A man should practice aggressive sports because they produce feelings of strength and pride and power, which are vital for a man’s mental health. Although aggressive sports are typically full-contact activities like boxing, wrestling, grappling, football, and hockey, I also include strength activities like powerlifting. But how do aggressive sports produce feelings of strength and power?
Psychotherapeutically speaking, aggressive sports are means of emotion regulation. When we practice fighting, for example, we control our motor behavior and thus influence the interoceptive and proprioceptive afferent inputs to our brain to produce emotions associated with fighting.* Emotional feelings always stem from bodily responses. Therefore, our movement changes how we feel, and if we move in an aggressive manner, we generate feelings of power, for example, that feeling when you punch another man in the face, throw him to the ground, or get in a dominant ground position.
You don’t primarily feel powerful because you’re dominating another man, but because your movements are those of a dominant man. That’s why you can get the same feeling from deadlifting a shit-ton of weight, kicking the heavy bag, or even getting kicked by someone who’s better than you at Muay Thai. You might be getting destroyed, but as long as you’re still moving like a warrior, you’ll feel like one. Even the motoric aggression of playing drums has similar effects.
Conversely, if you have issues with anger, aggression, or intemperate feelings of power, you can produce more cool and mellow emotions by exercising different motor patterns. This is why I, to balance myself, frequently go for quiet walks into the woods or practice some Yoga. Tai chi, qigong, and jogging should have similar effects, but reflect on yourself: What sports do you practice, how do you move doing them, and how do those movements affect your emotions?
* Interoceptive afferent inputs include information from thermal, metabolic, and hormonal processes in the body, while proprioceptive afferent inputs include information from joint configurations and muscle activations, particularly body posture, facial expressions, and whole body movement. Since the latter affects all other states, we can change our emotions, which are based on those inputs, by changing how we move.
- Shafir, Tal (2016). Using Movement to Regulate Emotion: Neurophysiological Findings and Their Application in Psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7, Art. 1451, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01451.
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