Sorry for the slightly cheesy attention grabbing headline. Also there are no supermodel pics from the 90’s here.
What there is though is a little post on why it might be that more guys/boys/gentlemen/males (take your pick) don’t enter therapy, or once they’re there struggle to stick with it. As ever I have just read a very well written and gentle general exploration of what it might be to be male (as least in a Western society). It’s “How not to be a boy” by Robert Webb, yep the comedian/writer. It’s partly biographical, but that’s really just as a device to make some pretty good, but gently put points about the song and dance around gender stereotypes and masculinity.
I suspect that it’s this inherent need for men to be “masculine” that stops lots of them coming into therapy, let alone talking about what’s going on for them with those around them. Why can’t you tell your best friend you’re having a tough time and are a little overwhelmed about become a dad? Why can’t you tell your partner that your scared of fluffing an upcoming presentation. Why do men need to show they’re “tough” and can “deal” with whatever comes their way? What does it mean to “man up”?
One of the biggest hurdles my male clients find in therapy is actually admitting something’s wrong! There’s almost the nod to an issue or two by turning up to my practice, but beyond that it’s all a bit odd and self-indulgent at best to share how they feel. They are fighting against years of social condition that appears to still say boys can “tough it out” and that they shouldn’t show emotion. But I have no idea why not. What’s wrong with admitting sometimes, things are just overwhelming. That when your mum passed away it was really tough, and you felt incredibly sad. Surely that’s a very natural reaction. However, the message appears to be, men should just “get on with it”.
The problem with just getting on with it, for any human, just means you’re storing up hurt and upset to mull over in the future. We’re a social species, evolved to talk and share. So why have half our species been taught not to do that? When we allow ourselves to experience emotions, the world becomes much richer. Sure, we might feel sad or more deeply sad sometimes, but we also get to feel so much happier by contrast. If somehow you do away with feeling, then the world becomes rather bland, everything’s just “ok”.
What’s the crux? I’m asking the men in the world to start allowing themselves to feel, to experience the full world of emotions that exist. Not just the ones socially accepted (anger mainly). To also share when these emotions come up, with themselves and those around them. When you start to share with those around you, you’ll start to build much stronger social networks. Not the virtual kind, but real and authentic ones. With those that matter to you in the real world, friends, colleagues, family even the person at the bus-stop. When men can feel able and allowed to share how they feel, I suspect a great many men will feel far more comfortable to just be. How liberating…