REAL MEN GET ANGRY (#4 IT TAKES A MAN)
Born Precious With Intrinsic Worth
Welcome Home, Anger!
I know it is hard to believe, especially if you have been on the receiving end of violence perpetrated by a man, but most men today don't know s--t about anger, especially their own. As men, it would serve us well to stand at some high point in our life and look out on to the horizon and pray that our anger will return home, much like the father did in the New Testament story, the prodigal son.
Many years ago, John Bradshaw said that anger is the energy God gives me to stand up for myself when I am being violated! Wow! That's certainly a different definition, especially when we typically view anger as so negative and dangerous and needing to be controlled and managed. Anger is not the curse we make it out to be. It is a gift, from of all places, the Creator!
I will never forget the day, I was about fifty years old (yes, 50!), when I was sharing with my Mom just how angry I was with her regarding her stand on one of those crazy family matters that we were all trying to come to terms with. She began to cry. "I just can't stand it when you get angry with me." To me, it was an odd statement because, at that point, I don't think I had expressed any anger toward my Mom since I was five years old! My older sister insightfully said, "Mom! Why does it upset you that Vern is angry with you? You never say anything to Dad when he's angry with you?" I remember being stunned by Sis's comment and became aware for the first time how ironic it was that during my younger years, I had worked so hard to control my temper in an emotional climate that was often riddled with loud voices and strife.
Growing up, I was reminded constantly to control my "temper." And I worked really hard at it. And my Mom let me know how much it pleased her when I did control my temper, so by age six or so, it became a done deal!.
Then came my adolescence. I started getting into fights with my peers. I even took up boxing at our local CYO gym( Catholic Youth Organization), and they took my picture with gloves on, sitting on the ring stool with a good looking girl standing behind me. It was an advertisement for their after school program. A great shot! I was a star!
But one day when I was thirteen, I got into a fistfight at a neighborhood park and landed a pretty good punch on my opponent's forehead and down he went. I thought I had killed him. I ran home, expecting to hear sirens. I thought for sure the police would show up. I read the newspaper every day for a week, looking for the article about the boy who had been killed at Santa Fe Park or who was lying in the hospital in a coma! I promised God that I would never fight again. AND I never did, even to the point of registering as a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War.
So what did I do during all those years when I felt that energy that God gives us to stand up for ourselves when we are violated? I did nothing! Well, perhaps, I ate too much or drank too much or chewed my fingernails down to the quick! For a while I smoked. I certainly settled for less money than my work and services were worth, believing that I was taking the high road and God would some day see to it that I received my just reward. In general, I became passive aggressive. Sometimes, I would even become physically ill rather than stand up for myself. Looking back, it was an interesting journey. But one day, my anger took a chance and came home, and by that time, I had been looking and waiting for "him" so I welcomed him with open arms.
I think the turning point for me was a County-wide crime spree. A very disturbed man was stalking therapists' offices and then entering at the opportune time to rob, rape, and in one instance, kill the therapist. The County Department of Mental Health, God Bless them, put on a three hour seminar for therapists on self defense. What can you learn in three hours? Certainly not martial arts or even how to shoot a gun! When the presenter told the group that if you are not willing to defend yourself by killing your attacker if necessary, you are as good as dead with this creep. I almost threw up on the spot. I knew I was as good as dead. I even wanted to take out a full-page ad in the local newspaper. "Come get me, NOW. Get it over with because I will not be able to defend myself. It will be an easy job."
But something else did click inside me. I thought about my family and wondered if I would wimp out if someday they were targeted by an attacker. To imagine my wife and son looking to me to step up to the plate, and me not being able to, was a little too much to dismiss. So I began a journey of exploring my anger and what my anger might be able to do for me. After all, John Bradshaw said anger was God's gift to support us standing up for ourselves when we are being violated.
Much of my "anger work" took place in "bioenergetic therapy." It is a very physical kind of psychotherapy where I learned how to release energy blocks in my body. I know it sounds a little weird, but when you realize, from recent brain studies, that the amygdala is constantly sending messages to our muscles, which then motivate or move us either toward or away from our experience, it makes a lot of sense. Whenever my amygdala would send a message to my muscles that said, "Hey, Vern, you're being violated, stand up for yourself," I would choke off that message, and the energy God gave me TO stand up for myself got blocked and even stuck in my musculature.
At some point, the "formal" therapy ended, but I continued to explore my anger in my journaling and even in my exercising. There were times that I allowed my anger energy to give me the boost to finish a six mile run or to get to the top of a steep hiking trail. I began experimenting with verbalizing my anger in the privacy of my car, and was so surprised at both the relief and the energy that resulted. In fact, expressing my anger toward the people I love the most in the privacy of my car, where they could not hear me, actually moved me closer to them. I know, it's very interesting, and interesting enough for its own blog!
So I've been on this journey to rediscover my anger. So can you imagine what happened when, a little over a year ago, someone attempted to strong arm rob me of my bank bag, right smack in front of the bank door, of all places! It was not pretty, and I'm sure my twenty-year-old attacker was SURPRISED that this old man fought back! My anger also moved me to bellow for help and other customers got involved. And the would-be robber was arrested on scene.
