What I notice…
Relationships tend to fizzle for a multitude of reasons. Disconnection, isolation, fear, abandonment, anxiety just to name a few. These can manifest individually or they can all manifest at once in a relationship. The challenging dynamic for men is to not run from this disconnection or fear, but find a way to move into the anxiety or fear. If men can come into contact with the ailments that plague their relationships, they stand a better chance an understating themselves and their partners. This becomes a road less traveled.
Men who seek psychotherapy not only travel this same road, but they also travel a road less traveled by women in their relationships. A road where they are less likely to come into contact with their emotions. For men, relationships enable them to refrain from emotions, by losing contact with themselves. As they lose this contact, they slip further into the chasm of “it is everyone else’s problem, not mine!” This then increases the likelihood of depression and anger. I know what you’re thinking, “I am a man, I don’t get depressed. That’s for women and those ‘other men’ who are emotional.” As men lose their sense of self, many unconscious tricks play out in their psyche:
- Men think they cannot make decisions in the relationship“It’s easier to let my partner do it than speak up and hear them complain.”
- Men think someone else is constantly at fault,“I would have been different if I were allowed to speak up.”
- Men think the partner is guiding the relationship,“We always do what she want’s to do, so why do I even need to speak up?”
- Men who lose a sense of self cannot stand up for what they want,“She will not listen to what I want anyway, so why speak up?”
When men lose the sense of self, this manifests as“It is everyone else’s problem.”Think about the husband in a television commercial. He is always up to some foolish antic or needs to be reminded where one thing is or another or simply cannot function if his wife or the kids do not tell him what to do. Men tend to be molded into believe that what his partner feels, he too feel. This increases his very lack of authenticity to his true emotions or experiences in life. Zero autonomy. This comes as a cost, As Robert Bly illustrates:
“He is often more in touch with women’s pain than with his own, and he will offer to carry a woman’s pain before he checks with his own heart to see if the labor is proper in the situation…In general, I think each gender drops its own pain when it tries to carry the pain of the other gender.”
Restricting the sense of self often allows men to blend into the other. This is not a conscious act, nor a malicious act on the account of the other, just a constant disregard for one’s needs. It might be easier for men to go along with their partner on the surface, but what normally happens after this forced compliance? Isolation, fear, anxiety, anger, disconnection, abandonment … When you reach into your bag of ‘going with the flow,’ what do you find?
The most disastrous outcome for men to lose their sense of self is anger, depression, and violence. When men ignore their inner voice trying to speak, this results in the old saying to “bottle up.” Then one ‘little’ thing happens, and we lose our minds! What happens during road-rage? Are men who get violent while driving perfectly calm, then react as one driver makes them mad? Probably not. Chances are, this has been an ever growing piece of frustration that has happened to explode when one is cut off in traffic. What about when men lose their temper with their kids or their partner? Is this an isolated occurrence? Probably not! More than likely, the man was carrying some form of anger around with him during the day. The wife and kids just happen to be the release for him in the moment.
“The Self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” – John Dewey
To work on one’s voice, one must first be aware of the absence of the voice. This is where most men leave therapy. Additionally, one must be willing to do the work necessary in psychotherapy to unpack the wounding behind the stinting of one’s voice. This is challenging work for anyone, not just men, who want to come to know to know themselves better. The rewards of releasing the damages of the past speak volumes to one’s soul and psyche, releasing one from the grip of anxiety, fear, and abandonment. Together we can come to understand your wounding and what is holding you back from living your authentic life.
Jeremy R. Allen, M.A., Psychotherapist
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