The Screaming Nice Guy
by Matthew Alexander Sloane
I took part in a workshop recently: about 18 women and 12 men played in a very interactive, energetic inquiry as to the nature of sexuality and how it lives or does not live in each of us.
In one moment, our brilliant facilitator noticed that there was a “men vs. women” dynamic showing up in the conversation, so she invited us to make it more real and play it out. All the men stood on one side of the room and all the women on the other. “Let out all the judgments you have about the other sex — say it to the people across from you now!”
A flurry came from the men, angry and pissed. Pent up rage being given permission to be expressed.
One woman grabbed a tennis racket and began pounding a pillow, screaming a wild, “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!”
I got annoyed. This felt like a battle and I judged her as weak.
And I faced a part of myself as I remained frozen: the nice guy. The little boy who wants others to be happy and safe and have their needs met, often at the expense of my own.
Is that all true? The nice guy who doesn’t believe anger accomplishes anything because it’s destructive and wrong and a waste of time. He thinks there’s fallout from anger that requires too much clean up, so why go there in the first place?
“Is that all true?” I asked that part of me. And I decided to take a risk.
I grabbed another racket, staring at the screaming woman and pounding on my own pillow yelling, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
That was in me! I couldn’t believe it when it came out so ferociously. I really wanted to tell that woman to shut up and I did.
She kept going. And without much thought, I paused, and went back to the pillow.
I’ve heard that every act is one of love or a cry for help. She wasn’t wrong in her expression and neither was I — and at the same time, something was missing. I picked up the racket again, and went back to my pillow, facing the “Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!” coming my way, and towards all the men.
My hands slammed the racket into the pillow as I heard myself shouting, “I love you! Shut up! I love you! Shut up! I love you! Shut up!”
She paused and turned to a woman next to her. “What did he say?” she asked. Her sister-friend told her.
“Oh,” she replied. “No problem.” And she put her racket down, seemingly pleased at the results — much like me.
Now I’m not condoning this as a method of expression suitable for the home or life in general.
It worked in a workshop and it might work for some people, under a set of clear agreements, in certain spaces. But what fascinates me is how blending my anger with love felt so clean and powerful and connected me to my entire body, as well as connecting me to this woman’s need: to be loved. And what did I feel? Alive! I felt my vigor! My truth!
I’ve always made my anger wrong. And I often hear from women that they need and crave men’s anger. Not acted out as violence, but rather expressed as outrage for a boundary being crossed. The energy of resolve that can be used to stand up (with words) for what is sacred and deserves protecting. The energy of fierce that is so beautiful in all of us when we defend our dignity and the dignity of others.
Women crave this in men because men who don’t allow their anger to be expressed unconsciously ask someone else to carry and express for them — often the women in their
lives. So when men own it themselves, women can relax and not feel the need to be BOTH feminine AND masculine in the relationship.
The gift of anger I believe anger expressed without permission from the receiver can be felt as an attack. And it’s still a gray area for me as to how and when I can allow my anger with those I love as well as strangers.
At home, when expressed with permission, it can be a gift. I have experienced this and it is magical to feel the shift from anger to love that occurs. Especially when the expression of anger is preceded by “I love you. I want to be with you. What I’m about to say is mine, not yours. Let it wash over you and only keep what feels useful, if there’s anything for you.”
Outside my home or workshop settings, I don’t really know much about anger because I’ve not often gone there.
How about you? What examples of healthy anger have you experienced in yourself or witnessed in others?
Matthew Alexander Sloane