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The Irritable Male SyndromeReview - The Irritable Male Syndrome
Managing the Four Key Causes of Depression and Aggression
by Jed Diamond
Rodale, 2004
Review by Shelly Marshall, B.S., CSAC
Aug 9th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 32)

This attempt at a self-help book (291 pages) offers a complex and well-documented, argument that there is a corresponding male syndrome to women's PMS called IMS (Irritable Male Syndrome). The author, Jed Diamond, having previously written Male Menopause, lays a good foundation for the hormonal probability of andropause in males. The book's relevance at first appears to be in its exposure of the male propensity for the seemingly inappropriate and pervasive irritability in their most intimate relationships. He explains IMS as a blue print for the male who engages in domestic violence. Although offering insightful tidbits throughout regarding male dysfunctionality, the book suffers from an overabundance of understanding and rationalizing on behalf of the man who perpetually acts like a jerk.

The book is divided into three parts of four chapters each.  Part I, entitled "The Problem," describes the Irritable Male syndrome, how to recognize it, and the serious problems it creates for men and their families. Diamond has developed genuine insights into the subtleties and complexities of male emotions, describing IMS as being about violence, whether emotional or physical.

Part II, "Understanding," basically is designed to deepen our understanding of IMS and frankly, begin to make the reader feel sorry for the Neanderthal men who haven't been able to adjust to the 20th century.

In Part III,  "Help is Here," Diamond explores what may be some of the most interesting material in the book for contemporary mental health therapists and the women who might be reading the book to find out what is wrong in their marriages. It explains why the guys don't want help, are unlikely to get help, and think it must be their partner's fault, anyway. In addition, the author speaks to the possible biological solutions (taking testosterone) and prevention such as parents touching our male children more often.

I found the book more depressing than not, although the information is long in coming--ie, he acknowledged there actually is a preponderance of men who take everything out on their wives. In his research, he mentioned from 30 to 50 percent of men being chronically unhappy, irritable and blaming their intimate partners for their own inability to live life on life's terms.

On page 31, the author asks, "Why are men so angry at women?" which is the 64 thousand dollar question for most people who read this book. Jed Diamond's answer to the question, or rather explanations, will give the reader very little hope for the future of men and women. In fact, it made me sick. It appears that men need women, but are ashamed of this need and so take it out on them. It appears the men are wired to fight or flight while women are wired to tend and befriend and men's hard wiring is not suitable to modern times. It appears that their hormones are geared to dominate and when they can't dominate their peers, they pound their partners.

"Our adult anger is related to trauma we experience as a child." He writes, and then writes that he's never met a violent person who didn't experience violence as a child. But rather than explaining if it's genetic or environmental or what implications it has--it is sort of left as a poor excuse for male pathology. Other excuses are also offered, from the lacking manner in which males are raised, to their sexual attraction to their daughters, to the competition of men with their sons, to their loss of status of not being the leader of every pack, and finally the pinnacle of rationalization -- depression which, it seems, is caused by any situation that doesn't lead a man from diapers to dynasties laced with riches, fame and power from babyhood up.

On the one hand, Jed Diamond tells the reader that male irritability is similar to PMS and then gives us every bleeping excuse in the world why the poor human male has never managed to get his s**t together. I would love to see the reactions if people were told that women's PMS symptoms were the result of childhood trauma, inability to adjust from the neo-paolithic period, a sexual desire for their sons, and the fact that they didn't inherit Jennifer Lopez's genes.

The author was brave in sharing his own story. I found his personal sharing helpful but feel, as does he, that most men are in denial about their inadequacies. Men don't seek help for their "male" problems because they don't admit these problems. They blame their wives. The book will be read by women who want to save their marriages and maybe by a few counselors who work with domestic abuse, but for the most part, the ones who need it, wouldn't dream of picking the book up.

 And I'm not sure I want them to. This take on male abuse directed toward their intimate partners presents the male as a victim. Victims are powerless and need to be rescued. Men don't need to be rescued. They need to act better. There is an old adage, you don't think your way into good acting, you act your way into good thinking. I don't buy the theories that all their stress, childhood traumas, and sexual longings for their daughters are any excuse for treating the ones they love badly. They threat them badly because they can--because the 'tend and befriend' nature of women means that women try to make their family's lives better even if that means allowing nasty behavior as they read books like this. As a subculture, women collectively think that knowing why their guy isn't "loving, honoring, and cherishing" them as they promised to do, is something the woman is responsible for--knowing why and effecting change! 

In a final absurdity of justification for male abuse of the ones they love, Diamond writes, "The Irritable Male Syndrome may be God's, or our daimon's, way of calling each man back to the person only he can become." Come on, because men can't fulfill their dreams, they take it out on the ones they love?

To the author's credit, he doesn't suggest that women or men accept this bad behavior. He does suggest men try to change, after they figure out it's themselves and not the rest of the world responsible for their IMS. Diamond claims to be a solution oriented therapist and even writes that other therapists aren't very helpful because they dwell on the problem. The trouble with the book is that it is 95 percent problem-based and only a few pages are devoted to the solution. I think if Jed Diamond took his own advice and wrote a book 95 percent solution oriented and only five percent devoted to explaining the problem, he would have a great self-help tool. As is, the book only offers unending rationalizations, and very few solutions.

 

© 2005 Shelly Marshall

 

Shelly Marshall, B.S., CSAC is an Adolescent Chemical Dependency Specialist and Researcher. You can visit her sites at www.day-by-day.org and www.YouAreATarget.com


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