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Incest & Sexual Abuse–the Oldest Taboos

One of the oldest taboos in the civilized world may be that of incest. The Bible addresses this issue in 2 Samuel 13 with the story of Amnon and Tamar. Amnon was King David’s firstborn son. Tamar was his younger sister for whom he lusted. Amnon devised a plan to fake illness in order get the virgin Tamar to come to his residence to cook for him. He then lured her to his bedroom and raped her. Once finished, his lust turned to hatred. (This may be common in instances of incest, as it absolves the attacker of blame and places it on the victim. It also probably involves some transference of self-hatred as well.) He cast her out and shamed her. The passage says she “remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s home” (NKJV). Interestingly, it says that when David found out what Amnon had done, he was angry, but it doesn’t say that he took any action to provide justice for Tamar. That would have compounded the feelings of betrayal, injustice, and humiliation she must have felt. Several years later, Absalom murdered Amnon for his transgressions.

Approximately 90 percent of sexually abused children know their abuser. Incest is the cruelest betrayal of trust between a child and parent and understandably has emotionally devastating consequences. When an older sibling or relative is involved, it’s just a damaging. Sexually violating children is probably the worst evil most people will ever experience. When people who are supposed to protect you end up violating you, it is thoroughly destructive. Statistically one in three girls and one in six boys will suffer unwanted sexual experiences before the age of eighteen. That number is probably higher, as it is estimated that a high number of people never tell anyone they have been molested. Regardless, those conservative estimates alone translate into about 60 million people in our country having been victims of sexual abuse. Literally, everywhere you go, you will be in contact with someone who has suffered this fate. Look around you. In a room full of women, at least a third of them have been sexually abused as a child. This has to stop. If this is your legacy, you can stop it in your lineage by following some of the steps detailed throughout this book.

It’s estimated that up to 90 percent of all incest victims never tell anyone. Why? Because they are afraid of breaking up the family. Susan Forward and Craig Buck say, “Incest may be frightening, but the thought of being responsible for the destruction of the family is even worse.”

And the damage is even worse if the victim experiences any pleasure from these acts as their shame is magnified. Our bodies are designed to be sexual beings. In addition, it is biologically programmed to respond (often as a form of physical protection) to sexual acts even in cases of non-consent and assault. This causes many victims to feel responsible for the event. Understand, as a child you were always the victim, whether you derived pleasure or not. The adult is always the one to blame in those circumstances.

Additionally, people do not tell anyone because incest abusers are very adept at psychological manipulation and fear-mongering. They use threats and manipulation to keep their victims quiet.

Threats Used by Incest Abusers

Tell and I’ll kill you.

Tell and I’ll kill your parents/siblings/grandparents.

Tell and no one will believe you.

Tell and your mommy will be mad at (or hate) you.

Tell and people will think you are crazy.

Tell and I’ll go to jail and there won’t be anyone to support the family.

Survivors of incest often report feeling worthless, bad, dirty, and damaged. Depression is a common result of incest. Women especially may allow themselves to become overweight as adults. This serves two purposes: (a) she imagines it will keep men away from her, and (b) the body mass creates the illusion of power and strength. Like many victims of abuse, incest survivors frequently self-medicate their pain with drugs and alcohol.[i]

Men who have been sexually abused have a special set of challenges to deal with, as it strikes at the heart of their masculinity. Men are not supposed to be assaulted, vulnerable, dominated, raped, or controlled. They may feel emasculated or that they are destined to be a homosexual.

Men generally find themselves uncomfortable dealing with and expressing emotions. In part, it’s how they’re brought up. Any form of sexual abuse creates intense emotions. Here are some common emotions men feel in these situations:

  • Dehumanized—They feel like they have no value and constantly compare themselves to other men.
  • Shame—They transfer false shame and guilt to themselves.
  • Ambivalent—They can understand the emotion of anger, but not love. During the abuse they were feeling horrified and scared but also aroused. Their mind was saying, “This is not right,” but their body is designed to respond when stimulated.
  • Impotent—A word no man even wants to think about. They believe they have no voice—that no one will listen to them.
  • Disrespected—They don’t feel other men will respect them. That they will make fun of them. That they never measure up. Often they will become very promiscuous in an attempt to prove their masculinity (to themselves and the world).

