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Is Anger A Choice For Men Today? Or Is It Just The Better Option?

Amitabh Bachhan. The GREAT Amitabh Bachhan. The “Angry young man” of B-town since the ’70s. Wow! We are so mesmerized when we hear his nickname like it is a sign of supremacy and strength. Is it though? Or is it just a way to get some validation? A way to feel more macho? Having a temper, having that rage in your eyes, that aggression, and the sense of getting agitated easily; are these things that make you a man? Are these the qualities we like or want from the men in our lives? What mark have we set as a society for men that they have to resort to fury rather than just expressing how they feel? Imagine how exhausting it might be; pretending to be all strong and powerful in times when they feel broken from within.

"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." - Mark Twain

Anger is described as a natural response to any form of pain or perceived threats. It is a secondary emotion, which means it is always preceded by other feelings like agony, fear, anxiety, jealousy, or sorrow. We all have insecurities, things that bother us, things that seem to be out of our control, situations where we feel helpless, and each person reacts differently when in such circumstances. According to many men, anger is the only socially acceptable emotion, thus they tend to express anger more comfortably than any other feelings. Our society has encouraged men to hide their feelings to be categorized as macho. They have been made to believe that talking about your feelings or being sensitive is a sign of weakness.

We all know how mental health has been stigmatized in our country, this makes it more difficult for men to ask for help when they are struggling. For years, people have idolized men who were fearless and could kill or dismember anyone who came in front of them. Those men are seen as heroes and a benchmark has been set; any man being any less than those great men is believed to be a disgrace on manhood. This is engraved in their brains ever since they are boys.

“You have to play football. Badminton is for girls.” “Cooking? What? You want to be a househusband when you grow up?” “I don’t care which one is mightier, now drop that pen and pick that sword up!’’

- Just a few things boys hear throughout their childhood, which obviously affects them negatively. Ah! I would have never thought that I’d be typing these words, but we seriously need to shatter and abandon concepts of the past to go on and create more realistic views about important topics like this one.

Anger is addictive. It is like any other numbing agent. We use it to temporarily avoid feeling the things we need to (‘temporarily’ being the keyword here). It is the release of adrenaline to mask our real emotions. But like the usage of any other form of a substance, it gives you a short high only to be followed by a long, physically and mentally draining low. Anger has been hardwired into male brains through millions of years of evolution and isn’t something that can be changed easily. This emotion, in men, is often fueled by fear. Fear of being labeled as weak, fear of losing something (power) or someone, fear of vulnerability, fear of not being accepted the way they are; so they create a shell and lock their true selves inside the pretty cages the society deems acceptable. The society? We keep complaining about society and how it is affecting us, but who is the society? Is it a committee of some egoistic, sadistic sad sacks chosen by a higher authority? No. We make the society, and we also have the power to break it.

Do you ever sit and think why men are mostly the ones who turn to harmful substances for help? Men are supposed to be the anchor, the leader, the head of the family. They are the hunters, the providers, the protectors; which automatically adds a great amount of pressure alongside other responsibilities on their shoulders. They are expected to neglect stuff and do things in a certain way. They are told to ignore their feelings and are presented with all sorts of obstacles when they try to open up. They are appreciated when they push their emotions underneath a thick layer of rage and act out so as to prove that they are strong. This creates heaps of stress in their minds and takes a toll on their physical as well as psychological health. They are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and go without asking for any kind of help.

Mental health is not a joke. It is as important as physical health and needs to be tended to. Men are prevented from tuning in to their sensitive sides which demoralizes them and leads to invalidation of their thoughts and feelings. They shy away from compassion and with age, they start feeling more and more deserted. One should always be in touch with their feelings as our most honest and cherished relationship in life is the one we have with ourselves. I believe that once humanity starts lacking empathy, it’s going to be all downhill from there. Empathy is not conditional or situational. It is the base of all human interactions and it is why we are the way we are.

With reference to a Ted Talk given by Justin Baldoni, "Why I'm Done Trying To Be Man Enough", on the ‘misconceptions of manliness’, where he spoke about redefining masculinity and how men can be better, as humans, by redirecting their qualities for a better outcome, we all can have a few learnings:

  • Using their bravery and toughness as a tool to be more vulnerable, and to talk about the things they have been repressing.

  • Using their strength (mental and physical) to fight the norms and dive deeper into their sensitive sides.

  • Be considerate and confident enough to listen to the women in their lives. Basically, for men to stop trying to be ‘man enough’ for others.

The message felt so empowering! The way he decided to be vulnerable on stage to encourage men worldwide, to do better, to be better, was pure emancipation of men from toxic societal norms and definitions.

Anger, like all emotions, has its pros and cons. It will make you feel more driven but in the bigger picture, it’ll be the thing that holds you back. Men in our country are not given the support they should have, regarding expressing their emotions and freely talking about things without the fear of being judged or laughed at. They need it as much as any other person. We need to start talking more about the importance of men’s mental health so that someday in the future, that kid on the playground doesn’t need to pull a cute girl’s ponytail to tell her that he likes her!

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