Book Review-Freeing the Angry Mind-a book for angry men

A few years ago in a book store, a book with this title caught my eye:

Freeing the Angry Mind—How Men Can Use Mindfulness & Reason to Save Their Lives and Their Relationships by C. Peter Bankart, Ph.D.

Wow, a book addressing the specific issues of men around anger! I flipped to the front of the book and read this by a reviewer:

“Since it’s virtually the only emotion we allowed to express, men learn to use anger to express everything—sadness, confusion, despair, frustration. By explaining how men can expand their emotional repertoire, Bankart offers hope for a masculinity that can embrace the whole range of emotion—including anger, incidentally.”—Michael Kimmel, Ph.D, author of Manhood in America

As a guy, I felt the ring of truth in this comment. So often as little boys we are taught to repress most of their emotions. We aren’t supposed to cry, or show tenderness, or be a “sissy.”

When we get hurt, the unspoken code of “maleness” tells us consciously and unconsciously that anger is a male’s only “manly” reaction to the powerful emotions we feel. We aren’t supposed to cry, or reason, or “act like a girl.”

As we get older, testosterone-driven, socially indoctrinated images of masculinity only get reinforced. Masculinity is seen as a valid justification for anger. In sports, anger is good—just don’t let it get totally out of control or it might affect the game! In movies, the image of the angry male, wreaking vengeance on the both the innocent and the guilty utterly dominates action movies.

In the Foreword, David Wexler, author of When Good Men Behave Badly: Change Your Behavior, Change Your Relationship relates how once, in a lecture, he said that the one question he would ask about a person to predict future aggressiveness, would be to inquire if they could be described as having psychopathic tendencies. He had to think twice when an audience member suggested that the most discriminating variable was whether or not the person was male.

None of this is to suggest women don’t have anger issues, but Bankart’s Freeing the Angry Mind is an especially insight, sympathetic treatment of how men relate to anger. Using Buddhist insights into the mind, mindfulness practice, and cognitive-behavioral psychology, the book sets out a straightforward program of exercises and advice that any guy can put to use to change his life forever.

I know, because I’ve used the book, and it was a huge help with my anger issues. I can’t recommend the book enough, and to whet your appetite, guys (or gals who know an angry guy who might be helped by this book) here’s a brief excerpt from the Freeing the Angry Mind to give you a taste:

Freeing the Angry Mind
Rule 4: You Are Not Your Anger!

This rule might sound a little easier to follow than the first three, but it will probably be more of a challenge than you imagine. Rule 4 requires you to develop a special kind of double consciousness. You need to learn how to become an active and objective obseverer of your self. This will allow you to begin seeing yourself as other people see you. As we learned earlier in this chapter, it can be really difficult to recongize that the person we project to others is sometimes very different from the person we believe ourselves to be. Hardly anyone wants to project an image of an angry tyrant, because hardly anyone things of himself that way. But accurate self-perception is almost completely lost when we are overtaken by anger, so we end up behaving in ways that are different from our self-image, as a loving and reasonable human being.

When you are literally at your worst, when your anger is almost out of control, is that creature really you? Of course, it is you in a physical sense—it is your body, your voice, your passionate response to the situation (and your excuse system, too!) But is that the person you really are? Is the the same guy who loves his wife deeply, who would sacrifice his life for his kids without thinking about it twice, and who truly cares about the well-being of others?

Seen from a mindful perspective, anger is an active choice. It is a road that a person does not have to take. Of course, one of the problems with that choice is that, like getting on the wrong freeway, by the time you realize your error it’s difficult to change your direction. That being said, you can chose to become mindful even in the midst of your own temporary breaks with sanity. Even in the midst of the perfect storm of awful thoughts and angry impulses you do have the ability to shift the focus of your attention away from your emotions, and even away from the target of your anger. In later chapters of this book, you will learn some ways you can practice this in your daily life, but for now, just appreciate that you can get to a place where anger becomes a choice that you make, not a path that you are compelled to take.


Freeing the Angry Mind—How Men Can Use Mindfulness & Reason to Save Their Lives and Their Relationships

ISBN-10: 1572244380
ISBN-13: 978-1572244382


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza


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