A man who is angry is showing strength.
“Stand up and fight like a man!” “Don’t let anyone disrespect you!” “Do it to them before they do it to you!” “Don’t back down!”
What has been popularly called the “Man Code” is a deeply entrenched social norm or attitude that defines what a “real man” is, especially in the eyes of other men. Anger is at the core of it. While there are many descriptions of the Man Code, they all basically boil down to using various forms of angry displays and attitudes such as:
Be Big It is critically important to be, or appear to be, bigger than your opponent. You can do that by getting larger, louder, more aggressive and more intimidating – all as a means to get the upper hand.
Be Strong Large muscles are an outward demonstration of physical strength and capability of dominating the enemy. If you are not actually bigger, you can compensate by being smarter, doing more or outwitting or outmaneuvering your opponent.
Emotional strength is seen as being stoic, unfazed by events or people – being able to be cool, calm and calculating even in the midst of danger and chaos. Here anger is being used as an inner shield to ensure no one “gets to you.”
Give ‘em Hell Being tough, even merciless or brutal is seen as a clear sign of domination and strength.
No Sissy Stuff One of the strongest elements in the Man Code is to go to great lengths to distance yourself from what is seen as the polar opposite of masculine: femininity and homosexuality. This includes being outwardly disdainful, insulting and even bullying toward anything or anyone that hints at being feminine, sissy or gay.
Boys grow up swimming in a cultural soup filled with images of men and anger. Most superheroes are powerful, hyper-masculine men that do their best and most praise-worthy work when they are angry. The Incredible Hulk is a clear example. When anger overtakes him, it literally transforms him. In his state of anger he vanquishes the enemy without a moment’s hesitation in a dramatic display of raw power and physical prowess.
These are some of the strongest images of masculinity that boys grow up with. As a result of this and many other socializing forces, men tend to assume that if any emotion is acceptable for a man, it must only be anger. Anger may show up as irritability, impatience, sarcasm, criticism, hurtful humor, silent stonewalling, avoidance, yelling, intimidation and physical violence on things or people.
Anger gives a man a perceived shield from harm by making him bigger, stronger and aggressive enough to overpower the person or situation that is at hand. At the same time, anger is also very often a cover for other emotions. When men feel frustrated, uncertain, helpless, troubled or sad, they often appear irritable, cranky and critical, or they just want to be left alone – they retreat to the “Man Cave.”
At the root of it, nearly all anger that is displayed by men is really an expression of some deeper pain that they cannot express in any other way. Frequently this is some form of fear and/or internalized shame. Thus, contrary to the lie, anger is really a reflection of pain that surrounds a place within that feels vulnerable or weak.
Breaking out of the influence of the lies we were taught to believe is a tough job for any man. Northern Illinois Men’s Counseling stands ready to coach, support, guide and challenge men to be the best they can be. Call, text or e-mail if you have questions. When you are ready, you can schedule an appointment through the website without the hassle of phone tag.