Understand that incest affects its victims in very subtle and damaging ways. This is another type of abuse that may require very intense counseling in order to heal from. Don’t wait! The longer you put it off, the more difficult it becomes.

[i]Susan Forward, with Craig Buck, Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life (New York,: Bantam Books, 1989

 

Excerpted from Rick’s newest book, Overcoming Toxic Parenting: How to be a good parent when yours wasn’t, by Revell Publishing.

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Inside the Abusive Family

Our family constitutes our entire reality as a child. It teaches us who we are and how we are supposed to interact with the world. Good families give us the skills and encouragement to interact successfully with the world and other people. They teach us to lead a successful life. Toxic families teach us survival skills that may or may not translate into leading a successful life. Because of this, many abused people make self-defeating choices like believing they can’t trust anybody, that they aren’t worthy of being loved, or that they will never amount to anything. They are programmed to conform to the dysfunctional behaviors of the family. People from abusive families are taught that to be different is bad—they must conform and obey the rules of the family at all costs. To be different is to be a traitor—and being a traitor or turning on the family is high treason in abusive families.

Many families take on role-playing to perpetuate the family system. For instance, if Dad’s role was to drink, Mom’s role was to be codependent, and the children’s roles were then to be the parents in the home. Children from dysfunctional homes often take on specific roles in the family.

Here are some common roles (my three siblings and I fit into these roles pretty clearly):[i]

The Rebel gets into trouble and is known as the “bad boy” or “bad girl.” Their behavior often warrants attention, distracting everyone from the real issues at home. They are also known as the “scapegoat.” They are ashamed of their family life and often the first to get into “recovery.”

The Mascot/Clown uses comedy to ease tension and calm explosive situations. The humor helps a family in pain but is a temporary balm. This child is kind and goodhearted but never seems to grow up.

The Good Girl (or Boy) or Golden Child is dutiful and respectable. They get good grades, don’t make waves, and are often a confidante of a parent. They are fixers of the family but never get their needs met. They can be rigid, judgmental, and controlling. They are very self-sufficient and usually very successful in life but lack emotional intimacy.

The Lost Child becomes invisible. They stay out of the house by escaping into activities, friendships, or sports. They escape from reality but are generally very sad and angry, which they deny and avoid.

How Toxic Parents Cope

Toxic parents react to threats to their balance by acting out their fears and frustrations, with little thought for the consequences to their children. Here are some common coping mechanisms:

  • Denial—Denial that anything is wrong or that it will never happen again. Relabeling is also denial—an alcoholic becomes a “social drinker.”
  • Projection—Abusive parents frequently accuse their children of the very inadequacies they suffer from.
  • Sabotage—In dysfunctional homes, other family members assume the roles of rescuers and caretakers. If any family member begins to change or get healthy, it threatens the balance of the home, and the other members may unconsciously sabotage their chances of success so that things get back to normal.
  • Triangling—One toxic parent may enlist a child as a confidant or ally against the other parent. The child is pressured to choose sides and becomes an emotional dumping ground for their parent’s discomfort.
  • Keeping Secrets—This turns families into private clubs. Children who hide abuse by saying she “fell down the stairs” are protecting the club from outside interference.[ii]

Parents are godlike in their positions in the home. They provide sustenance and shelter, make rules, and dole out pain, whether it’s justified or not. Without parents, children instinctively know they would be unprotected, unfed, and unhoused. They would be in a constant state of terror, unable to survive alone.[iii]

Abusive homes tend to have common characteristics, including the appearance of normalcy, emotional isolation, secrecy, neediness, stress, and lack of respect.

All children have certain rights. They have the right to have basic needs met, such as being fed, clothed, sheltered, and protected. They also have the right to be nurtured emotionally, the right to make mistakes, and the right to be disciplined without being physically or emotionally abused. Unfortunately, these rights are seldom honored in abusive homes.

