From Broken Boys to Whole Men: #4 – the Roots of Rage
July 2, 2019
Growing up—including in adulthood—I have struggled to gain self-control. I’ve always had an active nervous system, and would likely have been diagnosed with ADHD, if the diagnosis had existed when I was a boy.
The combination of my nervous system and the fact that I was the eldest child, and physically big for my age, led adults to have high expectations that I would act more mature than I actually was.
Add to this that my teachers in elementary and middle school knew my parents and expected better from me than I could deliver at the time, and you have a childhood ripe for rage.
I just remember being mad a lot of the time, and frequently acting out my aggression in very physical—and often inappropriate—ways: fights at school and at home; fists through doors; angry, screaming tirades and tears; and lots of time in my room.
Boarding school helped: see my last post about the mentors who influenced me; lots of classes, sports, and activities into which to funnel all that energy; and classmate peer pressure that told me that while anger was a natural emotion, raging was unacceptable.
Growing up has been good for my own anger management: the gentle, firm guidance of others; the hard consequences of angry outbursts; the tools of life in sobriety; and a maturing frontal lobe, where the brain’s executive function (and impulse-control) resides—I’ve come a long way.
But the roots of rage—and the capacity to manage oneself and one’s emotions—lie in how men have been socialized to be more comfortable expressing anger than the with expressing other emotions, such as sadness or frustration. We are simply given a pass on learning healthier ways to deal with them, until often, it’s too late: job loss, self-medication, divorce, incarceration, etc.
Learning to verbalize feelings, find an appropriate way to embody them physically, and make healthy choices before unintended consequences occur—these are what hold the key to what we call anger management, what Galatians 5 calls “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.