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Angry Men Need To Be Kinder To Self

Law Professor Carl Sanborn knows all about anger in men and has written a fascinating new book about it. Some very interesting ideas:

“The sad fact is that both boys and girls are warped by societal expectations” – by what Sandborn calls ‘patriarchy’. “I know, all red-blooded men cringe when they hear that word, patriarchy,” says Sandborn. “But in our resentment against feminist criticism, men have missed a vital point. Patriarchy has stolen our hearts and is killing us.”

The theft, according to Sandborn, is of the ability to express, process or even feel a normal array of human emotions. “Patriarchy stresses power over weakness and individual achievement over community and intimacy”.

Girls lose their voice, their power, under such pressures. Boys learn to be ashamed of their sensitive or “sissy” feelings. So boys suppress such feelings, though they can’t ever outrun them”. Sandborn says men, if made to feel ashamed, sad or hurt, react by getting angry at the cause, be it a boss, spouse, child or friend. The “other” gets blamed for making him feel what he shouldn’t feel as a man – vulnerable.

“The point is, if you scratch an angry man, you’ll often find a grieving man underneath – a guy who has never learned how to identify and process his vulnerable feelings. As Shakespeare put it, the voice of a father is like the voice of God,” says Sandborn. “And that critical voice is often incorporated into the ongoing internal narrative that we use to define our world.” 

“Expressing anger doesn’t work for angry men, either. A feedback loop starts when anger is expressed at a loved one, for example. Anger leads to guilt, leads to self-loathing, leads to more anger”. The answer? To begin, men must soften the cruel self-talk by adopting a patient and supportive inner voice. As Sandborn says, a man can become his own kind father.

He advises men to pay more attention to their feelings. “Give yourself permission to feel things. The truth is that feelings, with permission, will rise and then pass. Admit your guilt or sadness to yourself. But use a gentle voice. Everyone is flawed. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is a perfect husband, father or friend”. Remember, too, that anger is natural when a person feels attacked. But Sandborn says we can express angry feelings without losing our temper. Often, what we want to express to the other person is not our anger, but our hurt feelings.

Sandborn has a point. In our anger management classes we teach what is called “assertive communication” – the ability to express emotions without losing one’s temper. It is one of the eight tools of anger control we teach men- and women too – to better manage their emotions. More at http://18.191.66.198

Calvin Sandborn is a law professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.  His book on anger management, Becoming the Kind Father: A Son’s Journey (New Society, 2007) can be viewed at http://www.newsociety.com/bookid/3951  Professor Sandborn can be reached at csandborn@law.uvic.ca