My Own Story of Anger and Violence
My father had been gone since I was six and my
mother did various jobs in order to support us. One
of her jobs was watching other peoples
children. One of the kids she watched was a little
girl who was four or five years younger than me.
Occasionally when my Mom was busy, shed ask
me to keep an eye on the girl. I dreaded those
times because that little girl terrorized me.
Whenever we were alone she would pinch me so
hard Id nearly cry. At other times she would
punch or kick me. She would laugh at my tears. I
didnt know what to do. I was taught never to
hit a girl, never to hit anyone smaller than you,
and resolve all disputes with words. I was
immobilized. Shed hurt me and I would take
it, holding my feelings inside and praying that my
mother would come back soon. Even by then I had
learned that big boys dont cry, if you run
away from trouble you are a coward, and no one
likes a tattletale. I would get through those times
by acting like I was made of stone.
As I got older I would generally keep my
feelings buried as deeply as I could and spent very
little time around other kids. But school being
what it was and kids being what they were and me
being short and slightly built, I was picked on
often. Usually I would joke and talk my way out of
danger or walk away from those situations I
couldnt talk my way out of. But if I felt
cornered and the taunting, teasing, or attacks
didnt stop I would come unglued. I would
launch myself like a mad-man and the other kid
would usually end up bleeding.
When I grew up I was always attracted to feisty,
fiery women. There was an excitement and passion
that would spark when we were together. But the
same thrills that made our relationship interesting
also created a lot of conflict. I remember an
incident during my first marriage when I flew into
a rage and broke a glass on the floor at the feet
of my barefoot wife. I blamed her for causing me to
lose my temper and demanded that she walk over to
me and make up.
She looked at me, looked at the glass all over
the floor, and refused. Her refusal felt like an
attack and I wanted to strangle her. I held my
feelings inside and later we made up. I apologized,
swore it would never happen again. And it never
until the next time. It seemed our
relationship was on a rollercoaster.
There were wonderful highs and plunging lows. I
alternated between out-of-control anger and being
the most loving, responsive husband a woman could
ever want. Our friends, even those who were the
closest to us, never knew about the anger. All they
saw was the perfect couple whose lives
they admired. But like an addiction, the anger got
worse and the love was overshadowed. We stayed
married for ten years.
It didnt take long until I met another
woman who generated even more sparks than the
first. I should have been forewarned when she told
me about her recent experience in Mexico. It seemed
she was walking back to her hotel late at night
when a car full of young men drove by. They ran
through a puddle and splashed some water on her.
She became enraged. She screamed a curse, and as
they say, extended to them the finger. The effect
was instantaneous. They swung their truck around,
floored the accelerator and ran her over. Only the
fact that shed been smashed into the side of
a parked car saved her life. She was in the
hospital for three months.
Our relationship was not nearly as violent.
Neither of us ever spent time in the hospital, but
we both nearly killed each other. She slept with a
gun under her pillow, to protect herself from men,
she told me. Not surprisingly, it didnt make
me feel safe. I hated guns. During a period when I
was very depressed I was afraid I might use the gun
on myself. She agreed to get rid of it. I felt
relieved not to be with a woman who carried lethal
weapons, until she began to carry knives.
During one of our fights, which lasted many
hours, I was exhausted and wanted to rest. I knew
she was still angry, but there didnt seem to
be any reason to keep trying to resolve the
problem. Clearly we werent getting anywhere.
When I went off to bed, she smiled slightly and
said, You better not fall asleep. The
threat was chilling. It was very real, yet it was
vague enough to make it difficult to talk
I really understood how frustrated women become
when they try and tell someone about their terror.
I pictured myself telling a judge about my
situation. Did she ever hit you or harm you in any
physical way? he might ask. I would have to
say no. Did she ever threaten
your? Id have to say, Well, not
exactly. By then, I would feel like a fool. I
might even believe that it was not as serious as I
was making it out to be. But it was serious and
violence, even cover violence, can easily
The last big fight could easily have killed one
of us and put the other one on trial for murder. We
had been in one of our long-running arguments. I
kept trying to stop things before they got even
worse. Lets give it a rest. Im
tired of fighting, I screamed.
She wouldnt turn it lose. She wanted to
keep talking. You always want to avoid
getting down to whats really going on
she screamed back. I had prided myself on never
having hit a woman and this woman had pushed me to
my limits on more than one occasion. One of the
things that kept us from going over the edge was an
agreement that if either of us felt like we were
going to become violent, we could call a time
out and we would go into separate rooms for a
cooling off period.
I knew I badly needed to cool down. I could feel
the heat coming up into my face, the volcanic
activity beginning to shake my insides. I called a
time-out and walked into my room and shut the door.
The violent panic began to recede. I wasnt in
the room three seconds when the door flew open and
my wife was standing in the doorway yelling.
Youre always running away, you
coward. Why dont you stay and work things
out? I was instantly on high alert. I could
feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I
tried to breathe slowly and talk calmly. Get
out of here. We have an agreement about taking our
own space. Leave now, we can talk about this
later. I felt the panic rising inside me.
She turned to leave, but wheeled on her feet,
and came back at me. She came right up in my face
and started to poke me in the chest with her index
finger. Once, twice, three times she poked me. I
lost all sense of control. The red rage took me
over. I grabbed her by the hair, pushed her up
against the wall and brought my fist back. I knew
when I hit her I wouldnt stop, I
couldnt stop. I didnt care. Nothing
mattered but making the rage and terror I felt
inside go away. My fist came forward and it truly
was like in slow motion. I could see the hair and
blood and bone. At that moment I had another sight.
It was of my fist going through the wall and coming
out the other side of the house.
When I hit the stud in the wall my fist stopped
cold. I could hear bones break and I felt I was
about to pass out. We were on our way to the
emergency room before the red rage drained out of
me and the pain enveloped me. I felt very grateful
that I hadnt killed my wife, happy I was
going to the hospital instead of to prison, and
determined to rid myself of violence in my
Whats been your experience with violence?
Id like to hear from you.
* * *
Wealth can't buy health, but health can buy
wealth. - Henry David Thoreau
is the internationally best-selling author of seven
books including Male
translated into 17 foreign languages and his
latest book, The
Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes
of Depression and
Aggression. For over
38 years he has been a leader in the field of men's
health. He is a member of the International
Scientific Board of the World Congress on
Mens Health and has been on the Board of
Advisors of the Mens Health Network since its
founding in 1992. His work has been featured in
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