What's holding your man back?
In my professional capacity I have the opportunity to work with men. I myself identify as a man. I have noticed over the last year how many men come to my office and are a shell of a human being. These men often complain of problems like depression, anxiety, substance use, relational conflict and occupational concerns. I watch them. Like a skilled observer I laser in on everything. Some breathing rapidly while others forgetting to breathe. Some men sitting with arms and legs crossed and non-verbally vowing to be guarded and stoic. Some men avoiding eye contact while struggling to find words to describe their internal experience. They are men and they are scared, alone and disconnected. Each of these men are very different from each other but share many common traits.
I have witnessed wives and partners frustrated and longing for an assertive and intimate partner, while being met with passivity and obstinance. Compared to woman, men will die younger usually of health-related issues. Men are less likely to seek help for mental or physical healthy concerns. Although women attempt suicide more, men will have more suicide fatalities. Almost all men on death row in the United States are men. The majority of people that are homeless, incarcerated, and killed at war are men.
Men have abused their power and privilege since the beginning of time. All we have to do is turn on the television or pick up the news paper and there it is. I have a deep affinity for helping men. I am by no means justifying or condoning violent, harmful, or sexist behavior by any man. I am noticing that true and sacred masculinity is disappearing right in front of me and it is concerning. In a world where toxic masculinity has become normalized and somewhat accepted, it has not been held accountable or challenged. This is about challenging men to be the best versions of themselves and to notice the role they have in the community, within their family and in society.
I have seen men cope with stress and interpersonal concerns by over working, becoming passive, using pornography and technology as a way of escaping, being numb and shut down to their emotional state, and using drugs and alcohol. These ways of managing stress are effective; however, they are avoidant in nature and create social, occupational and relational impairment. Men have become withdrawn to reality. Most men, at some point in their lives, have received these messages: “work harder”, “figure it out”, “don’t cry”, “feelings are for wimps”, “Pull yourself up by your boot straps”. These messages may not have been directly communication with the language and tone have been inferred. These messages have developed into many core beliefs for men. At least they have for me.
I believe that emotional health is the key to unlocking these frozen men. We are finding out that emotional health is the nucleus for our wellbeing. If am physically unhealthy, then where is my emotional health in relation to my physical self. If am mentally unhealthy, then where is my emotional health in relation to my mental health.
What’s next for the man?—
- Explore options for support groups
- Find a relatable therapist or counselor to get additional support
- Set boundaries around work and other commitments that impact your presence with what’s important
- Monitor substance/alcohol use and if it’s unmanageable then reach out to a specialist
- Get a physical health evaluation—men need to be screened annually by a primary care physician regardless of age
- Talk with your spouses and partners to get support and connection
- Find healthy hobbies to find an outlet—preferably something not connected with work
- Have fun and be playful!
To spouses, partners and children—
- Be patient (the more you pursue, the more likely the man will withdraw)
- Educate yourself on issues that men struggle with
- Don’t accept unacceptable behavior
- Challenge the man on his thoughts and feelings
- When all else falls…love the man