Understanding the anxiety and fear that grips and paralyzes men in relationships.

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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How societal fear mongering necessitates dissociation in the rise of cultural dissociation.

What I notice…

An interesting facet of American society is often represented as fear mongering. Fear mongering is the idea of instilling fear into a culture or society to persuades hatred or anger towards a particular issues. A terrifying aspect of fear mongering is when individually, we as humans do not think for ourselves by allowing whatever is populated to become gospel. The idea behind being able to tune in to oneself will ultimately allow one to work on anxiety and anxiety triggering situations. This comes as on learns how regain control of the body. In the timeless, everlasting works to the great James Hillman:

The external may cause suffering, but it does not itself suffer (Hillman, 1992, p. 63).

Everyone from clergy to politicians to the on-slot of pontifical op-editors have waged in on the topic of Human Rights, Black Lives Matter, the Dakota Pipeline, LGBTQIA, the recent political forum that regards human lives as expendable figures, and many other horrific acts on humanity. Politicians tell us what side to act on, in order to enhance our safety and remove the threat or terrorism from American soil, to even the fear tactic of having all of our rights and weapons and dignity removed from us if we refuse to act sternly in accordance with our ‘constitutional rights.’ One very interesting facet I witness is ubiquitous constraints of not allowing us feel as we need or want to feel. We must only adhere to the way they all want us to feel. As if for some reason out society has indoctrinated George Orwell’s 1984.

Fortunately, we can become aware of our own feelings and standings in how we as humans are being affected by much of the travesty in our country. With growing awareness, we can tune in to what is being said throughout our bodies and our individual psyche. Carl Jung eloquently postulated on how we as humans avoid feeling at all cost:

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world—all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their souls (CW 12, para 126).”

I will not wage into the debate of soul here; I have attempted a small understanding here. You’ll find a small intro into how I orchestrate myself. Too big a topic for this blog.

One of the founders of Gestalt Therapy Frederick Perls once said,

“Lose your mind, to come to your senses.”

Each of these philosophers I choose to follow in life, have illustrated the much needed return to the body or the self, in order to fully understand the self. Unfortunately what happens in the political forum, is one is forced to one side or the other, sequestering unconditional support, without truly checking in with the self. This can have grave psychological consequences on the fragile psyche.

Awareness in motion. 
What I notice about me is I become saddened by events that have transpired. I enjoy civil liberties that I’ve grown accustomed to, but civil liberties of the masses fearfully overshadow an individual’s right to live in harmony. Once the other’s civil liberties have been overshadowed, one’s rights to live in harmony is thus removed, if not forcefully, then mortally. So now we have a paradox of protecting one’s civil liberty, by threatening another’s individual liberty.

This is a great place of fear for me. I too have many emotions centered around death, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, you name it; I’ve felt it. I do not like the notion that one has eternal control over my existence in this world. However, how I understand this fear in me and I pay attention to what comes up for me in the moment. For example, when fear and anxiety come up for me, I ask, “who’s fear and anxiety is this?” The manifestation of fear constellates as trembling, nervousness, and constant fear of looking over my shoulder. My chest begins to tighten, and my heart feels as if it is squeezing the life out of itself. This is the moment of my anxiety. Allowing myself to hear the words, “you’re safe, there is nothing of immanent danger ‘right now,’ and you’re fine,” allow me to center myself. I must allow myself to come back to center amidst rapid heart rate and shallow breathing. I take a mental inventory and mental imagery of the immediate room, then allow myself to tune in to the anxious/fearful feeling. Maybe at this point, I allow myself to recognize the tension that is present, and sit in present moment with what physiological symptom is present. What I notice is this allows these trapped blockages of energy to be recognized. In severe cases, I’ll actually allow my body to do a movement to shake of the energy, to throw it off of my body if you will, much like a dog shaking it’s head around to recalibrate to the earth below him.

Not an easy task…
One must give the permission from within to be allowed to feel or experience an emotion or a feeling to be able to over come a sudden surge of fear or anxiety. As human beings, we rarely allow ourselves to be in the here and now. Being in the here and now allows these foreign feelings to come in, be experienced and be released. If we choose to ignore the feelings, this becomes an open invitation for anxiety to set up camp. In events such as the Orlando onslaught on the LGBTQ community and the mass shootings that are ever present and the horrific attack on individual citizens on our streets, one can and does tend to manifest anxiety and fears around these situations. These situations are terrifying. These feelings are a normal reaction to being human, however, what is abnormal are the residual energies that keep us focused on the ineffective movements through life, such as how I notice the moments when I tend to walk with fear and anxiety post any egregious attack on humans.

Finally, my experience working in a Gestalt therapeutic manner has increased my awareness of things I can control and things I cannot. As illustrated by gestalt therapist Joel Latner:

“The point of this [psychotherapy] is not to destroy our ability to exercise the kinds of control we exercise over ourselves in impairment, but to make that control available to us so that we can choose whether to continue or alter it … as therapy unifies us, it frees the jailer and the prisoner.”

As addressed earlier by James Hillman,

The external may cause suffering, but it does not itself suffer (Hillman, 1992, p. 63).

This illustrates how society keeps us in suffering but we can be in control of the physiological affects of the suffering. The physiological affects will then determine our outward actions. Humans have the ability to go out and march in support of this suffrage. We can speak to the atrocities in society and decide to not tolerate acts of injustice that are thrusted upon us.

Have you ever felt this sense of anxiety with or without seeing acts of injustice? If so, give me a call. A depth exploration and gestalt awareness understanding of your personal beliefs will help open your awareness and potentially your heart.

Jeremy R. Allen, M.A., Psychotherapist
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