It’s been quite some time since I sat down and wrote something for this blog. Pretty much the entire first half of 2018 has been very busy. That being said, I felt compelled to write a piece on men, emotions and counseling.
This could be a generalization, but from my professional experience as a therapist, men don’t like talking about their emotions and they certainly do not like going to counseling to pay a third party to help them do that. All too often, what I have heard from men is that counseling is pointless and a waste of time and money. The other unfortunate comment I have heard is that counseling is for women and weak men.
I believe these comments come from a couple of places; a man’s upbringing and man’s understanding of emotions. Before a man is a man, he is a boy. Boys are taught what is socially acceptable and responsible forms of behavior. Boys are often taught to be competitive, to win, to protect, to feel no pain, to always be grounded, to not cry.
I don’t have any issue with competition, winning or protecting. What I do have an issue with is the absence of the messages of when its ok to cry, when its ok to be anxious and sad. A boy learns from the messages he hears, as well as the messages he doesn’t hear. A boy will often look to his father as the model of how to respond and react to life. Unfortunately, many fathers are left not knowing how to raise their son with a healthy emotional quotient; that’s likely due to generations of fathering that didn’t include emotional development.
A boy who doesn’t learn to walk through the whole emotional spectrum, have it modeled for him by his father is at a disadvantage. I work a lot with adolescent and teen boys and the most common issue I see plaguing boys of this age group is anger and depression. This anger and depression comes from having a wider array of emotions that are complex, but because they weren’t taught or know how to “process/talk-about them” they resort to what they know, anger and trying to control who ever is in their immediate environment.
The harsh reality is that many boys who only know how to compete and be angry, grow up to be men that only know how to compete and be angry. This is where men lack understanding of what emotions are. Emotions are not weakness and they are not something that is meant to be ignored.
As a man, if you ignore your emotions and feelings and you do so for years you risk anxiety, depression, maybe relationship issues, divorce, addiction, sexual issues, physical illness, etc. There is a fine line between being led by your emotions and being able to process them. Counseling can help a man figure out how to do actually process his emotions and learn how to be healthy in his responses.
If you are a man don’t look the other way on emotional and feelings work. Don’t simply try and tough it out. You can’t always stuff your issues as it usually leads to extreme blowups. You can’t only show anger, because that leads to being isolated.
If you are a husband and or father and have son/s, start modeling for them the full emotional spectrum. Start showing them that its ok to be multi-dimensional in their emotions and make sure to talk with them about it. Being focused on your emotional development is just as important as being focused on gaining muscle and being in shape. Being strong and healthy emotionally, leads to many benefits in other facets of your life.
If you got questions, feel free to reach out to me on the Burien Counseling website
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
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