Book Review: “Angry Men, Passive Men: Understanding the Roots of Men’s Anger and How to Move Beyond it” 
Written by Marvin Allen

By Debbie Preece

Looking for a book to help you understand the angry or shut down man in your life? Or maybe you’re the guy with the wife who thinks you could use some counseling to help you with your anger, but you’re not comfortable with this. In either case, this book will help. Written by an expert on men’s issues, this book will show you how, with the right help, men can heal their anger and become a happier and more fully engaged partner.

The author starts out by sharing his own story of growing up with an abusive father and how his first marriage fell apart due to the unresolved issues he brought into it. He then chronicles his years of frustration in searching for help, trying therapist after therapist. Only after several tries does he finally find a compassionate therapist who is able to help him understand for the first time the link between his present problems and his past. But this insight alone does not free him from the past and he continues to struggle, particularly in relationships. Surprisingly, he has his first experience of real healing not in a therapist’s office, but in the unlikely setting of a fear of flying class taught by a retired pilot. Soon after that he attends his first men’s group where he has further breakthroughs, and then goes on to become a therapist himself and an expert on men’s issues.

The author takes a hard look at our culture and how it has shaped men and contributed to their problems. In particular, he shows how it has taught men to suppress their emotions, starting at a very young age. He makes the observation that over the last several decades, women have made tremendous gains in obtaining external freedoms. However, in the internal realm, women have always had more freedom to express their emotions. Men, on the other hand, haven’t had to fight for external rights but they have lacked the freedom to express themselves emotionally.

Men have learned that it’s not okay to show any signs of vulnerability or weakness. As a result, they keep things inside and never get the healing of deep wounds needed to become freer, happier and healthier. In addition, since they are cut off from their own emotions, they are hampered in their understanding and compassion for the emotions of others, in particular, their wives and children. Many times the only emotion they do allow themselves to feel and express is anger, which often comes out in abusive and controlling ways. On the other end of the spectrum are the men who are so overwhelmed by the emotions of others as well by as their own, that they simply shut down. In either case, these men are unable to express their emotions and needs in healthy ways, with the end result of driving away the very people they love and need the most.

The author goes on to explain the methods that he developed to help men, including techniques for getting in touch with suppressed emotions and the groups for men he led. In these groups men learned how to access their emotions by observing other men doing this as well as being supported by them as they began to take steps to share vulnerably. They also learned relationship skills that they would practice with each other and could then take home.

He ends the book by coming back full circle, to making peace with our parents. In addition, he defines a new masculinity and the passing on of a new legacy to our children, especially to our sons.

I found this book to be very easy to read and was moved by the many stories of men, their struggles and their breakthroughs. It gave me hope for the healing of the guys in my life as well as for the healing of my clients – both the men who are struggling and the women who love them.