“It’s amazing how much emotion
a little mental concept like ‘my’ can generate.”
– Eckhart Tolle
I still recall the evening I walked into a bar with my best friend in order to have a celebratory drink. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and wanted to catch up on the latest events in each other’s lives. We entered a pub in a college town and began to chat. Other than the four men perched on their stools near the bar, the place was empty, and so we eventually took the table nearest the window to catch a view until our friends arrived.
Eager to talk to my buddy I picked up a stool and quickly began positioning it closer to my bar table. It was in that moment a large man told me I’d taken his barstool. Without looking around the place and at the 60 odd, empty seats I immediately knew I was dealing with a knucklehead.
I told him the stool was mine whereupon he said it was his. He out-sized me by a good foot and by 50 lbs. His head was like a bucket his arms like tree logs. I had no time for this. He stepped into my personal space. I watched his hands, looked into his eyes and informed him I was claiming the stool. Crackerjack games for little kids. The stupid stuff we have to play to let the world know we’re not a wimp.
Beams of fear and hatred emanated from his eyes but in my stoic moment he blinked. Little did he know I would have glassed him badly with the pint of beer I’d have to ruin in order to make my point known. Zero to 60 in no time. No need to go there.
Every situation is different; every man, every bar, every city, every story, and every single ache and pain inside someone’s heart from here to Timbuktu. But the outcome is the same based on the tools we use. He had his reasons for walking away from battle and I had mine.
With one hand I moved his stool towards the window and left the interlude. Whether it was a close call for either of us I’ll never know. I’m not sure what he thought of our weird psychic exchange but at that moment I didn’t care. I was with my best mate and no amount of pressure or attempt to disrespect me would diffuse my focus to spend time with my friend.
I’m no battle-hardened Marine, no kung-fu ninja, or military-jedi vet. Just a man. But I’ve had enough time among men and bars to understand the visual cues, the games, and the cock-of the walk attitude that comes with hipsters, college kids, and drunken thugs without a purpose. Navigate around the shipwrecks of boys decked out as men; frigates moving around battleships.
I’ve heard it said that anger is a secondary emotion and that fear is the primary motivator for why men feel disjointed in life. They feel inadequate, or too over-confident; unworthy, unloved, lonely, drunk or just plain dispassionate about the world and what it has to offer. Pain, blame, loss, injustice, shame, whatever the reason, they want to make the night theirs to own, and they want to control what is seemingly uncontrollable-the free will of other men.
I didn’t know what this pub crawler’s private issues were but I know enough that in order to make a difference in this world we need to open our toolbox and fix the things that are wrong.
Some men are not equipped for that. All they have is a hammer to repair the things that are broken; smash this, smash that, obliterate every precious thing in their life and then some. Beat on the wife, beat on the kids, beat on a war drum and blame the world.
Smashing machines run amok. 51 years into my life I now believe we’re obligated to make things right by restoring the crap that we broke. Before we smashed it into crap with our smashing machine it used to be ‘something’. Sometimes we smash beautiful things; hammers used to solve a problem which required a paintbrush.
What’s in your toolbox? All of us, whether we’re a police officer, veteran or good ol’ citizen of the world inevitably are going to face one of two things in this life; humility or humiliation. Humility is a free choice and humiliation is thrust upon us when we don’t choose the first option.
Pride has always told me that I had to win the argument. Smash this, smash that, and sometimes get myself smashed badly in the process. Whether we weren’t given the right tools for our toolbox is a matter of debate. Some men, even with a lot of martial ability, cannot walk away from a fight. The idea isn’t to always engage although sometimes it might be right to do so. My question to myself today is: “Today did I make things right?”
Hindsight is 20/20. I can look back and understand that night became a pivotal moment for me. I was able to emotionally disengage from the situation. In childhood I was handed a hammer for my toolbox and that’s all I used most of my life; I had the same battered box and used the same instrument that most men use. Today I realize that I’ve changed and become more of a man. Not every insult in my life has to lead to a fight. Not every situation has to be taken as an insult.
Being deployed, being, divorced, being unable to pay bills, missing a promotion or losing a home or a friend. All of these things can make us bitter. But what are WE doing to make things better?
Take what you want from my story. This story might not be yours. I’ll tell you that managing your anger is a key step towards making every single relationship in your life right. Until you learn how to manage your anger, and break your aggression cycle, all you will ever be is a puppet to that emotion. I choose not to be a slave. My anger control plan includes a lot more than using my simple smashing machine. How about you?
If By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Consider professional help if:
- You feel constantly frustrated and angry no matter what you try.
- Your temper causes problems at work or in your relationships.
- You avoid new events and people because you feel like you can’t control your temper.
- You have gotten in trouble with the law due to your anger.
- Your anger has ever led to physical violence.
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