However, most people (especially abused ones who crave parental nurturing) still have a need to deify their parents—no matter how bad they were. Many victimized people still believe their parent’s behavior was justified: “I guess I probably deserved it” or “Sure I was beaten, but I turned out okay.” Abusive parents have a propensity to deny that any abuse happened or they justify it. Just because inadequate parents “didn’t mean it,” doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt and cause harm. Intentionality is not a prerequisite of abuse. We hear people excuse these parents by saying things like, “they didn’t mean to do any harm” or “they did the best they could.” Too often inadequate parents expect their children to somehow take care of them and meet their needs—tasks children are not capable of fulfilling. I truly didn’t believe that many of the behaviors my parents exhibited were abusive until enough counselors and friends pointed it out or asked if I would ever treat my children that way.

Since many of us either deny we were abused or justify our parent’s behavior, we will look at some specific types of abuse in upcoming posts. It’s hard to break a behavior (and heal a wound) if we are not aware of it or refuse to acknowledge it.

[i]Lisa A. Miles, “Early Wounding & Dysfunctional Family Roles,” World of Psychology, PsycheCentral, August 8, 2013, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/08/10/early-wounding-dysfunctional-family-roles/.

[ii] Forward with Buck, Toxic Parents, 169–70.

[iii]Ibid., 15.

 

Excerpted from Rick’s newest book, Overcoming Toxic Parenting: How to be a good parent when yours wasn’t, by Revell Publishing.  To find out more or to get a signed copy, click here.

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Why Males are Angry

Many boys and men in our culture today are angry.  They are angry for a variety of reasons; some justifiable and some not so good.  For instance boys raised without the benefit of a father to teach them how a man acts, thinks, solves problems, and relates to the world around him are at a distinct disadvantage in life and thus are understandably angry.  Other males are angry for reasons more related to how they internalize the world around them—lack of hope, childhood wounds, and a culture that seemingly tells them they are unnecessary or at least need to change to become some things that they were never meant to be.

Males generally are not very adept at understanding their emotions nor very comfortable dealing with them.  Emotions are powerful and often uncontrollable.  That’s why many males keep such a tight lid on their emotions–once released they are difficult to predict or control and often result in a situation ending in vulnerability.  The one emotion however that they are relatively comfortable with is that of anger.  Anger for many men is an old friend; one they call upon in a variety of circumstances.  Like all powerful emotions it can be used destructively or for good.  For instance anger can be terribly destructive in relationships.  All we need do is look at the devastation caused to women and children through a man’s uncontrolled wrath and anger.  Anger can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse.

On the other hand anger can be channeled into productive pathways.  Anger can be used to motivate a man to achieve more than he might otherwise be able to accomplish.  It can be used as a mechanism to encourage perseverance under duress or in grueling circumstances.  Many a boy accomplished some difficult task all because they got angry when someone told them they couldn’t.  When teased many males use that anger to motivate themselves to “prove” their offenders wrong.  One method in coaching sports is to get young men angry in order to motivate them to perform beyond their self-imposed limitations.  In fact, many men propel themselves with anger and grit to succeed in life because a father-figure constantly told them they wouldn’t amount to anything.  Warriors often used anger towards their enemies as motivation to succeed in battle or even a school yard fight.

Anger produces a physiological arousal in males.  It creates a state of readiness and heightened awareness.  It creates energy that can be directed outward in the form of protection or even as a weapon.  Anger causes a fight or flight response designed to protect us.  It is frequently a powerful tool for boys and men to use to cover actual or perceived inadequacies.  Many young and even older males react with anger when they become overly frustrated or are hurt emotionally.

The surge of adrenaline and associated arousal can be addicting to some males.  Young males need to be taught how to deal with and control their anger.  In order to do that, they must learn to own their anger and identify the source of that anger.  Then they can learn to determine how to choose to respond to their anger.

