It’s Tough To Be A Man In America – Part 2

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By Bob Livingstone

Continued from part 1 of this article…..

familyThe need for control comes from feeling that we have little or no power in the world. This belief stems from the fear that we are not good at dominating and conquering. We also secretly question if we want to be conquerors. The fear that we are not perfect and that this idealized state won’t be reached leads us to attempt to control our surroundings as much as possible. This need for micromanaging people and every day events is another source of worry.

If events don’t go as we anticipate, our reaction can be experienced by others as rage. This is another sense of loss of control that makes us feel vulnerable and lost.

Television shows depict men as either clueless boobs or superheroes who rescue those in distress. This reinforces the internalized stereotypes that we are either not clued in to the needs of others (mostly women) or we are supposed to be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

We are allowed to function in the world as morons or superheroes. That is the territory that is carved out for us and it gives us very few places to go.

Everything discussed above keeps men isolated from our healthier parts and others.

How Men can Breakthrough Isolation

• Understand that the role of provider is gift and not a curse. However, we are not only providers. We are workers, caretakers, lovers, friends and healers. We also cook and clean house. We do what we can to help out those we love and that is the most beautiful role of all.

• Learn to discriminate between constructive criticism and character assassination. Understand that your partner telling you she would like you to rinse off dishes when putting them in the sink is not the same thing as calling you a worthless a–h—. If she is making a request, when you start going into the “don’t I do enough around here?” mode; stop and realize she is only asking you to change some minor behavior. If she calls you vile names, you can say that this is unacceptable to you and consider if you want to stay in this relationship.

• Take risks at sharing your long pent up feelings of inadequacy, fears and hurts with those closest to you. You may feel a sudden relief when you do this and find yourself having a closer connection with them.

• Realize that you don’t have to be a superhero or a buffoon to be accepted. You don’t have to act like you are stupid or spend much of your time rescuing others. You don’t have to expect this from yourself.

• If you don’t want to dominate, conquer or take charge of every situation, don’t beat up on yourself. This is a sign that you want to take steps to confront this long held belief about ourselves and that is a positive development.

• Understand that your quest for control is futile and it only hurts yourself and those around you. You cannot control others or the future any more than you can change the weather.

• It is totally normal not to be perfect; you can be ok with yourself even though you make mistakes.

• Consider psychotherapy or a self-help group if you feel that you need assistance in breaking through your isolation. There is no shame in asking for help.

• It is ok to cry if you feel overwhelmed; it is beneficial to take in painful memories you have had in the past. If you can feel your own pain; you can learn to empathize with others. Those who love you will welcome this dramatic change and feel safer in a relationship with you. Spend some time focusing on the memory when your dad smacked you in the face for no reason. Remember the time when your cherished grandmother died suddenly; concentrate on the day you graduated from college after struggling so long and hard. Feel the tears fall down your face and the ache in your throat. Honor your losses as well as your gains. It feels wonderful to finally let all this anguish out.

Bob Livingstone is the author the critically acclaimed Unchain the Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist, Norlights Press 2011, The Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise, Pegasus Books, 2007 and Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager’s Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy, Booklocker 2002. He is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker in private practice in The San Francisco Bay Area and has nearly twenty five years experience working with adults, adolescents and children.