Intensity, Anger, and Men
By: David Lechnyr, LCSW
The psychology of men is hard for both men and women to understand. Some women think that men are chronically intense, angry and controlling. Men insist that they have no idea why women think that they are always intense angry or controlling in interactions. Men feel misunderstood in their efforts to be helpful.
Why Men Are Misunderstood
Men rarely discuss feelings with other men, let alone women. Men are taught that competition, work, sports, winning are all they should talk about. Men are told early in their lives that “boys don’t cry, and boys are tough.” Men are expected to “just know” and as a result they are afraid to admit that they don’t understand something.
They have absolutely no idea that their “intense, competitive, winning,” style oozes out of everything they do when they interact with others. Other react to this cold, distant, intensive, style of relating and feel it as uncaring and controlling. Men are afraid to admit that they have needs or are dependent. Men are use to “living in their heads” to the extent that they feel that others should just understand what they are thinking.
Men’s lack of ability to share thinking and feelings in “words” means that men have problems in
learning how to clarify issues, meanings, or ideas when trying to talk. This makes it frustrating and difficult for men to talk about things. Men are usually not thinking in the depth that women suspect that they are thinking. When women ask men what they are thinking it is critical that women accept the answer, “Nothing!” This is exactly what they are thinking, as hard as this might be for women to believe (mostly because this is the opposite of what happens with women). Men usually “hold in their needs” until they become “needy” and then get upset when these needs are not met by others.
Men who are “needy” express this by “wanting sex.” Women express their needs by being able to talk with others. This then causes conflicts and arguments like “…is that all you ever think about!”
Men mistake women’s talking of feelings, without finding solutions, as only making things worse. They don’t understand the importance of venting feelings with others in order to “think out loud” and to “relieve pressure & receive support” from others.
Because men have low voices that sound loud to others, confusion can set in at times where men are accused of being intense or angry when this is not the case. Other may react men when they “look wrong” or “react to statements” as though they are angry. They may only be stating their convictions and are not really angry. They also are not always angry even if they don’t look “happy.”
These misperceptions of men can cause for many misunderstandings. Because women mistake disagreements with criticism and their self-worth, men feel caught in having to explain themselves more than is appropriate. Men tend to think that intimacy has to do with “hanging out with the boys.” For men “hanging out is intimacy.” For women, intimacy is talking, sharing feelings, disappointments, relationship issues, etc. Men talk about work, football games, and sex. They do not think or express themselves in the same depth as women!
Men have never taken the time to stop and understand how they come across to others. They have little understanding why others might misinterpret what they do and say in negative ways. Part of this is an evolutionary thing in that “protection and hunting” requires only thinking about the task at hand and what needs to be done. Another part is that men have not been “trained or expected” by society to deal with things in different ways.
Positive Male Qualities
Interestingly enough, these qualities are both assets and liabilities. Specifically:
- The willingness to sacrifice personal needs & desires for the sake of providing for their dependents.
- The willingness to withstand hardship & pain to protect loved ones;
- The willingness to shoulder and try to solve other people’s problems. It helps men to feel a sense of strength and self-esteem.
- Expressing love by doing things for others. This is usually expressed by the statement “can’t you see how much I do for you and how hard I work. Why else would I be doing it. I don’t need to say anything!”
- Integrity, steadfastness, and loyalty to commitments.
- The will to hang in until a difficult problem is resolved.
- The ability to think logically, solve problems, take risks and stay calm in the face of danger.
“Secret” Male Fears That Cause Problems
- A fear of being too close to mother, or a mothering figure, who can dominate or control them;
- A yearning to be closer to a positive father figure & “the guys.” This includes a fear that wives and family will stop them from “being with the boys”;
- A longing for dependency on another yet fear that if this is allowed that the other person will leave and “hurt/leave” them. There is a definite difficulty in admitting to or feeling comfortable with attachments or needs for others. They also feel that the best way to “keep others” is by acting “indifferent and as though they don’t need them”;
- A chronic emotional numbness and a lack of connection to emotional feelings which are seen as being “weak.” This includes a genuine inability to recognize or name feelings and emotions. Feelings and emotions are seen as “women’s things” which will distract one from accomplishing their “own” goals;
- A hidden cowardice or fear that other may know they are faking it, are not as strong and independent as they project, with a fear that others will take advantage of them if they show any weakness;
- A profound cultural barrier and reluctance of males changing because of cultural messages about masculinity and the need to be in control, strong, and knowing all the answers;
- Feeling a sense of shame and vulnerability when having to admit to difficulties or ask for help in any form. Men never admit to mistakes but help others with “their problems;”
- A fear of explaining any of their thoughts or behaviors for fear that he may be wrong. It is better to distract the discussion to what “he wants o her” while questioning “why she is struggling so much all the time.” This insures that others will feel dependent, weak, vulnerable, and never leave them;
- A sense that talking is a waste of time, opens one up to problems and being taken advantage of, and a concern that if too much is said that it can be used against them.
Understand that others may react to them even when they are silent. Understand that you may present much more strength and intensity in interacting with others then you actually realize. Know that others may see your intensity, and lack of desire to talk, as a mark that you are angry and controlling.
Understand that learning to talk out feelings can relieve pressure for you and the others who have
to interact with you. Know that you can be controlling by “talking over others” or “telling them how they should think, act or feel.” Learn to listen without offering suggestions or trying to fix something.
Know that “listening is a gift” to others. Understand that your desire for quick solutions and resolution of problems adds to your perception of being an “intense and angry person.” Understand that you efforts to explain the problems that others have with you is part of how you are intense and controlling.
Quit worrying about being controlled or dominated by others in interactions. Enjoy others, offer “freedom of choice,” relax, and know that “life is a process rather than an event in time.” Know that you do not have to be right or have to have all the answers. Stop “telling” others and “listen” more without always commenting.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable, feel uncertain, and accept that you might feel confused when
talking to others. “Take Time” to “be with others” and enjoy them and the opportunity to build memories. Each party needs to react less to others and listen more. Disagreements and criticisms are not necessarily angry controlling behaviors! We each have to feel more secure in expressing our ideas and relaxing with others as they state their ideas.
What Women Need to Know About Men
Women need to know that men may not always be angry. Men are just moving into a “different culture and language” with which they are unfamiliar. “Male intensity” is not necessarily anger. Intensity is “just a way of being” that hopefully with time can be reduced once men come to realize how others perceive them.
Traditionally, women have not been trained in intense, competitive, work and sports, situations. As a result interacting with men can be difficult. Women need to also “put less expectations” on men to know it all and be able to handle it all. Men and women are different and will communicate differently. If we can come to understand each other better, it makes it easier for us to adapt to the “other’s world.”
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