Regardless of how it is used anger is the emotion most familiar to males.  Oftentimes anger in males is a secondary emotion used to cover underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, or frustration.   Anger is used by males to cover or mask other emotions.  For instance, certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males.  Humiliation is considered a weakness by males.  Remember, for most males to show weakness is to be vulnerable and open to criticism.  To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked.  But anger is a defense against attack and may even be a weapon to attack others.  Very angry men and boys are seldom messed with, even by bullies.

Rather than feel humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover those feelings.  Even pain (physical or psychological) can be covered by anger.  Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer.  They’d get mad than cry.  Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship.  Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos; egos that are often covering secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

Sometimes anger is even used consciously.  I was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home.  I can distinctly remember at about the age of 12 when I first discovered that if I just got angry I didn’t have to feel that humiliating emotion of being afraid.  In typical naive boyhood fashion I told myself, “This is great.  I’ll never be scared again for the rest of my life!”  However, this was foolish as I just spend a significant portion of my adult life being angry.  Angry because I was really afraid because I had never had a positive male role model show me how a man lives his life and faces his problems in a healthy manner.

Young men who are not taught (generally by positive male role models) how a man acts, what his roles in life are and how to fulfill them adequately and competently are very often angry.  They are angry at life and at the world.  They take this anger out on others, hoping to hurt them before they themselves are hurt; even if that hurt is just humiliation from their own ineptness.  When that happens men have a difficult time being the kind of loving, caring fathers and hubands that they want to be.

One solution?  Let’s provide boys (and men) with healthy male role models to teach them how a male processes his emotions.  We’ll explore that topic next week.

 

Excerpted from That’s My Teenage Son, by Rick Johnson, Revell Publishing.

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Does Political Correctness Increase Bullying?

