Men differ from women. And while this statement seems obvious, the contrast is never better seen than in their attitude towards professional counseling. Men just tend to avoid it more than women. Why?
Because, as Tyger Latham Psy.D. noted in Psychology Today:
Most men don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to them to be a man. That’s because in our society, being a man is an advantage, one that does not often invite self-reflection.
Therapy involves self-reflection, something few men are comfortable with. What is self-reflection?
Self-reflection is unique to humans. It is the process of looking inward to the seat of motivation with a view to understanding what drives our actions. Self-reflection is useful in learning how to change behaviors which do not produce the results we want.
Charlie and Self-Reflection
An episode of the popular TV sitcom “Two and a Half Men” well illustrates this process. In the scene, “Charlie” (played by actor Charlie Sheen) is visiting his therapist because he is, for the first time it seems, in love.
While the scene plays out in a very humorous way, it also highlights a key element in helping with male-specific issues.
One thing “Charlie” said in this scene shows his discomfort in falling in love,
The guy who first walked into this office was a happy-go-lucky, fully-functioning manwhore and I want him back.
How was this a problem to him?
Now she knows I love her. The whole balance of power is off.
To which his therapist asked,
Why do you look at relationships as a power struggle?
The Masculine View
The masculine view of the world and the man’s place in it is partly derived from social influences. Men tend to be competitive and have a strong need to maintain power and control.
Society too tends to infuse men with various beliefs which may or may not be helpful in modern society. At times, the beliefs or values men develop do not serve them well.
This is where professional counseling helps.
In my practice, I’ve observed that men are often convinced they can “fix it” – whatever “it” may be. My clients are mostly business leaders, physicians, professors, and attorneys who now admit that therapy has helped them become a better version of themselves.
Men in our society often experience profound stress both at work or at home. They are constantly bombarded with damaging messages and impossible-to-meet requests.
Erroneous social expectations often pressure men to confront life’s problems alone, as if seeking treatment is admitting weakness or defeat.
Nothing could be further from the truth, yet as a result of these messages, men are less inclined to seek help.
What are Male Specific Issues?
Male-specific issues involve matters which are specific to modern masculinity. Many men face struggles with issues ranging from power and control to sexuality, especially in the workplace.
Societal values often say one thing, nature dictates another and corporate cultures or company values often express something entirely different. Adding to the confusion, research now indicates that changing the traditional view of masculinity results in multiple health benefits.
How is a guy to know which way is up?
Frankly, learning to find balance between these conflicting values is not easy: This is one key goal of male-specific therapy.
Following are some of the male-specific issues which men commonly face:
In a Forbes Magazine article titled, The Future Of Masculinity: Overcoming Stereotypes, common stereotypes which have a negative impact on male health and success were examined. Among the stereotypes, the article noted that most men feel pressure to maintain a certain image of power. Those who expressed emotions are often overlooked for promotions…yet those who repress emotion experience higher levels of heart disease and early death. Clearly, a balanced approach is needed.
As men age, there is a strong yearning to restore youthful vigor. Some of this involves sexual dysfunction, but not always. As men age, they naturally slow down a bit and cannot do as much as they did when they were younger. Sometimes, this desire for youthful vigor leads to the use of hormone replacement (testosterone), which the FDA considers hazardous to health.
Related to vigor is sexual dysfunction, often called impotence. There can be many reasons why male sexual performance diminishes with age, from physiological to psychological.
Often, men turn to medications like Viagra or Cialis, but research shows that doing so can result in more harm than good.
In any case, impotence usually causes a man to feel like less of a man. And while this is natural, it need not remain the defining focus of a man for the rest of his life. In fact, many cases of sexual dysfunction disappear with therapy.
Men are often expected to be ambitious, to gain great achievements. This places an enormous stress burden on most, especially those who are satisfied to live their lives on different terms. This often plays to another common issue today, work-life balance.
When failure to achieve success as defined by others becomes a problem, some men even turn to substances or harmful activities.
Salaries or income is another area where men are often pressured to excel. This is especially the case when a spouse earns more or even as much.
One study found that even when female spouses earned 40% of the household income, the male spouse experienced increased stress.
As a society, we applaud the ‘strong silent type’ in movies and popular culture…so much so that many men accept this view and bottle up their emotions until they explode.
