Yesterday I made a promise to my wife. Actually, it was more of a threat. I threatened to leave the hose pipe outside all winter instead of putting it up in the fall. The reason for this is no matter what I try it all seems to be one giant tangled mess when I pull it out in the spring. One of my chores on Thursday was to untangle the jumbled mess of about three hundred feet of hose pipe. First I grabbed and dragged out most of it. Then I detached the ends to make them easier to work with. After this, I pulled each pipe end going over and under the other until I finally had one section free! When I did this six or seven times all the sections were in their own place and then hooking them together again one at a time I was able to run the hose pipe to the different areas of the yard. Whew! It was a hard, difficult job but had to be done.
In my work with men, fathers, and families, the initial times we meet to set up a plan of learning and action can seem like wrestling with a jumbled mess of hose pipe. However, with time and patience slowly learning, finding and breaking down the challenges, habits, hurts, and hang-ups, we can begin to put the pieces back together again.
One of the first questions I have, when teaching a new class or working with a father, is “Tell me how you express your feelings. Can you show you are angry, disappointed, frustrated in a healthy way or does it all come out as toxic anger?” Toxic anger is dangerous and greatly inhibits a child’s growth, impedes communication with others, and can lead to abuse and neglect. Understanding how a father deals with his feelings is key to understanding his relationship with his family, friends, and community.
One of the most common responses on how men deal with the feeling of anger is; “I want to hurt someone else. I want another to feel pain. I don’t want to be alone in my suffering.” This can surface in many ways, a bruising hand, a mouth filled with hurtful and caustic words. Other men leave and don’t come back, others come back but never talk about the emotion that erupted like a volcano. A lot of men simply get mad and stop talking, letting their silence oppress everyone who is near them.
Most men have never learned to deal, and healthfully express, their feelings. This is why for most men anger is their default emotion. The saddest part is they pass these traits along to children and the unhealthy cycle starts all over again.
An old Zen proverb says; “To hold on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”