If you are like me you are sick of hearing about this topic.  But that begs the question: is bullying becoming a bigger problem within our culture, or does the media just sensationalize it because it is the topic du jour?  If it isincreasing maybe one reason is the constraints that political correctness forces upon young males.
Perhaps because our culture has somehow minimized (or even demonized) the majestic qualities of manhood, many of our boys today seem a bit softer, perhaps more feminized, than in the past. They seem a bit gun-shy—with a deer in the headlights look about them. They stay in puberty longer and delay launching into manhood later than their predecessors. (Why become a man when being a man is bad?)  Others, perhaps because they have been caused to be ashamed of being a male, overcompensate by acting out in dramatic caricatures of manhood—they are overly macho, violent, and sexually promiscuous.
Young men today also have a certain amount of repressed anger. This may contribute to the seeming increase in bullying in schools, but also in a more escalated level or degree of violence among young males. This is possibly caused by not allowing young males to solve their social issues as they have for thousands of years—on their own. In the past when two young males disagreed about something, they went to the playground and tussled around until one or the other acceded.  Generally they both just got too tired to continue and quit. They then shook hands and forgot about it. In fact, many boys I fought with went on to become my good friends. Today, however, with adult interference, boys are not allowed to solve their own problems. They are taught that any kind of aggression or (gasp) violence is bad. So they are forced to repress those feelings of disrespect, humiliation, and injustice, which eventually cause those feelings to fester into frustration, anger, resentment, and bitterness—far more powerful emotions than they were originally faced with. Eventually those powerful repressed emotions spill over and explode into greater levels of violence evidenced by the shootings and stabbings we see of young men across the country.
A big mistake that our culture currently makes with boys is that we unconsciously combine aggression and violence into one behavior. From a males’ perspective the two are not the same. Boys and men see aggression as useful—it is constructive of the self. Violence is just the opposite—it is destructive.  So when our schools, courts, and social service workers confuse the two it does a disservice to boys who actually need aggression in many areas of their life. Our culture just generally assumes now that the more feminized traits like being quiet, sitting down, being contemplative, and nurturing are the right way to act, and the more masculine traits like anger, aggression, confrontation, and one-upmanship are wrong—in every circumstance! That’s not true and does a great disservice to our boys. There are times when it is appropriate to be angry and confrontational instead of passive or gentle.
Our schools and culture’s knee-jerk response to male violence (or even just natural aggression) of establishing a “no tolerance” policy has probably been more detrimental than helpful to young males. (If there is any question that our public educational system has been “feminized” we need look no further than this policy.) One reason is because it’s actually less frightening for a male to “act out” (physically fight) when he feels threatened than it is to have the self-control to face the issue head on. So for instance when a boy gets made fun of on the playground, his sense of honor requires him to respond. But perhaps because he does not have the maturity or coping skills to understand that the more mature thing to do would be to confront his attackers in a non-violent way, he responds emotionally and strikes back. When we condemn his action or response as being “bad” we send the message that his honor is not worth fighting for. And yet he has an innate ego response mechanism that causes him to seek justice when he is disrespected. To not allow him to respond or to require he get someone else (like an adult female) to advocate for him tells him he is powerless, disrespected, and dishonorable. Respect is a key attribute of the core of a male’s psyche. When he does not feel respected or is allowed to be disrespected without recourse, it rots his pride and weakens his level of self-respect.
I’m not promoting that we should teach young males that violence is the way to solve problems. But the myth that “violence never solved anything” is just that, a myth. Violence solves lots of problems—especially violent problems. If someone is trying to murder your wife and children, appealing to their sense of compassion is probably not a good strategy to stop them.
Back in the “old days” when a gym teacher had two boys who had problems with each other (which is inevitable) he put boxing gloves on them both and told them to settle their differences in a supervised environment. Afterward, they were made to shake hands and moved on. Even in the most adversarial unsupervised playground scuffle seldom was anyone injured beyond a bloody nose. Males always respect their opponent after doing battle with one another and frequently become good friends because of the respect they earn for one another. We did not see the problems then that we face today with high levels of violence and the killing of our young men.
However, our more feminized world of total tolerance does not allow a young man to seek justice, which causes him to be resentful and angry. Males are taught it is bad to fight or even be aggressive over any insult no matter how egregious the offense. This frustrates their sense of justice.
Again, I’m not promoting violence, bullying, or unchecked aggression, but this kind of “feminization” of young males not only results in a more intensified level of aggression, but also produces passive men who often internalize this anger and frustration, which then manifests itself in passive-aggressive behavior, which can be just as destructive.
I watched this play out with a group of young males at the local high school the other day. Their horse-playing was becoming somewhat aggressive as young men are wont to do. Several teachers observed this and sounded the alarm that a “fight” was about to happen. This, of course, got all the adults in a dither, running around the building, sounding the alarm. It was obvious from the boys’ reaction to this that they enjoyed the control they gained over the adults who were responding to their “gang fight.” You could virtually see the gears turning in their heads as they somewhat tongue-in-cheek continued the escapades until the teachers and administration had worked themselves into a near panic, at which point the boys quietly disappeared into the sunset with smirks on their faces.
We do our boys a disservice when we do not allow them a certain amount of aggression and autonomy in solving their own social problems. Males are physical beings—they solve problems through action, not by talking about their feelings. (Frankly, to talk about your feelings after having had your honor disparaged does not seem like adequate recompense.) Males often bond with one another through aggression. This means males are biologically wired to be more physically active, more aggressive, and more likely to need physical activity to blow off emotional stress.

Want to stop bullying?  If we want to eliminate physical aggression and fights with young males, we need to find find physical competitions or other direct challenges for them to engage in when they have issues with each other. In addition, directing them into battles that they can use their natural aggression in a healthy way (fighting against sex trafficking, abuse, or other injustices) gives them a more noble vision of their roles in life.  This teaches them to be true warriors who use their power to lift up others, rather than becoming bullies who abuse those weaker than they are.
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The War on Men

Guys, we need to stop being ashamed of being men. Virtually every behavior that is natural to a man is now being criticized and we are made to feel ashamed about being our gender. Perhaps if we spent more time uplifting men instead of trying to annilate masculinity, we’d have better men.

