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5 Key Issues in Depth Psychotherapy for Men, Part 2

May 10th, 2013 · men, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for men

In the first part of this post on depth psychotherapy for men, I looked at the first 3 of 5 key issues that can often confront men in therapy; here are the other two.

psychotherapy for men

As I mentioned in Part 1, these issues have much in common with key issues for women in psychotherapy.  But the ways that they differ for men are tied up closely with the whole meaning of what it is to be male.

4) Competitiveness vs. Connection

It’s often difficult for men to acknowledge their own receptive dimension and weaknesses, due to the threat of competition and possible judgment from other men.  Very often, from the youngest age, boys are treated with shame for displaying vulnerability.

Often, self-shaming can get incorporated into the inner dialogue of a man, so that he shames himself when he is confronted with his own vulnerability.  So a man often develops a deep aversion to displaying anything that comes remotely close to vulnerability.  Sometimes the avoidance of intimacy and vulnerability becomes so acute that the only way that two men can express affection for each other is to trade insults.

Genuine connection between people requires vulnerability.  If as a male I crave intimacy, I have to accept that others will see my weaknesses and the places where I might have flaws.

Women, too, may reinforce male competitiveness and men’s lack of self-acceptance.  It’s not always easy for women to easily accept a man who departs from deeply culturally embedded stereotypes of so-called “rugged” masculinity.

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5) Individuality vs Individualism

This key issue is crucially related to the last point, in that it is connected to the whole issue of men and competitiveness — but it also goes beyond it.

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Males are very caught up in individualism here in North America.  The myth evoked by the image of the Marlboro Man is very much alive in our psyches.  Our culture has the idea that men should not only have initiative, but should go beyond that: somehow the “real man” or hero figure is someone who goes it very largely alone.  Each one should pursue his own advantage, and interdependence or cooperation is somehow very suspect — perhaps effeminate?  This dynamic draws its energy from the archetype of the hunter.

What we don’t so easily see is that pursuing goals individualistically is not the same thing as individuation.  Men in our time need the courage to be genuinely individual, to be genuinely in ourselves, no matter what anyone else may think of it, as opposed to merely pursuing my own individual advantage in a competitive and comparatively unreflective way.

Some key questions: What is it to be genuinely individual?  What does that mean for you?  When are the moments that you feel truly, individually you, with no pretense?

Individual psychotherapy for men is about men truly taking in their own individual stories, and their own nature, and really living in the experience of who they are.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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5 Key Issues in Depth Psychotherapy for Men, Part 1

April 28th, 2013 · men, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for men

The key issues in depth psychotherapy for men are not fundamentally different from the issues that confront women in therapy, but there are clear differences in the way that men experience them.

psychotherapy for men

This difference in experience is tied up with the whole meaning of what it is to be male.

In this post, here are the first three of five key factors that very often present themselves for males through the whole process of psychotherapy for men.

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1.  The Male Mask and Self Acceptance

The women’s movement has revealed many social masks that our culture forces upon women.  We’re somewhat less aware of the masks that men are pressured to adopt.

Clinical experience with psychotherapy for men shows the tremendous pressure on men to adopt certain roles and postures.  The culture is well-pleased with unemotional men — and there’s a particular unconscious cultural hostility to vulnerability in men.  In our collective mind, the ideal of the strong, self-sufficient, serenely independent male strongly influences women’s expectations of men, and men’s expectations of each other.

Men are lonely behind such masks.  They keep men from being themselves, and from authentically connecting with others.

We have to get out from behind this crippling persona  and be conscious of who we are — as opposed to living with illusory pictures of the self.

WARNING: Entails seeing areas of weakness and broken-ness.  PROMISE: Starts the journey to compassion for oneself.

2.  Emotion, Feeling, Sexuality

The limited emotional range which our culture leaves open to males makes it very difficult for males to meet their need for love and intimacy.  Intimacy is also connected with vulnerability, and that doesn’t fit well with the dominant male mask.

All of this impacts male sexuality and sexual issues.  Men are often very fearful of revealing themselves in sex in ways that leave them vulnerable and open to being shamed.  This leads to routinized sexual expression in which the male never lowers his mask.  Sheer sexual pressure may keep him sexually active, but he can easily fall into incredibly sterile patterns of sexual relating.

3.  Receptivity & Relation to the Feminine

psychotherapy for men

Another key issue for males is their relationship to receptivity, which is seen as a feminine characteristic.  Our culture, even in humour,  stresses that males should be aggressive, seizing initiative in situations from sports to management to sex.  But the places where a male is receptive can be the most important and life-giving in his existence.

This may entail the male entering territory which our culture sees as feminine.  But being receptive — to what his own being is telling him, to the reality of others and what they are bringing to him — may prove figuratively, or even sometimes literally, lifesaving.

These three fundamental issues often surface in depth psychotherapy for men.  Two other issues will feature in Part Two of this post.

We’re not talking about pathology or abnormal psychology here.  These are key aspects of the journey of male individuation.  Often individual psychotherapy for men can profoundly assist on that journey.

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© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Individual Therapy, Men & Male Individuation, 2

July 23rd, 2012 · individual, individual therapy, Individuation, men, therapy

This is the second post in my series on men and male individuation, and how that all relates to individual therapy.

individual therapy

Being Male: Not As Simple as It Looks

The women’s movement, over the last 45 years, has strongly — and rightly — made the point that traditional male-dominated structures in society tend to keep women from being individual selves.  What isn’t as well appreciated is that, often, those same old patterns keep men from individuation, just as effectively.  These stereotypes even contaminate certain types of individual therapy.

