I’m old enough that I was brought up with that mentality: boys don’t cry. Girls are free to bawl as much as they want to, but boys don’t. Well, some do, but only sissies, pussies, wimps, and the like, and most impressionable young boys don’t really want to be any of those, they want to be Men, or at the very least if their parents teach them early on that they ought to be Men (newsflash to parents: young kids often fear you stop loving them if they don’t do what you want just as much as you fear they stop loving you if you don’t do what they want). How do you become a Man, then? Act like one. Be tough. Don’t be a sissy. Don’t cry.
Okay, my parents weren’t horrible, but in some respects a little old-fashioned, and the result is, I can’t really cry unless some truly momentous disaster befalls me or mine, like a loved one dying, you face bankruptcy and it’s your fault, your favorite toy breaks, you get the picture. Everyday annoyances… nope, can’t do it even if I wanted to. Not even when I found out of an incurable ailment (back problems that’ll restrict what I can or can’t do and cause constant pain for the rest of my life).
The thing about crying, though, is that it’s an outlet, and a pretty handy one at that: feel frustrated? Shed a few tears and it’ll purge your system a bit. Feel wronged? Cry yourself a river. Feel angry? Open the dams for some good, old-fashioned waterworks, and soon the anger will seep out like air from a balloon. At least to a degree.
What do you do then, when you’re a Man and can’t cry? There are several options, but one of the most common is anger. It often manifests as aggression, especially if you’re competitively inclined, like yours truly. The assholes take it out on their loved ones or anyone who happens to cross their paths when they are venting (essentially a situation where any other human being except a Man would cry). Smarter Men take it out on something else, preferably something inanimate, like a heavy bag, weights etc. Actually an animate object is even better, like a friend from the boxing gym: put on your helmets, mouthguards, gloves… and do not forget your groin guards! Trade some blows and you’ll feel so much better, trust me, especially if your friend is bigger and tougher than you are.
The thing is, what if you can’t access a gym when The Anger hits you? By “The Anger” I mean a state of existence where your emotions are at such a volatile state that they require some kind of an outlet, usually crying, but, in the case of Men, a display of aggression. Let’s say, you’re driving home from the doctor (after hearing some bad news) with the Mrs, or you’re at a family dinner (and you get a call from work that you’re fired, just when all those bills are due), or you have a few friends over, or whatever; some situation you can’t immediately escape and something happens that really gets under your skin and riles you up. What happens then? In my experience, nothing positive.
Let’s take the “driving with Mrs. next to you” -example. At best, she joins you and you’re angry at the world together. At worst, your venting is so colored by The Anger, that she thinks (and usually understandably so) that you’re actually angry at her or, at the very least, your tone and word choices are so antagonizing, she feels your taking it out on her. And the next thing you know, she’s crying, and you feel like a complete asshole because that’s what assholes do, remember? They displace their anger on their loved ones.
Another worst case scenario is if your anger has you so riled up, you break something. Like punching the car’s windshield and, whoops, there’s a crack so big it won’t pass the next yearly inspection (or however often they inspect your car in your country). Ready to pay 200-300 bucks to get it fixed ’cause you were angry and broke it? In your defense… windshields are supposed to protect you and your family from all the shit that could hit your car while you’re driving. How can a punch, a fucking punch, and one thrown while sitting at that (hardly the optimal position for optimal power generation, ask any boxer), break the windshield? But that’s beside the point.
The point is, it would be so much easier (and cheaper!) to just shed a few tears and be done with it. But us, Men, we don’t have that option; it was robbed from us, usually at childhood. Maybe we could learn the art of crying, but I don’t know, it would take some serious reprogramming because the mere thought of myself crying feels about as alien as having sex with a member of the sex I’m not attracted to (if you’re bisexual, just think of having sex with an animal. If you’re into beastiality… get some professional help, seriously).
So what’s the solution? I’m afraid I’m all out of good ones. What I’m trying to do (and frequently failing; it’s a learning process), is to either express my anger in such a controlled fashion, that my wife has the time to adapt to the change in atmosphere and can join me for some good old husband-wife world bashing (try it, it’s fun. Seriously. And it brings you two closer together. And then you can go home and have angry sex!) or I try to bottle it up and let it loose the next time I can unleash the fooking fury (ten points and a nude badge for anyone who gets the reference) in a safe, controlled setting, like the gym.
My absolute favorite is to spar with the biggest, toughest blokes from our boxing gym (since they’re much better than me, I get my ass kicked anyway, so I can go pretty much full force, full speed, which is a great release for anger). That one hurts, so a word of warning: if you can’t take a beating, if you’re shocked to see blood on your mouthguard, do one of these two: hit the heavybag (but wrap those hands and wear gloves if you can punch so hard that you’ll break your hands otherwise ̔cause nothing’s more frustrating than cracking a knuckle with the first punch when you were amped up enough to go ten 5-min rounds), or do a heart killing circuit workout: no breaks, nada, zip, zilch, just one grueling exercise after the other. My favorites are push-ups, pull-ups (the proper kind, not the crossfit ones), the ab wheel, and a sprint on the crosstrainer.
But I’m rambling again. The point is, whether your thing, your release, is boxing, lifting iron, running, playing guitar in a metal band, listening to metal, punk, or whatever, napkin folding, whatever, think of something, some activity that allows you to release your anger without causing casualties among innocent bystanders. Also, be mindful of the moment when The Anger is gone, because sometimes it’s sneaky: you think it’s gone, but once you get home, you blow up because you just thought you got it out of your system. I’ve found that a good way is to just kill yourself doing whatever it is you do for the release. If you’re too tired to empty your gym bag, chances are, you’re too tired to blow up and The Anger is gone.
Mind you, there’s a scientific explanation for The Anger, namely adrenaline, how it builds up in your system and stays there, making you apt to blow up at an inconvenient time if you don’t do something that releases it. The funny thing is, some releases actually cause more adrenaline to leak into your system (like my fave, getting my ass kicked at the boxing gym) because it can be a scary situation, but the physical strain it puts on your body overcomes the extra adrenaline and it ultimately drains The Anger and you’ll be a tame, cuddly teddybear again. But adrenaline is a whole other subject, and if you want ot learn more about it, I seriously suggest checking out Geoff Thompson’s books (my recommendation would be Dead or Alive: The Choice is Yours, ’cause it’s kinda like a best of the best of his discoveries and ideas).
Anyway, in the meantime, you can practice crying. Don’t ask me how, I have no idea. I’m still at the “trying to accept it doesn’t make me any less of a man and a complete wuss” -stage, and I’m not entirely convinced I’ll ever get past that, but I’m trying. After all, remember the saying about minds and parachutes and how both work better when they’re open?
So, whether you’re a Man or one of the smarter folk, be mindful of The Anger, that it’s your cross to bear, not your wife’s, child’s, parent’s etc, find your outlet, and don’t be an asshole.