 I recently posted this comment on a social network site. Not a huge fan of Men’s Health Magazine, but this ain’t bad advice: “You can’t be a topnotch man unless you’re deeply grateful. For what? Glad you asked. For the gift of your gender. For those muscles in your back. For those neurons in your brain. For your mirth. Your lust. Your courage. For your possibilities. A man in full appreciates the twist of fate that made him so strong, so cunning, so stalwart, so alert, so sexually skilled, so fully equipped, so good to go. Live the appreciation, by using it all.”

 The point was that men should have an attitude of gratefulness. Is there anything wrong with a man being grateful? Hardly—I’d say it’s one of the foundations of authentic masculinity. Men were almost embarrassingly silent regarding the post, but a number of women responded with snarky comments like, “so humble” or “vain,” or “very prideful.”

 Really? Are we so threatened by passionate, proud masculinity that we (as a culture) are programmed to immediately take steps to keep it squashed down. After all, if we can keep men ashamed of themselves, we can keep them docile. And docile men are easy to control. We’ve raised a generation of docile sons and we now call them slackers. If I had posted a note encouraging women to be proud of how they were created I’d have been lauded as an enlightened and highly intelligent human being.

In the past, men’s conferences such as Promise Keepers were met with criticism and distain by the media and women (even Christian women). They were portrayed as men getting together to plot and scheme with some ulterior motive to dominate or control women, putting them back under the thumb of oppression. Recently a Christian men’s conference focusing on inspiring men to act more manly has been heavily lambasted by Christian men and women in the media as being chauvinistic and rather stupid. Comments such as “Why do men need a conference to teach them how to be men anyway?” were cavalierly tossed about intending to humiliate the men who attended (yet interestingly national and local conferences that teach women how to live fulfilling and satisfying lives as wives, mothers, and women are thriving).

As a culture we seem to be highly threatened when groups of men get together so we do all we possibly can to demolish (or at least integrate with females) men’s clubs, boys groups, or any other male-only domains. After all, we wouldn’t want men getting together without the supervision of a female—who knows what might happen? When men have gotten together in the past they’ve only done things like, oh, put a man on the moon, or write the Constitution and Bill of Rights for the greatest country ever created in the history of the world.

 Men are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they make no efforts to improve themselves they are criticized as being lazy and self-centered. If they do try and improve themselves by learning from other men they are accused of trying to usurp a woman’s rights and it’s assumed that there must be some nefarious motive behind what they are attempting. And when they do good and right things (like the young Catholic men in the photo above who were praying together to protect a Catholic cathedral from vandalism) they are mocked and chastised.

 Guys don’t buy into it. You need other men in your life. Learn from them what healthy (and unhealthy) masculinity looks like. And when you make mistakes (which you will) learn from them and don’t be ashamed. If you are not making mistakes (and getting criticized by someone), you’re not accomplishing anything.

 Now go out and figure out how to accomplish something great!

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The Psychology of Male Anger

One emotion that most males are familiar with is anger. Anger produces a physiological arousal in males. It creates a state of readiness and heightened awareness. It creates energy that can be directed outward in the form of protection or even as a weapon. Anger causes a fight or flight response designed to protect us. Anger is frequently a powerful tool for boys and men to use to cover our inadequacies. Oftentimes anger in males is a secondary emotion used to cover underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, or frustration. You’ll notice that nearly all males will react with anger when they become overly frustrated or are hurt emotionally.

The surge of adrenaline and associated arousal can be addicting to some males. Young males need to be taught how to deal with and control their anger. In order to do that, they must learn to own their anger and identify the source of that anger. Then they can learn to determine how to choose to respond to their anger.

Males are not very adept at understanding their emotions nor very comfortable dealing with them. Emotions are powerful and often uncontrollable. That’s why many males keep such a tight lid on their emotions–once released they are difficult to predict or control and often result in a situation ending in vulnerability. The one emotion however that they are relatively comfortable with is that of anger. Anger for many men is an old friend; one they call upon in a variety of circumstances. Like all powerful emotions it can be used destructively or for good. For instance anger can be terribly destructive in relationships. After all anger is only one letter away from being danger. All we need do is look at the devastation caused to women and children through a man’s uncontrolled wrath and anger. Anger can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse.