The Last Thing Men Need is Another Stereotype

There is a stereotype waiting in the wings in our society, ready to fill the vacuum for individual men, but not in a helpful way.  The archetypal pattern of dominance and submission, or, as you often hear it put today, the “Alpha Male / Beta Male” image,  is rooted in the archaic instinctual division between competent, capable males who lead, and supposedly incompetent, clueless men who need to get led by Alphas.  Often, our culture holds out the image of these Beta Males — the majority, according to this view — as hopeless big kids, or even more toxically, stereotypical “failures” or “losers”.  Examples of this Beta Male stereotype abound in our culture:

individual therapy

  • Al Bundy from the sitcom Married with Children;

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  • Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond; and,

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  • last, but oh-so-far from least, Homer Simpson.

Not surprisingly, the only alternative that the culture holds up is to be the invulnerable, all-conquering Alpha Male:

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…like, say, “The Donald”…  Is this really all that there is for men?  If so, God help us.

Pressures Within; Pressures Without

The pressure is on, inner and outer, for men to either strive to embody the unassailable success of the Alpha Male, or else to accept the subtle but definite sense of failure with which our culture taints men who are not perceived as Alphas, and accept that humiliation by fleeing into the various distractions and anaesthetics our society offers.  Isn’t there any other possibility?

Individual Maleness

There is.  It involves creatively opening up and exploring who I am as an individual male person.  It entails going into my depths, and coming to accept and embrace who and what I am as a unique individual.  It requires accepting my woundedness, and being open to the healing that acceptance can bring.  It entails a new kind of awareness, stemming from what it is to uniquely be me.  Individual therapy can be key to this process of male individuation.

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Individual Therapy, Men & Male Individuation, 1

July 17th, 2012 · individual therapy, Individuation, male, men

Male individuation is a man’s uniquely individual path; it’s the goal of individual therapy for men.

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Often, discussions about “therapy for men” lapse into really regrettable stereotypes that would be completely unacceptable in discussions about therapy for women.  Is there a way beyond this?

Here are four profoundly worthwhile questions relating to men in individual therapy.

Can You be a Male and be an Individual?

Looking at the shallow and stereotypical images of men that abound in our culture, it may seem that the answer to that question is “No”.  However, when men closely examine their individual lives and stories, they often realize that they actually have been walking a highly unique path.  They have things in common with other men, but much that is truly their own.

What is it that our culture does to us that makes us think that this isn’t true?

Is It OK for a Male to Have Problems or Weaknesses?

Our culture socializes men to be intensely competitive with each other, about nearly everything.  As a result, even in 2012, it’s easy for a man to interpret any weakness — on his part, or other men’s — as losing, with all that implies in terms of shame and failure.   So, many men work extremely hard to avoid any evidence of “loser behaviour” — a.k.a. being human.

Can You be a Male and Have a Life Journey?

Males are supposed to be strong.  That image of being strong is supposed to include being — and staying — in control.  So, it isn’t surprising that men feel strong pressure to appear in control — to others, and especially to themselves.  Men are supposed to have it all together, and to have everything more or less figured out.  That sometimes makes it hard for them to acknowledge that they need to grow and become as part of the natural personal journey of life, and of becoming themselves.

What Does Male Individuation Really Mean?

Above all, it means that a man accepts everything that he is, and seeks, as much as he can, to integrate it all into wholeness.  It also means accepting himself in his identity as a man in his own way, whether or not that exactly accords with the images of men that have been held out to him by family, society and male peers.  It entails finding a freedom to affirm and rejoice in who or what he is, and to relate to others, male or female, out of that freedom.  The journey of individual therapy can affirm men, and greatly assist in the unfolding of that process.

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Psychotherapy for Men: 5 Truths from Jungian Analysis

May 20th, 2011 · men, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for men

psychotherapy for men

Psychotherapy for men is intricate, because our culture is deeply unsure about men’s issues, or what males should do or be.  While the women’s movement has brought much real change to the way women view themselves, males in our present culture are often profoundly disoriented.

Here are five important truths about a man’s search for his unique, individual self.

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  • The Marlboro Man: a Second Rate Myth

You remember the Marlboro man, the iconic cowboy in cigarette ads.  He conveyed a lot of values: independence, machismo, self-sufficiency, toughness.  The Marlborough ad campaign was one of the most successful ever.  Males wanted to identify with those stereotypical male values.  But down deep, most guys today know that’s not who they are, and that it’s not what they want for their lives.

  • Many Men are Quite Lonely

However, our culture still expects men to be very self-sufficient and hide their feelings.  Real intimacy between men is often discouraged, even feared.  There may be genuine feelings of closeness to others, but it’s hard for many males to talk to other men about what they feel.  Consequently, many experience real loneliness, and emotional isolation.

  • Stereotypes Hurt Men, Too

The women’s movement has struggled strenuously against sex role stereotyping, and the ways that it keeps women in limited roles.  What is less realized are the ways in which sex role stereotyping hurts men.  There are many aspects of themselves that male stereotyping keeps men from realizing.

  • Men Have Secrets

There are a lot of things that males do not, and would not, easily reveal.  There are many kinds of vulnerability, and many solitary thoughts that a man possesses, about which he is highly reluctant to open up.  Often, males need someone who can really listen to their story.

  • Someone Who’ll Listen Without Judging

It can be very hard for males to find someone who will accept and understand without condemning, or demeaning.  Although we may not realize it, much of the way guys are socialized in earlier life is inherently shame based.  It’s important for such men to find  acceptance for themselves as who they are.

Depth psychotherapy can be profoundly healing for men.  For a man to be listened to and accepted in his own individuality, and to be able to put down the sterile mask of masculinity expected by our culture can bring a profound new inner sense.

A question to both males and females: how do you experience masculinity in our time ?  I’d welcome your responses.

 

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© 2011, 2013  Brian Collinson 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga )

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