.’ The word ‘disrespect’ is so central in the vocabulary, moral value system, and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men that they have abbreviated it into the slang term, ‘he dissed me.’”
Antidote for Shame:
I’ve found that one of the first steps we can take in addressing shame is to accept it ourselves rather than denying it. Shame thrives in darkness and decreases when we shine the light of awareness on it. Gilligan says that violent men (and all men to some degree) have a carefully guarded secret about shame, that most would literally rather die than reveal. “The secret is that they feel ashamed—deeply ashamed, chronically ashamed, acutely ashamed, over matters that are so trivial that their very triviality makes it even more shameful to feel ashamed about them, so they are ashamed even to reveal what shames them.” We then need to be able to talk about our feelings of shame with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Also, we can all notice ways in which men are disrespected in society—jokes, media portrayals, cutting remarks and put-downs.
In one survey, men and women were asked what they were afraid most afraid of. Women responded that they were most afraid of being raped and murdered. Men responded that they were most afraid of being laughed at. We now know that these two fears are related. If we are going to reduce violence, we need to increase our respect for every human being on the planet and that starts with respecting those closest to us: Our mates, our children, and ourselves.
6. The Father Gap: The Hidden Wound that Just Won’t Heal
Why are so many men anxious and depressed, or rageful, without even realizing it? It springs from a painful longing for the unfulfilled relationship with the father, a core wound in a man’s psyche known as the Father Gap. Many males, of all ages, carry this secret wound that was inflicted upon them by a father who was heavy handed and went over the top, crushing the boy’s spirit, or by a father who was missing in action and goes down and out of his son’s life. Males often bear unspoken shame and grief from having missed out on a loving and caring relationship with their fathers.
There is, in fact, a true crisis of fathering in this country. In general, one-third of our nation’s kids will go to bed tonight without their biological father in the next room. Forty percent of children in fatherless households haven’t even seen their fathers in at least a year.
These men have chosen to disconnect and drift from their families, leaving as many as fifteen million confused kids behind. In later life, many of these dismissed kids act out sexually or attempt suicide, the leading cause of death in the fifteen to twenty-four-year-old age group.
Crime, unwed teenage pregnancy, and suicide are huge problems. Studies show that the most reliable predictor of these manifestations is not income or race; it is f amily structure. unwed pregnant girls and criminally oriented boys tend to come from fatherless families. Seventy percent of imprisoned minors have spent at least part of their lives without fathers. Gangs feed on fatherless boys. Without fathers and mentors around to teach successful ways of coping, adolescent boys are prone to create their own destructive rites of passage arising out of the rage they feel over being forgotten and abandoned. Random and serious violence can also be correlated to fatherless families. Wounded boys commonly grow up to be wounding men, inflicting on others the very distress that went unhealed within them.
The Father Gap in Black and White
The absence of fathers also goes a long way in explaining the continuing gulf between black and white America. It has been almost impossible to equalize opportunities between the races when a black child is three times more likely to live without a father than is a white child.
Under-served black children are among the most vulnerable people in the U.S. Of all African American fourth-graders, fifty-eight percent are functionally illiterate. It is my understanding that officials study the demographics of fourth graders to determine how many prisons will be required in the years ahead to incarcerate criminal adult males. In some cities, eighty percent of black males drop out before finishing high school. Every day, 1,000 black children are arrested, and one in every eight African American males ages twenty-five to twenty-nine is incarcerated. The top cause of death for black males is homicide.
Antidote for the Father Gap:
Provide support for fathers to be able to heal and re-parent themselves and in turn to be able to show up for their own children. Provide mentoring for youths at risk. Father figures and mentors can go a long way in providing the guidance and nurturing love that father gap children long for.
Michael Gurian, author of numerous books including The Wonder of Boys and A Fine Young Man, says that boys “desperately need the monitoring, channeling and containing presence of men during the extremely turbulent developmental period of Adolescence.”
Mindful Strategies and Processes for defusing Anger, Explosive Rage and Violence
Exercise: Exercise, whether in the gym or recreation in the form of tennis for example can be very helpful to lift a down mood state, release pent up frustration or dissipate the build up of anxiety. I’ve even suggested that taking martial arts or training in a boxing gym can be helpful to release the physical tension that stems from EEP or emotional energy pollution.
Nature: Take a long walk around your neighborhood or take a hike in the hills or through the forest. Nature is very forgiving. It doesn’t ask of us but merely is there to give to us. Give yourself a break from the city, the stress and the triggers of your anger and rage. Take your shoes off and meander through the park or maybe even skip through the grass. This is a benefit provided by earth. Swim, jacuzzi or soak in a tub. Light candles and sit by the fire. Water and fire absorb and release a lot of tension and EEP.
Relaxation: Thomas Jefferson’s advice – “when angry, count to 10; when really angry, count to 100″ – is still good, as long as the counting is meditative, soothing and not a countdown to liftoff. Walk away from hot spots (if possible), calm yourself, think about baseball, think about love, think about God, think about anything to preclude the emotional-physical chain reaction Siegman describes. Rest is important – take naps.
Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is worth trying because it can slow heart rate and ease blood pressure. Have trouble sleeping? Count your breaths rather than sheep. It’s much more effective.
Mindfulness Meditation: Here’s a little exercise Dr. Diamond describes in his forthcoming book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live
Well. It was developed by the folks at the Institute of HeartMath and its guaranteed to reduce stress in your life and help you feel more loving:
1. Put your attention on the area around your heart. Place your hand there to feel the life pulsing through you.
2. Imagine that with each breath you breathe in you are taking in healing energy through your heart and with each breath you breathe out you send that loving energy out to someone you’d like to feel more loving towards.
3. Think of a time when you felt deep gratitude. It could be a memory of one of your children, or when you first fell in love, or the time you were overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset.
4. Continue to breathe while you hold this memory of gratitude.
Cognitive restructuring and autosuggestion: This is psycho-jargon for, “Get over yourself.” Amplify the inner voice of reason, see the bigger picture, talk yourself down. Yes, people are often inconsiderate, incompetent, indifferent or worse. Go figure. That’s all the more reason to practice patience yourself, to answer levitation with levity.
Communication: Sometimes we simply tell people to write [but not send] a letter. Putting it on paper can be a very good way to figure out why you’re so upset and what to do about it. Talking about what’s so infuriating in a calm, easy voice – as Siegman suggests – also can expose impulsive anger as silly and allow sane expression of the principled kind.
Good safe, clearing communication can be very healing. Rather than letting resentments build up endeavor to be current with the expression of your feelings and what’s bothering you. The truth generally works so tell the truth as clearly, completely and compassionately as you can. If it is a serious matter, then bring the person aside and tell them straight, tell them quietly, exactly why you are upset.
Anger and the tradition of violence
It is through anger that most boys express their vulnerability and powerlessness. William Pollack – Real Boys
There is an African proverb that summarizes this neatly: “If we do not initiate the young they will burn down the village to feel the heat.”