Aggressive Mask: Part IV – What Can We Do Right Now?

“In the middle of my conversation with Ray Lewis, I asked him about his definition of a man and whether it had evolved as he got older, had kids, became successful, and ultimately retired. By way of answering my question, he told me a story about when he came to a deeper understanding of the challenges the men in his family have faced.

He was 33 years old. He’d reengaged with his long-absent father, and his father wanted him to meet a man named Shady Ray Whitehead who lived in some little trailer 6 hours outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. He had no idea where they were going or who this man was they were visiting, but when they arrived, he and his father walked in and his father said, “Meet your grandfather.”

Ray sat on the floor while his dad sat on the couch, and they talked. One of the first things out of his father’s mouth was a question to his grandfather that had also run through Ray’s head nearly every day of the first 17 years of his life: “Dad, why’d you leave me?” To say this blindsided Ray would be an understatement.

“Ray sat with this information for a while, listening to his father and grandfather, and started to think about the men in his family who struggled in their relationships. Ray’s realization is something out of a novel, or a sermon:

This is a generational curse, man. My son is 21, I’m 41, my father is 61, my grandfather’s 81. His father is 101. Five generations. Twenty years apart. What are we doing? I rode back home with my father for 6 hours while he kept talking, and I never said a word. When I got done listening to him, I said to him: “You know what a man is? A man accepts all of the wrongs, never complains, forgives, and then moves on.” That’s what a man does, because you can never replace him not being at a football game. Never replace him not being to a wrestling match, or a track meet. Beat up by a group of kids? You can never replace him not being there. You can never replace that. So what you can replace is you can replace it with moving on.”

“This is our work to do. The rewards are, indeed, waiting for us, but they will not make themselves known until we begin the process of dropping our Aggressive Mask.”

Replace it with moving on.  It’s time to top off the chapter with my own story.

My father, in 1999, dropped my brother, my sisters, and I off at a doorstep of a house before driving away.  He said, “knock on the door and ask for your mother.”  We did, and he sped off, not seeing him again for the ensuing months.  It was odd, me being only 11 years old and living in more than 5 different households over a year span.

In 2000, I saw someone walking down the street and said, “that looks like my dad!”  Minutes later, I went back home and I was right.  It was my father….and him being in the same household as my mother, went nuts.  Not necessarily on his end, but my mother bursts into anger anytime she hears the name “Willie.”  He wanted “in” our lives, and so my mother granted that if we wanted it.

I remember he was on the phone and I was suppose to go to him that weekend.  I said, “dad, do you have the video games?”  What sounded like video games weren’t, but my father was a master at lying.  After naming three videos games, the third one being my favorite, I bursted into tears of joy before going upstairs to tell my mom.  My mother eavesdropped on the conversation because you could do that by picking up the other line 18 years ago.  I told her what my father got and she said, “he didn’t get you those games. He’s lying.”

I said, “you never did anything for us.”

She cried.

I felt absolutely wretched….even more wretched because she was telling the truth.  My dad was a liar from day 1 and I never knew it until of course that day.  I remember seeing him maybe late 2000 after he came over.  After that, I never saw him again, only hearing his voice on a bus in 2007 and looking square into his eyes in another incident (on the bus) one year later.

I’m blaming him for being the amazing man I am today.

“A man who struggles with aggression needs, first and foremost, to channel his energy and anger in a constructive direction. There are a number of ways to do this at a practical level:
▸Create a wrecking room in your house where you can get it out safely. Fill it with things to smash, push, hit, and pummel. If you can’t get a room, get a pillow. Beat the hell out of it. And repeat.
▸Do cathartic shouting exercises once a week. Scream it out!
▸Take a boxing class, work out, swim, or run.
▸Create an affirmation (e.g., “I’m a peaceful, joyful, loving man”) that you say when you want to break something or get aggressive. – Lewis Howes

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