The explosion is usually directed at someone they love, someone they feel safe unloading on.
This, in turn results in strained relationships which cause further emotional stress, further bottling up of the emotions. It is a cycle many men find difficult to stop even when they know they should.
Emotional detachment refers to an inability to connect with others on an emotional level. It is an inability to empathize with others, to express sympathy for their plight. This can cause a man to seem remote or insensitive to their partners and usually results in relationship problems.
The underlying cause of emotional detachment is usually trauma or abuse, often in early ages. Without professional counseling, few men ever break the patterns which prevent them from being as happy as they would like
Men tend to be very competitive. This is accepted and even healthy. But did you know that it is also possible for competition to be unhealthy?
For instance, if the competition is carried out with a view to simply tearing others down, considerable harm can result. Men who strive to better themselves through competition are often happy, satisfied.
But men who compete for the purpose of undercutting others do so for reasons that prevent internal satisfaction. This is indicative or deep-seated issues which require professional counseling to overcome.
Conflict, as in competition is healthy.
Male gender role conflict is different. This refers to the difficulties men often have with understanding how their roles as men in society may conflict with what they have been taught.
Many men have difficulty with changing social views imposed on males. This is normal. At times, popular culture sends mixed messages, which further adds to the difficulty of some to know what is the best course of action.
Throughout history, males have traditionally been the hunters, warriors and protectors of the family and society. This is in part because of their generally larger build when compared to females, but could also be a result of genetic differences. Males may have a predisposition to aggression.
Though not all males. Some tend to be less aggressive.
Yet, whether a man is overly aggressive or underly so, this is a common area of concern. Much depends on circumstances and career. Some career choices require aggression, others not so much.
Whether the level of aggression a man displays is a problem or not is a very individual matter. If it is a problem and needs to change, professional counseling can help.
Substance abuse affects men and women alike, though statistically, men are more prone to overdose. Also, the reasons for the abuse or addiction often differ among the sexes, though only slightly.
That said, substance abuse is a very individual matter with the exact reasons differing from person to person. Click here to learn about substance abuse therapy at Lev Counseling.
Just as men tend to keep emotions bottled up, men also tend to have difficulties managing anger. When anger issues begin to be a problem, whether on the job or in the home life, anger management therapy is needed.
In fact, learning to better control anger provides numerous health benefits because anger has been linked to high blood pressure and stroke, headaches, digestive disorders, even skin problems.
Men and women typically approach interpersonal conflict resolution in very different ways. Most often, these issues arise in couples counseling, but with more career women in the workforce, some men find they need help with this.
Work-life balance is hard for most people, but does tend to be more difficult for men. This could be in part because of their natural drive for achievements, competition or something else.
Whatever the reason, many professional males today are striving to create greater balance between their career and their personal lives. As Forbes pointed out, fathers consistently report higher stress levels than mothers, but finding a good work-life balance benefits the entire family.
Although body image is important to both men and women, research shows that the sexes approach the issue in very different ways. For men, the major issue tends to revolve around muscle mass and with aging, issues related to body image are magnified. Yet, even for younger men, especially busy professionals, coping with the feelings related to poor body image can result in personal difficulties.
Anxiety is far more than simply feeling down. It is a serious condition which can lead to major depression and other problems. In fact, one in five men experience anxiety at some point in their life and there is evidence that busy professionals are at greater risk.
Learn more about Anxiety treatments here.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue which makes headlines every so many years. This is in part because despite continued efforts by employers to reduce workplace sexual harassment, the problem persists. Why?
In part, the issue may stem from the different methods of communication among men and women regarding sex or from the different approach the sexes take to dating.
Regardless of the reasons, this is an issue which is resulting in higher levels of stress among many males. Some studies indicate that men who have the most difficulty dealing with this issue often have underlying psychological issues to address.
Whether this is the case or not, professional counseling can help men struggling with such issues.
Need Help Guys?
Many men find it difficult to discuss the issues which cause them stress and unhappiness. But professional counseling is about more than simply talking. It involves learning ways to cope and methods for managing whatever the problem is.
At Lev Counseling, I offer a fun, relaxed atmosphere in which you can chat openly about any issue. I will not sugarcoat anything nor lie to you, but will always listen and offer the best advice possible for your situation. I can help you through whatever it is you need to get through.
If you would like to chat, give me a call now or contact me here.