Therapy and the Real Man

It doesn’t take much to figure out why many men are so resistant to therapy. We come by it naturally. From the time we are boys and all through adulthood, we are literally trained not to do anything that remotely resembles therapy. Think about the expectations for therapy or any form of personal growth: Ask for help? Uh, no – not even directions. Talk about feelings? Feelings, what are those? The thought of it just makes me mad! Be vulnerable? No thanks, that doesn’t help me; that is for women and girly-men. Talk about the past? Get over it.

Man-in-addiction-therapyMen usually have to hit a pretty low spot in their lives to even think about getting professional help with their marriages, the things they struggle with, their past pains, or entering treatment for addiction recovery. Most men do not wake up one day saying, “Gee, it’s such a nice day. I would like to go to therapy.” Moreover, seeing a therapist means you are admitting you can’t do it on your own which is tantamount to admitting you are weak. If you are weak you cannot be a man, not a real man. You see, the sad thing is that we have made being a man and being emotionally aware diametrically opposed to one another, as if the two cannot co-exist where a powerful and confident masculinity is part of the dyad. Those of us who have walked this path know that this “conflict” between manliness and emotional maturity is a myth.

The reality is that thousands of men are leading less than fulfilling lives suffering under the weight of that relentless cultural training we have experienced from a very young age. Many are finding themselves reluctantly in the therapist’s office or treatment center for recovery from addiction in numbers larger than ever before, unable to identify, let alone trace to some obvious source, the pain in their lives. These men have been brought to their knees. Sure, some guys resist embracing therapeutic interventions. Sadly, they miss out on the benefits such as simply being truly comfortable in their own skin. Some will even criticize or ridicule the idea (or this article! Or me! So be it.) –- and that kind of response is just the training talking; they are just doing what they have been trained to do. It is the exact response I would expect from a lot of men, and had I not hit a wall early in my life that woke me up, I’d be saying the exact same thing.

The irony of all of this? When men get involved in any kind of personal work -– therapy, recovery from addiction, men’s work -– they have the opportunity to truly become men. Real men. The truth is, I feel more like a man than I ever have. I am more rooted in my masculinity; I am aware of the anger that used to dominate my life and can be more honest about the fear, hurt, and insecurity underneath it; and I have a much broader and deeper repertoire for how I express myself than ever before.

Most of us are just boys in men’s clothes -– adolescent boys at best. And perhaps it is time to grow up. So this is my invitation to anyone interested (or whose loved ones have been begging you to do something different): Put on your big boy pants and come walk with me and the thousands of men who have put away their underoos (and save them only for special occasions), because the real real men are here to stay!

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin, M.A., has worked in the mental health and addictions field for over a decade. He is author of A Man’s Way Through the Twelve Steps and co-author of the groundbreaking curriculum Helping Men Recover, which looks comprehensively and holistically at men’s needs and issues in recovery.

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