Even in Our Anger, We Can Be Caring and Constructive

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph. D

For many, anger equates with an "explosion" of a destructive force, resulting in such behaviors as stomping feet, banging doors, throwing something, breaking something, or in some cases, hitting someone. 

This is how one child defined anger for me, "When you don't care about anything. You don't feel no pain. You don't care what happens to you. You are so mad, you make somebody pay for it."

This child beautifully summed up what many adults would say about anger. But anger doesn't have to be a destructive force. It is violence that is destructive. When one wants to hurt the other person, that is not anger, that is violence. It's time we separate anger from violence. One has a right to be angry with others but one doesn't have a right to be violent. 

Likewise, between the partners, anger doesn't have to be violent. Anger can become a constructive energy. One can use that energy to change whatever needs to be changed.  

Those who try to normalize or preach acceptance of violence are promoting violence. Use your anger as an energy to communicate information about yourself so that you and your partner can make some changes in the relationship. 

If you are angry, you don't stop caring about the person you love. You don't try to hurt the person you love. You don't have to punish the person you are angry with. Assault has no place in an intimate relationship. 

Let's look at the cycle of violence that flows from one generation to another. A child sees his father or father-surrogate hitting his mother whenever he is angry. Anger gets associated with hitting. And when the father or father-surrogate gets angry with the child, instead of sitting down with the child and explaining what it is the child has done wrong, he flies into a rage and starts hitting the child. 

It is a fact that sixty percent of the males who abuse their partners also abuse children at home. Again, anger gets associated with hitting.  Furthermore, whenever an abuser drinks or consumes drugs, he hits someone in the family. The child learns another lesson. When you drink or do drugs, yell and hit someone.

When this child gets a little older, he becomes rough and abusive towards his mother and sisters, and later abuses women with whom he enters in a relationship. This abusive behavior is an example of a learned behavior.  

Then there is another type of abusive behavior which comes largely from an internal decision. A person consciously or unconsciously, decides to coerce, intimidate, and physically overpower the other person rather than just express his or her anger or frustration towards that person. 

Some day, I will write an open letter to all the members of the male species. In this letter, I want to say something along these lines:

"It's okay to be soft and tender and to be emotionally vulnerable. You don't have to play tough all the time.  You are not on the battlefield and this is not a war, so relax and let your guard down. It's okay to sometime not talk about football games and cars and instead, share your feelings. You don't have to drink to be in the company of other men and you can let them know that you are hurting. 

Yes, men can still be men and cry. General Schwartzkopf did on TV in front of millions of viewers. You can talk about what is bothering you before you have an angry outburst. Anger doesn't have to be violent. And fathers, bear in mind that your little sons need six hugs a day and your daughters probably need twelve." 

Many men are angry and violent because they have been starved of fatherly love. There are violent gangs mushrooming everywhere in America. So what is happening with today's generation? Robert Bly explains it the best. Bly says these gangs are a bunch of boys without fathers. 

Violent boys need fathers who are loving and firm and teach these young men what is right and what is wrong. They need fathers to teach them job skills just as in the old times the older generation taught their young ones how to fish, hunt, and carve wood. 

Children need fathers to teach them how to love without abusing their partners and how to express their anger without destroying themselves or other people. Perhaps, a day will come when a boy demonstrates control over his anger, does what he is supposed to do, then the society will do the "graduation ceremony" and admit him to the world of manhood. The chief of the ceremony will proudly proclaim, "He is no more a boy. He has become a man! "   


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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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