Growing up I remember having male role models such as Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and I thought to myself, this is what a man should be like, courageous, strong and independent. Rambo didn’t even need help when he invaded Vietnam by himself. There are countless images, ideas and constructs that I can point to being a male child growing up in the 80s/90s but they all seem to have one thing in common, you should be able to pull yourself up from your boot strap and you can do it on your own. It is no wonder that men my age find it difficult to admit that they need help, especially if the help they need is with their emotions. Can you imagine Hulk Hogan sitting on a counselor’s couch with his traditional yellow tank top and talking about how he feels? Probably not.
Being a mental health counselor I have provided therapy to many men and the vast majority of them say something very similar, “I should have done this a long time ago”. Many of them went years, even decades attempting to suppress and compartmentalize what they were suffering from in order to maintain their manly image. With many of them they experienced a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders by simply acknowledging their pain and verbalizing it. Many men internalize the ideal image of a man’s man and feel that they are above feeling sad or fearful and just need to get over it. For many of us, simply getting over it is not as easy as it sounds and it begins to negatively impact our lives. It can have devastating effects on our romantic relationships, relationships with our children and with our careers. Many men harbor the feeling that they are somehow weak if they were to say aloud that they are experiencing emotional distress and that they need help with it. The truth of the matter is, it takes a lot more courage to sit with a stranger and discuss your pain than it is to sit quietly in your 9 to 5, pretending you are fine.
Young men need to be taught that it is OK to cry, it is OK to be afraid and it is OK to not know what to do. Our emotional intelligence needs to fostered in the same manner as intelligence of other socially desirable knowledge sets, i.e. math, science, hunting…etc. It is OK for us to ask for directions and to ask for the proper temperature to BBQ the ribs at. We should not expect ourselves to know how to do things we have not personally done before, especially when it comes to processing difficult feelings and emotions.
If you or one of your male counterparts is going through a difficult time and is in need of help to discover new ways of thinking about himself, new ways of processing and experiencing his emotions, please call for a free phone consultation at 936-701-6009. You can also inquire about mental health therapy at www.sommers-counseling.com.