On the other hand anger can be channeled into productive pathways. Anger can be used to motivate a man to achieve more than he might otherwise be able to accomplish. It can be used as a mechanism to encourage perseverance under duress or in grueling circumstances. Many a boy accomplished some difficult task all because he got angry when someone told him he couldn’t succeed. When teased, many boys use that anger to motivate themselves to “prove” their offenders wrong. One method in coaching is to get young men angry in order to motivate them to perform beyond their self-imposed limitations. In fact, many men propel themselves with anger and grit to succeed in life because a father-figure constantly told them they wouldn’t amount to anything. Warriors often used anger towards their enemies as motivation to succeed in battle or even a school yard fight.

Regardless of how it is used anger is the emotion most familiar to males. Anger is often a secondary emotion used by males to cover or mask other emotions. For instance, certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males. Humiliation is considered a weakness by males. Remember, for most males to show weakness is to be vulnerable and open to criticism. To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked. But anger is a defense against attack and may even be a weapon to attack others. Very angry men and boys are seldom messed with, even by bullies.

Rather than feel humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover those feelings. Even pain (physical or psychological) can be covered by anger. Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer. They’d rather get mad than cry. Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship. Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos; egos that are covering secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

Sometimes anger is even used consciously. I was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home. I can distinctly remember at about the age of 12 when I first discovered that if I just got angry I didn’t have to feel that humiliating emotion of being afraid. In typical naive boyhood fashion I told myself, “This is great. I’ll never be scared again for the rest of my life!” However, this was foolish as I spent a significant portion of my adult life being angry. Angry because I was really afraid because I had never had a positive male role model show me how a man lives his life and faces his problems in a healthy manner.

Young men who are not taught how a man acts, what his roles in life are and how to fulfill them adequately and competently are very often angry. They are angry at life and at the world. They are afraid. They take this anger out on others, hoping to hurt them before they themselves are hurt; even if that hurt is just humiliation from their ineptness.

Excerpted from, Rick Johnson, That’s My Teenage Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, by Revell, 2011

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Angry Young Men

Ever notice we have a lot of angry young men running around today? One of the reasons is that our boys today have a certain amount of repressed anger. It results in more bullying in school, but also in a more escalated level of violence. This is caused by not allowing young males to solve their social issues as they have for thousands of years—on their own. In the past when two young males disagreed about something, they went on the playground and tussled around until one or the other acceded—generally they both just got too tired to continue and quit. They then shook hands and forgot about it. In fact many boys I fought with we went on to be good friends. Today however, with adult (feminine) interference, boys are not allowed to solve their own problems. They are taught that any kind of aggression or (gasp) violence is bad. So they are forced to repress those feelings which eventually cause them to fester into frustration, anger, resentment, and bitterness–far more powerful feelings than they were originally faced with. Eventually those powerful repressed emotions spill over and explode into greater levels of violence evidenced by the shootings and stabbings we see of young men across the country.

I’m not promoting that we should teach young males that violence is the way to solve problems. But in the “old days” when a gym teacher had two boys who had problems with each other he put boxing gloves on them both and told them to settle their differences. Afterwards they were made to shake hands and forget about it. Even in the most adversarial unsupervised playground scuffle seldom was anyone injured beyond a bloody nose. Males always respect their opponent after doing battle with one another and frequently become good friends because of the respect they earn for one another. We did not see the problems then that we face today with high levels of violence and killing of our young men.

Our more feminized world of total tolerance does not allow a young man to seek justice which causes him to be resentful and angry. Males are taught it is bad to fight or even be aggressive over any insult no matter how egregious the offense.
Again, I’m not promoting violence, bullying, or unchecked aggression, but this kind of feminization of young males not only results in a more intensified level of aggression, but also produces passive men who often internalize this anger and frustration which then manifests itself in destructive passive-aggressive behavior.

Why do you think young men are angry today?