Many men are trail-blazing a different lifestyle that is free of abusiveness and based on respect, trust and equality.
They are learning about the impact of the old rules about how men were supposed to be. They are questioning whether or not those old rules are helpful in developing caring and respectful relationships with others. Many men are ready to break with the traditions of the past. Many men are shaking off the old legacies that view men as bullies and pioneering a genuine, fresh and modern form of masculinity. Does this sound like you?
In the early days of our work men talked a lot about anger as the emotion they thought led to their violence. We often heard men say things like...
If having an ‘anger problem' was the true explanation of our abuse we'd expect violence to erupt all over the place - in the streets, at the office, on the bus, in restaurants, wherever people are. Such public violence doesn't happen anywhere as often as private violence. Most abusive and violent behaviour occurs in our homes behind closed doors.
Having a problem with anger isn’t a good explanation for the behaviours men use
Over the years we have come to another view, that men use anger as a way of maintaining or gaining power over others. Using anger gets men places, especially when people are afraid. An angry look is enough to instil fear into children or partners, especially if past experience has taught them to be afraid. As men we want respect, but making others afraid doesn't win us love, trust or genuine respect.
Another theory some men find appealing is known as the ‘volcano theory of anger’ – that is, anger builds to a point and ultimately explodes. This volcano theory does not acknowledge all of the choices men make when they become abusive to others. Our view is that men frequently employ abusive behaviour as a tool to retain or regain control in a situation where they are afraid of losing. Equally, men can use other behaviours and emotions - sulking, helplessness, jealousy and annoyance - to control others. The challenge is to see anger or other controlling emotions for what they are.
The issue is not about not getting angry, it is about what is an okay way to respond to a particular situation.
What we most need as men is to know how to express anger and other strong emotions in ways that are safe and respectful to those around us. Abusive behaviour hurts others and ourselves in a variety of ways, and the long-term costs are high. Relationships don’t die; they get killed off.
Here is a statement that sums up this theory of abusive behaviour...
"Where a man’s sense of what he feels entitled to exceeds his sense of responsibility for the welfare of others, abuse is a natural outcome"
Ken McMaster (MSW Hons, CQSW, MANZASW) has a thirty year history working at the cutting edge of intervention work with men who are violent and who sexually abuse.
Suzi Hall (M.A. Psych) has a background of working in child protection and forensic interviewing of children with Child Youth and Family Services.
Matt Williams (BTcLn, NCALNE) has a 15 year history working within the social service and criminal justice sectors as a trainer and program developer.