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The following is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.
There are a few things a man has to face in order to transform his relationship to anger:
Trying to dominate other people to get our own way is very tempting: it offers short-term gratification. If we want to immediately get things done and if we want to have the immediate satisfaction of not feeling threatened or not feeling vulnerable, it is very tempting to want to claim the top-dog position. Intimidation often works short-term; it is the primitive unconscious self that raises his spear and says threatening things: “You’d better watch out, or you’ll get hurt.” People will submit because they do not want to get hurt by an angry man. This is a shortcut to dominate and get control. But of course, it also creates distrust, it destroys sustainable relationships, and it stifles the trust needed to lead effectively. We do not get friendly neighbors that way. We get people who are afraid of us, and as soon as there is a chink in the armor, they will gang up together to get their own back.
When a man lets his reserves deplete, he is running on stress hormones, and the blood flow will go first to the reptilian brain and the emotional brain before the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex, which makes decisions, was the last part of the brain to develop, and it is also the last part to get blood flow. When we are stressed, the blood flow will pull back from the frontal cortex, and we become more emotional and move into fight or flight. When we are running on stress, we are more likely to get angry, and it is more likely for that to erupt into violence.
The key is to take a walk when you feel emotional. Recognize that a part of you needs to take a break. Make a mental note to yourself: I need more rest, I need to pace myself better, and I need more days off. Sometimes simply noticing this will cause you to immediately relax. Just the thought of I’m going to take next Sunday off will allow your nervous system to relax more: right now, today. Great leaders take vacations.
Just as we can be taken over by anger in its more destructive aspects, so a man can also become so afraid of and unfriendly with his own anger so that he shuts off the source of his power. Once he has lost his sense of direction and certainty, he feels weak, becomes easily tired and overwhelmed, and instead of offering leadership, his focus moves to pleasing people, seeking approval, and apologizing for his very existence. Rather than transforming his anger into powerful leadership, he denies the source of his anger in shame and becomes a follower of others. The key here is to play with anger, to find ways to celebrate its raw power and aliveness, and to trust that with awareness, no one will come to any harm.
When you get defensive or angry, it is common for someone to accuse you, “Don’t be so defensive,” as though that is a really bad thing. Then there is the temptation to think, I shouldn’t be defensive and I shouldn’t be feeling anger. There is nothing wrong with anger; in fact, it is a good thing. It is the key to accessing your power and ability to lead. It is only what you do with it that is an issue. If you are unaware of it, if you do not realize that you are angry, it will overflow into things that you later regret doing. Trying not to be angry, or defensive, or trying to be pleasant, will just turn you into a wimpy guy who earns no respect. Whenever anyone says, “You are being defensive,” it is itself antagonistic. The best response is to say, “It’s true. I am feeling angry and defensive. Give me a moment here.” When someone says you are being defensive, don’t defend yourself. Just recognize that it is true, own it, and say to yourself, “This is good. It is my primary energy. Now I’m going to withdraw and be with it, and treasure it, and I’ll come back when I have something good to offer.”
When life is not fair, when things do not work out, or when everything goes wrong and you feel angry, many men tend to blame someone for it or even blame themselves. Then they feel that they are inadequate. At such a time, put your hands over your chest and take a deep breath. After the exhale, say to yourself, “I am feeling angry. Everyone feels angry.” Then remember the deepest wisdom that every great leader, from Buddha to Alexander the Great to Bill Clinton, has handed down throughout the ages: Sh*t happens! Then remind yourself, “We are all good people, doing the best we can.”
From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. Visit our website to learn more.
Author: Arjuna Ardagh
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Caitlin Oriel
Photo: Flickr/Marco FrontSoldier