I believe many of you have heard about what happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscar Gala. For those of you who haven’t, I’ll start with a brief summary.
Chris Rock was presenting an Oscar award in one of the categories at the gala when, as a stand-up comedian, he made a joke during his speech about Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith’s wife) appearing bald because of her illness, alopecia. At first Mr. Smith laughed, then seeing the look on his wife’s face, who was offended by the joke, got up, went on stage, slapped Chris Rock on the face, went back to his seat and shouted at him not to ever mention his wife’s name again. The air was frozen at the awards ceremony, the audience was in shock and also Chris Rock couldn’t really react to the whole thing. That’s more or less what happened.
As I read the news about it and watched the videos, I could read the comments of the people as well. A lot of people wrote how right Will Smith was to do what he did. That this is what a real man does to protect his family. And Chris Rock deserved what he got in the face (literally…) and he deserved more. Well, I’d say that making fun of someone else’s illness is pretty reprehensible. There is no doubt about that.
But what surprised me in all this are two specific things:
- That someone would think that the best way to resolve a conflict is physical violence
- That the reaction of many people to this is that that’s a real man is and that he did the right thing.
This incident and the comments about it have inspired me to write now. However, I do not want to write about Will Smith, his wife or Chris Rock. So, now I will let this story go.
What I want to write about is something much more general, much more widespread and much more present. And that is what many people think a “real man” is. How they expect him to behave, react, what they think is right or wrong of him to do. Does it make a man a real man if he behaves aggressively and attacks others in any way? I would like to write about this topic now.
Why do men behave aggressively?
And now I’d like to veto my own question right away. Not all men behave aggressively. Not at all. There are men who dare not or cannot be aggressive. And there are men who choose not to use aggression. Oh, and by the way, women can be aggressive and offensive too, I’m just mentioning this for the sake of “equality”. But let’s go back to the men for now.
Now for some reason a prehistoric example pops into my mind. When we had our caveman, let’s call him Nean, who, when he wanted something, hit his opponent on the head with a club and took what he wanted.
Or if he wanted to defend himself, he did the same. That’s how Nean behaved, that’s how he “communicated”. Nean did not have the communication tools to convince the other caveman by diplomatic means, to argue his case. Unfortunately, Nean could not explain what he needed and why. He had only one tool at his disposal: literally, his club, figuratively, his aggressive behavior. And so, he used them when it came to assert his interests. And sometimes Nean did the hit, sometimes he got the hit from someone else. Because all the cavemen of that era had those parameters. It was a customary system, not knowing any better.
Many, many years have passed since Nean. People and the world evolved – and then in some periods both evolved rather backwards unfortunately. But on the whole, we live in a very different world today than we did in Nean’s time. What was then a tried and tested method and worked for all involved parties is now obsolete (or should be, at least).
People today have every opportunity to choose communication rather than aggressive behavior. Let’s face it, language has evolved a lot compared to prehistoric times, the way we express ourselves has evolved. You can go to training courses if you feel that you need to improve in this area. Everything is available in the modern world to settle conflicts peacefully. It is just a question of willingness.
And yet, some men prefer aggression. But why?
The answer is very simple. Because they lack the necessary sophisticated communication skills. Because they feel they have no other tool at their disposal than aggressive behavior.
That is, they feel they are in the “Nean mode”. There is a conflict, so I hit and take/defend/advocate. However, in our present it’s not the right behavior. Much more and better things could be done.
Why do men feel that they have no other tool but aggression?
Men who behave aggressively as adults, most probably saw a very similar parental pattern while growing up. It was either their father or mother, who behaved this way. And this young child learned that when it came to conflict, or asserting an interest, or defending someone or something, that pattern should be followed.
This little child was not shown, it was not explained to him what other means could be used in these situations. He was not taught how to express his feelings and emotions, he was not taught the verbal methods to peacefully and yet effectively resolve such situations.
So, as a grown-up he continues to run this pattern in his own life. As an adult, he would have the opportunity to change this, to take responsibility for his own development. But if he doesn’t recognize how damaging this pattern is, he could live his whole life being aggressive towards others. Meanwhile, he does not even realize the damage he is doing to the target of his aggression, or even to the people who only observe it. This is how he destroys human relationships, how he passes this pattern on to his own children…
Meanwhile, also these men themselves suffer. They are full of inner tension for which they cannot find a constructive coping mechanism. But if they are not open to change, they can live their whole life in this state. But the solution is there for them too. They could find the root of the problem in themselves through some kind of self-awareness, therapeutic sessions, they could unravel it and could introduce constructive methods of tension release into their lives. In addition to this, they could also learn communication techniques that they missed to learn as a child.
All of these can be done as adults as well, it just requires being aware of the problem and requires the willingness to solve it and the determination to go through the process.
Yes, I know, it sounds very simple when you put it like that, but going through this change process is not that easy. Indeed, you are right. The inner work is not necessarily an easy task, but if we want to move forward in life, if we want to improve, it is inevitable. And the work you put in is very rewarding.
In the second part of this article, you will read about whether the aggressive man is really the “real man” and what internal drivers might make a woman feel that this is right for a man to behave such way.
For all of my article compilations click here.