I am not bragging about this. In fact, I was confused about it for several weeks because too many people told me I was crazy and could have been shot or knifed and should have just surrendered the bag. But that just wasn't inside me, and I don't think I want it inside me. But that's for another blog. But the point is, my anger moved me to stand up for myself and bellow for help.
So here's the deal. Anger comes from a place DEEP DEEP DEEP DEEP inside me where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am worthy, valuable, somebody, and I do not have to accept or tolerate being violated.
RAGE, on the other hand, comes from a place DEEP DEEP DEEP DEEP inside me where I am experiencing myself as a piece of poop! My rageful behavior is my last ditch effort to experience myself as somebody, because at this point, I have lived my life in such a way, I have allowed others to treat me so poorly, that the only thing I know is that I am not worth sh-t.
You see, I believe that when we are born, whether we are a man or a woman, we have an innate sense of our worth. That innate sense of worth, however, needs to be nurtured. We need to learn, by the way the big people treat us, that we are precious and worthwhile just because.
In recent years, we have contrived this concept known as self esteem. Self worth is NOT self esteem. Self esteem is something that's given to us based upon our success, based upon our performance, based upon our achievements. If we get an A, someone might give us five bucks. If I earn a million dollars, my picture might appear on the cover of a magazine, if I star in a movie, if I make lots of touchdowns, if I.......ACHIEVE. Self esteem is contrived and VERY conditional.
Self WORTH, on the other hand, is about my intrinsic value or worth as a human being. It is based upon my existence, not my achievements.
Two of my friends, one is a Dad and the other a Mom. each have adult sons who are schizophrenic and routinely jobless and homeless. They each love their sons totally and unconditionally. You can see on their faces how much they enjoy being with their sons. The message that you are valuable and precious to me, schizophrenic, jobless, homeless, whatever, you are valuable and precious to me, and I enjoy being with you just because, comes shouting through all the questions and pain much like an airplane at high altitude shoots out of a cloud.
What have these adult men achieved? From the typical measure of success, NOTHING. What about their self esteem? On the surface, especially if you observe their clothing and hygiene, they have none and have no clue even what it is! But self worth? They have that and have been able to tap into their self worth to live in a schizophrenic world without suffering the loss of their parents. Do they have any value to society in terms of earning power. NO. In fact, both are on disability. Do they have value to society in terms of the opportunities they give each of us to learn what real love is! YES! Do they deserve to be done away with because they have no "success" story? Absolutely not! And as I continue on my age journey, I hope this society never begins to decide, based upon what I can contribute materialistically, whether I should be here or not. I'm looking at staying for as long as I can. And if people have to take care of me at some point, I don't consider that a drain, but an opportunity for me to receive. You know what? Most of us, especially men, don't know sh-t about receiving love. We might know how to give love and take love, but not receive. Well, there's another blog too!
So we were discussing how each of us is born with an intrinsic sense of our self worth. If Bradshaw is correct, whenever that intrinsic sense of worth is violated, we will feel anger. Well, for men, very early on, we get very powerful messages that our anger is ridiculous. We are given messages that we need to learn how to buck up, to take it like a man. M-m-m. Basically, we are told that it is okay for us to be violated,
And as our life goes on, based on the mandate to be manly, to buck up, to prove our prowess, we engage in activities that set us up to be violated, to be knocked around and even beaten. Just look at sports! Or we go into careers that involve high risk activities. We become what I call a Contemporary Warrieor. Our goal in life is to be a man, which means someone who is hardened and can take anything. So how can you ever feel violated. You can't. So guess what, out the door goes your anger energy.
After a time, this striving to be the man, catches up with us. We can't feel any anger, so we can't appropriately stand up for ourselves. So the best we can do at this point is to become involved with some kind of an addiction so that we can feel SOMETHING. But even that takes a toll over time and at some point, we begin to act out our disconnect from our anger, our disconnect from our intrinsic worth, and we act it out iN RAGE.
So someone says, you need Anger Management. We don't even know what anger is. We need Rage Management and Anger Education. Each and every man who comes into my practice because he is mandated to do so by the court, because he has acted out his rage, says to me, before he even sits down, "I just want you to know that I'm not that kind of person." How sad is that? They don't even know who they are! And that kind of disconnect happens very early on, when I realize that no one is going to respond to my pain, my sadness, my hurt, my horror, my shock, my terror or my joy, my excitement, my love. Bucking up is just a nice way of describing the move to live in my survival brain, on auto pilot. And when you live on auto pilot, YES, you do not know what kind of person you really are.
So once I move back into living in balance with my thinking brain, my emotional brain, and my survival brain, I can become conscious of my emotions and the needs that my emotions are pointing to. I then have half a chance of meeting those needs, especially now that I am grown up and don't have to rely on the big people to do that for me. I am a big person now, and I can actually find ways to appropriately meet my own needs. And then I have half a chance of turning around the current trend of men dying ten years ahead of their female counterparts!
I realized, as I wrote this blog, that there are many pieces here to go back to and explore in more detail, for example, the intrinsic worth of the young man who tried to rob me or the creep who went on that crime spree back in the late 1980's. And I will go back and explore some of these "pieces" in another blog.
Please share your comments and your own experience of either being on the receiving end of men's violence or as a man, being robbed of your innate sense of worth and your anger.
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