What You Don’t Know About Male Anger Can Kill You Or Someone You Love

My father was an angry man. His anger was not the kind that explodes in flames, but the kind that simmers and scorches. To those who knew him, he was a kind and gentle man struggling to make a living as writer, but he was doing it in Hollywood during the time when progressive writers, directors, and actors were blacklisted and suspected of being Communists or left-leaning radicals. His dark moods, his pain and anger, were mostly turned inwards. But as a child I didn’t see his pain, only his irritability and anger, and always felt I had displeased him in some way I could never fathom.

            I was five years old when he was committed to the state mental hospital at Camarillo, north of our home in the San Fernando Valley. I later learned that he had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. I was an adult, dealing with my own irritability, anger, and depression before I found his journals that he had kept at the time, but had been hidden away with unpublished manuscripts and story ideas that he hoped to sell.

            In his last journal I found the following entries:

            August 8thSunday morning, my humanness has fled, my sense of comedy has gone down the drain. I’m tired, hopelessly tired, surrounded by an immense brick wall, a blood-spattered brick world, splattered with my blood, with the blood of my head where I senselessly banged to find an opening, to find one loose brick, so I could feel the cool breeze and could stick out my hand and pluck a handful of wheat, but this brick wall is impregnable, not an ounce of mortar loosens, not a brick gives.

            September 4th: Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work, Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

            September 18th: Faster, faster, faster, I walk. I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family. I try, try, try, try, try. I always try and never stop.

            October 6th: A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried. All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying. Yes, on a Sunday morning in June, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

            Two weeks after this last journal entry, my father took the sleeping pills. His irritability, anger, and depression nearly killed him. He didn’t die and he did recover, but not from any help he received in the mental hospital. In fact, while he was there, he became increasingly worse. The doctors told my mother he just needed more drugs. My father had other ideas. He escaped and never returned. I grew up wondering what happened to my father and terrified it would happen to me. I recounted his healing journey in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.

            My own issues with irritability, anger, and depression undermined my first marriage and brought it to an end. Still in denial, I didn’t get the help I needed. I met and married a woman on the rebound. She had grown up with a father who was angry and our two wounded and unhealed souls were drawn to each other like moths to a flame.

            The fact that she slept with a gun under her pillow might have tipped a healthy person off that this was not a person he should get involved with. For me, I was drawn to the danger, and the unconscious familiarity I felt when I was with her. We were both lucky to get out of the relationship alive.

            People who grow with in a home with an angry man, either have anger issues themselves or become addictively attracted to an angry woman or man. It took me years to heal the childhood wounds, but I was finally healthy enough for a healthy relationship. My wife, Carlin, have now been together for forty-two years.  

            I write about my work with angry men and the women who love them in two books, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship From the Irritable Male Syndrome. In addition to working with individuals and couples who are dealing with male anger, I’ve developed two self-guided, on-line programs, for those who want to get the benefit of what I teach my private clients in a format they can work on their own:

            Heal The Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) covers many important aspects of IMS including:

  • What is the Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) and Why Is It So Dangerous?
  • What Are the Most Important Things To Know About How IMS Impacts Relationships?
  • Why Are Men Reluctant to Talk About IMS?
  • Is There an Irritable Women’s Syndrome (IWS)?
  • How Can We Prevent IMS From Ruining Our Marriage?
  • What Are The Things a Man Can Do Once He Recognizes He Has a Problem?
  • How Can We Heal IMS By Bringing Men and Women Together?

            Stop Male Anger From Destroying Your Relationship offers additional help and support for women who are living with angry men and includes the following topics:

  • How Can a Man Change From Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde Seemingly Overnight?
  • What Should I Do When He Says, “I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You Anymore?
  • How Do I Get Through to Him If He Refuses to Talk?
  • How Do I Help Him If He Denies There Is Any Problem?
  • Sometimes I Feel as Mean and Ugly As Him. What Can I Do With My Own Frustration and Anger?
  • Can Our Relationship Be Revitalized, Even If He Says Its Over?
  • How Do I Know If I Need to Get Out of the Relationship?

            Recent research on chronic stress and how early experiences of anger impact our adult relationships has provided even more compelling reasons why men, and the women who love them, need help and support. Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett is among the top 1 percent most-cited scientists in the world for her revolutionary research in psychology and neuroscience. In her recent book, 7 ½ Lessons About the Brain, she says that people growing in an angry environment suffer physical and emotional harm.

“Chronic verbal abuse in childhood has long-lasting effects,”

says Dr. Barrett.

“When you’re on the receiving end of ongoing insults and threats, for example, studies show that you’re more likely to get sick.”

She goes on to cite a study of 554 young adults who were asked to rate their exposure to verbal abuse from parents and peers when they were children.          

“The scientists found that people who reported exposure to verbal abuse in childhood were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and anger during young adulthood.”

            That has certainly been my experience in my own life and for millions of men and women who don’t recognize or fully understand the damage that male anger can cause. And women who experience male anger growing up can become angry themselves and be abusive with their spouse or children or marry an angry man. The cycle continues until people get help.

            Dr. Barrett concludes that

“Incredibly, these associations were larger than those observed for people who reported physical abuse by a family member and comparable to those observed for people who reported sexual abuse by someone outside the family.”

That’s why I feel so strongly that male anger, whatever the underlying cause, needs to be addressed and healed.

            If you are an angry male or in relationship with an angry male or you grew up in a family with an angry male, I encourage you to learn all you can and get help before problems escalate. It can truly save your life and the lives of people you love.

You can learn more about our work at www.MenAlive.com and you can receive your free newsletter with my current articles and programs for help and support here.

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