I have written about the brain ravages of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) from multiple head hits delivered while playing contact sports, like football. I have also touched on the emotional toll this can take.
This article explores the emotional component in more depth and connect the dots between that emotional side to our rape culture and the #MeToo awareness campaign.
The emotional pitch
When your five to eighteen-year-old child enrolls in a formal contact sport, their coaches begin the physical and the emotional training.
The physical is obvious. You can watch. The emotional is not. But its impact is crucial to understand how learned male aggression feeds into sports, as well as issues of men’s emotional isolation, rape culture and the #MeToo campaign.
From day one, every player is indoctrinated with the competition manta: “Win for the team at any cost. Losing is not an option.” Only those that buy into this philosophy for the coach, the team, their dad, and/or themselves will run/skate/punch/body-slam through, past, or over their opponents to make that goal or stop that shot. In short, do whatever it takes. Period.
This message, and it is always the message, can be candy-coated in sportsmanship: “Win or Lose, play your best.” This is for the parents. But the players, from the youngest to the oldest, know they have to go out there and kill it.
How? They’ve been conditioned.
The mental preparation
Emotional preparation includes teaching players how to bring up and sustain rage for every play so they can’t even think about what they have to do, they just do it – invoking their killer instinct. When the play is over, no matter what happens, the player must relax, let go of the anger and return to normal — Rage-Relax Syndrome.
After a while, the syndrome is part of the players’ DNA. It is so natural that they are able to “Rage on Demand” and shake it off. The good news is that’s exactly what the armed forces are looking for in every soldier.
The Rage-Relax Syndrome becomes Rage-on-Demand
Soon our indoctrinated children are men, fulfilling the promises of leadership (if they are not totally incapacitated by CTE, improperly healed concussions, or TBI (traumatic brain injury)).
How does this training manifest itself?
The competition mantra is inculcated deeply into our culture and into the everyday lives of men. Everything is a competition, and men compete to win, if it means removing, abusing, or discrediting whoever stands between the man and his objective. “All is fair in love and war.”
A simple “No” can trigger Rage-on-Demand, an explosive response to engender fear or apprehension in the “oppose.” Power establishes fear, which sustains power. It happens in the workplace, threatening and confounding everyone who does not know how to play by those rules.
A Personal #MeToo Experience with Rage on Demand
In 1995, I was the Coordinator of Special Projects at a local college. In the hierarchy, my department was under the college Foundation, run by a former high school football lineman. The honeymoon period lasted for several months before the explosive verbal attacks started.
After an informal board meeting in the school cafeteria, from which I had to excuse myself, he stormed into my office and got into my face, screaming that I should have collected everybody’s coffee cups and put them in the garbage before I left. I disagreed. He walked out. I had never witnessed or dealt with such behavior – ever. It was the first of his many ongoing attempts to control and force me to be submissive and subordinate.
The male director of Human Resources did nothing. So, to counter his abuse, I became passive-aggressive because (a) it virtually eliminated conversation, and (b) I thought I needed the job. I didn’t. I left.
My situation was/is not unique.
Rage on Demand can happen anywhere in any situation.
If there is an emotional, sexual, and perceived dependence bond, it’s not so easy to walk away.
The danger is that anger explosions can be manifested in, or accompanied by, physical assault, including rape.
Rage-on-Demand can play a part in sexual and emotional abuse.
Abusers are notoriously quick to anger and quick to apologize.
The rage-on-demand response to any perceived infraction – physical and mental abuse – forces subjugation.
When it’s all over, abusers apologize. “You made me do it, baby. I promise I’ll never do it again.”
“Wait! Wait! Contact sports are just a game.
“Our kids just want to have fun, feel fulfilled, and shine with accomplishment.”
There are many ways for your child to have fun and feel fulfilled that do not include brain and emotional damaging contact sports.
We now know too much about brain injury and emotional manipulation to ignore the facts. If we want our children to grow up with healthy brains and emotions, we must step up and redirect their energies.
For those who have played contact sports and are unaware of their rage-on-demand programming but very aware of a quick temper often followed by an apology, maybe recognition of the issue may be the first step in recovery – controlling emotions, building relationships, and strengthening existing relationships..
If we are going to change our rape and abuse culture at least three things have to happen.
- Victims must continue to stand up and call out their abuser — #MeToo.
- Men must take responsibility for their actions and stop harassment, abuse, and rape – theirs and/or those of others in their presence.
- Parent must take responsibility for the health of their children and keep them safe from the damage incurred by contact sports and other at-risk to their brains activities.
If we can get rid of the Rage on Demand Syndrome, we can get rid of the “win at any cost” mentality, and take giant steps toward a more egalitarian society.
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Photo Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero