I have seen a number of men who have come to me for help with their anger. Usually the spur for this is a relationship that is threatening to break down because their behaviour is experienced as unreasonable by their partner. The partner sets down an ultimatum to the effect “Change or Leave”. Thus a rather confused man sits in the chair opposite me and talks about how easily he seems to get angry-particulalry at home. and how, on a good day, he hates himself for being ” such an arsehole”. After a few sessions themes become clear and we can try to see how these themes fit with his behaviour. Frequently there has been a mother who has given her son a message about his importance to her. Some mothers have given the message that their happiness is entirely in the son’s hands. If he is a “good” son, she will be happy. If he is a “bad” son, she will be so disapointed. As one might expect neither of these messages is fair or helpful, burdening the child with pressures and responsibilities that are not his to carry.
It is not surprising that when these sons reach adulthood, they struggle with intimacy Two men come to mind, both of whom came with problems with their anger. One was a man who had been in the armed forces for 20 years and had now come out and was trying to make the move into civilian life. He had a wife and a daughter, whom he loved. The source of friction was his idea that he would now work in Close Protection, safeguarding important people. Politicians, Service personnel, visiting Royalty and the like. His argument was that he would earn very good money in a relatively short space of time. Thus securing the families financial future. (The downside was that he could, conceivably, get killed and that he would again be away from home for long periods of time.)
In our first session I suggested that he had a both a wife and a lover and that his wife resented her rival. (The lover being the Army and Army life. The Close Protection idea being a thinly disguised way of keeping his lover-albeit in a sanitised form.) He came back for our second session and announced that he had given up the idea of Close Protection and was going to work as an Fitness Instructor on the Base. His wife was relieved and delighted. He also was happy. The rows ceased. He understood my comment and had taken it in. Two sessions was all he had needed.
Another patient whom I saw came, nominally, for Anger work but also because of a history of failed relationships with women. Over several sessions he told me that he had ben married but had a number of “affairs” throughout. (“Affairs” is a rather grand word. The reality was that he would have have sex with a number of women whom he knew thorough his work. They would be at a conference or an overnight business dinner and have sex together. The cruelty in these liaisons was that these women were often also involved in other relationships with men whom he knew personally.)
He told me that he was now in a new relationship with a wonderful woman whom he loved deeply and with whom he was hoping to have children. I commented that this sounded very healthy and that he had obviously changed. Then something lead me to ask “So you’re faithful to your new partner?” After what felt like the longest pause I have ever experienced, he said No. He was not faithful. That he was still seeing at least one woman with whom he had liaised during his marriage.
What links these two men-and others- is their view of themselves and others. And a complete inability to think about their feelings. Which i will explore further in the second part of this blog.