Five Illusions of Manhood (and how to dissolve them)
1. To be a man, you must operate without emotion. Men are generally conditioned from a very early age not to feel. We tend to move from a feeling modality to one of thinking, trying to process everything from the head up, which causes dysfunction.
2. To be a man, you must use sexual conquest as a gauge of manhood. We often believe that the more people we sleep with, the more we validate ourselves. Sex becomes merely physical without the emotional and spiritual goals of love, intimacy, and connection.
3. To be a man, you must have money and material possessions. This illusion often drives our feelings of inadequacy. We wrongly believe that our role is to accrue monetary and material value, causing many of our negative behaviors.
4. To be a man, you must have status, position, and power. If we have these things, we believe we are better than other men. Believing that we are our titles leads to feeling empty and meaningless.
5. To be a man, you must compete against other men and win at all costs. While competition can be healthy, men often feel they must win against each other rather than to support, encourage, and empower one another. Competition can strengthen us as men if we hold the other person in regard and want them to be their best as well.
For Therapists: How to Help Your Male Clients Dissolve These Illusions
1. Help them to heal internal wounds, freeing them up to not need to protect themselves through accomplishments.
2. Help your male clients identify their true emotions, rather than allowing them to label the emotions of hurt, frustration, and fear as "anger" (our old standby emotion). With the emotions correctly identified, help your male clients connect with them.
3. Work with whatever deep sense(s) of inadequacy they harbor, reducing the drive to succeed in unhealthy ways.
4. Help us understand that it is okay, and in fact necessary, to ask for help when we need it (which is often!).
5. Help us identify and work through our grief in healthy ways. Make us understand that what you can't feel, you can't heal - that if we can feel it, we can release it.
6. Practice is particularly necessary for men to incorporate new learning, so help us to find and create opportunities for this.