Recently I visited Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, for a holiday with my mother and girlfriend. Lanzarote is a beautiful Island with a long history of volcanic eruptions that have shaped its land.
Just beside the apartment where we stayed there was a small volcano and I used to jog to the top. It was a silent volcano as most of the volcanoes in Lanzarote have been since 1824, which was the when last major eruption happened. As I stood on the roof of the volcano one afternoon, which was now covered with stones in the centre, I felt deeply into the moment and found myself contemplating how in my life often I have felt like a silent volcano.
And this metaphor of a silent volcano can be related to many men today. If you are reading this as a man I’m guessing that you can already feel the heat and anger inside of you wanting to rise to the top? Or maybe you want to suppress this anger because in your life that is what you have been taught to do?
Many of the men I work with portray an exterior image of a Super Nice Guy, and I used to be one of them, but inside they are raging like a volcano and at times in moments of rage they explode uncontrollably, often projecting their anger onto other people, most of the time their partners and families. The effects of these eruptions can be devastating.
Guys, let’s take a minute here to drop the guilt!
As men, many of us were never taught that it’s ok to feel fire inside of us and to express anger. We have been conditioned to fear anger and as a result we keep it locked inside.
In general, the reason men explode uncontrollably like this is because over the years we have been forced to suppress our natural wild side and we’ve been taught to wear a mask of false niceness.
There are many possible reasons why this has happened and society as a whole of course has managed to create a world of men who conform to their rules. One of the main reasons we suppress anger is because when we were children most of us were raised predominantly by women at home, in our schools and religious institutions. Many of us are sons of divorced parents, single mothers, or from families where our father spent long hours at work and he was too tired to spend quality emotional bonding time with us when he arrived home. Oftentimes, not only was dad not around for us emotionally, male mentors in other areas of our life were also few and far between. In my case my dad was around, but he worked so hard and my image of him growing up was of a man lying on the sofa watching TV recovering from his physical labour. And for my elders, I didn’t even meet any of my grandads as they had died before I was born.
Of course we have tremendous respect for the women who raised us. I am forever in gratitude to my mother for the way she raised me. But without a significant input from men in our lives we were raised to wear a false mask of niceness. We were also taught from a very young age that it is wrong to feel anger and even worse to express it.
Unfortunately, women cannot understand that as young boys we are hard wired to play, to fight, to be dangerous, to take risks, to climb, to explore, to be sexual, and we develop a healthy level of aggression, which needs to be expressed. This internal fire if used in the correct way can be the energetic source of our creativity and action in the world.
Unfortunately, at a very early age we are taught to suppress our natural hard wired tendencies.
How many of you men remember these words from your parents or have used these same words with your own children: –
‘Don’t cry, everything will be ok’
‘Don’t shout, it’s rude’
‘Don’t be loud in public’
‘Stop embarrassing me’
‘Don’t laugh too loudly’
‘Stop touching yourself’
‘Stop jumping up and down’
‘Don’t be so aggressive’
‘Don’t be angry’
‘How can you be angry?’
‘Be careful, don’t go too far away’
‘Don’t go into the dark’
‘Be a good boy for your mum’
‘Don’t move and be quiet’
and the list goes on!
So, in essence we’ve been raised to be ‘Good Guys’ and to please others, especially women.
Robert Bly, the famous poet and men’s movement leader, points out that men cannot be initiated in life by women alone. Often if a man is raised by predominantly women he will become ashamed of his natural strengths, his sexual hunger, his wildness, and his necessary forcefulness. Bly calls this type of man ‘The Soft Male’, a man who has rejected every aspect of the male roles which might be associated with violence and aggression, a condition that has been created over the past few generations, since the Industrial Revolution, when most men were taken away from the home environment and into urban jobs.
Psychologist Dr. Glover gives this type of behaviour a different name. He terms it ‘The Mr. Nice Guy Syndrome’, based on over 30 years of work with male clients. He states that in today’s world we are surrounded by men who don’t respect their own personal boundaries, don’t know how to say no, avoid any confrontation, always aim to please, and they expect a return on their niceness, and lie in an attempt to be liked by others. In essence they wear a false mask of perfection, whilst carrying bucket loads of suppressed internal rage.
If we want to reclaim our own inner power as men in the world, confident men, who are capable of serving the world from a place of passion and clarity of direction then we must take off our false mask. I am not saying that it’s easy to do this. Initially, the first step involves enquiring and feeling into your own behaviour asking the following questions: –
Do you often say yes to something, when really inside you want to say no?
Do you often find it difficult to get straight to the point of what you want to say, especially when talking to women?
Do you find it hard to tell the truth?
Do you tell lies to pretend to others that you are perfect?
Do you do things for others, secretly expecting something in return?
Do you do things for others so they will give you compliments?
Do you suppress your anger and keep it locked inside?
I find that many men find it hard to ask these simple questions and to feel inside of themselves. Even more, many men find it difficult to admit that they do behave with these traits. Some men I know cannot say yes to any of these questions, even though I can clearly see their own video and I witness that they should be saying yes to every one of these questions. These men live in a false world of denial.
I encourage you to come to a realisation that it’s time for a change. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to make the shift from boy to man. It’s time to recognise that the fire inside of you is a force that can be used for good use. It’s time to realise that anger is a natural emotion that, if channelled in the correct way, can be very transformative for you. But how to do this?
It is not within the scope of this article to go into detail discussing anger management for this is a detailed topic, and in some cases could require psychological support or counselling. I am simply sharing with you a few simple practices that may help you.
I encourage you to try the following in your life on a daily basis: –
Say no to someone’s request every day at least 2 times.
Make a list of the amount of times per day to tell a lie to someone (even a white lie). This act in itself is enough to raise awareness and facilitate change.
Organise at least 30 mins per day for yourself to do something you love.
Do something you are scared of once per week.
Join a men’s group and begin talking openly about suppressed anger and your lack of confidence to express yourself.
I encourage you to try the following exercises whenever you feel fire, anger, or rage inside of you: –
A) Feel into your gut and breath into the anger. B) Repeat this mantra with a smile on your face, ‘I Accept You’.
A) Inhale from your gut to your mouth through the nose. B) Exhale forcefully through the mouth.
A) Inhale and bring the energy into your heart. B) Exhale send the energy of the heart into the world.
A) Inhale from your gut to the top of your head. B) Exhale back down to the gut
Move your body. Walk, run, swim, dance, etc. Notice how the contraction of the original anger transforms into a more expansive form of energy within the body.
A) Breathe into the gut and recognise the anger as a form of potential energy. B) Use that energy to propel you into action such as the completion of a mental task or project, or a physical task such as exercise.
A) Recognise that fire is the energy that fuels passion. B) Breath up towards the heart and turn the energy into a fiery determination to be the best man possible in this life time.
Perform ‘Breath of Fire’: Exhale fast and rhythmically through the nose without intentionally inhaling. At the same time draw in the belly button every time you exhale. Perform this for 50 repetitions (50 exhalations).
Learn to witness the anger without reacting. Imagine the anger was something completely separate to you and you are a silent observer, allowing the anger to arise and flow through you like the clouds moving through the sky.
Scream 5 times at the top of your voice driving to work every day in your car.
Note: It is also useful to do these exercises bringing your attention to your genitals, especially during times of sexual tension, which often turns to anger if not used.
The most important aspects of these practices are: –
You bring full awareness to the movement of energy and redistribution of the anger, which in itself is simply an energy.
You believe that it is truly possible to move this energy around.
You welcome anger as a positive force in your life.
So, I encourage all men, including myself, to recognise when the volcano is about to erupt. Welcome this as a sign that we are alive and a vital force that can propel us forward into meaningful action in the world.