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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.

psychotherapy for men

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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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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Men’s Issues

April 28th, 2009 · collective consciousness, depth psychology, Identity, masculinity, mens issues, Mississauga, Oakville, persona, Psychology, psychotherapy for men

mens issues We live in a society and a time when this has become a burning question with which many men are struggling.  The old understandings of maleness and masculine identity don’t work any more, but what are we supposed to put in their place?

Recently, I attended a production by Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross.  Director David Storch and the Soulpepper company have succeeded in giving us a very provocative production of a rather well-known play.  I had read the play, and was familiar with the excellent film version with Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin, but I feel that what Soulpepper’s version particularly opened up for me was the dilemmas around masculine identity in which the men in the play find themselves.

This is a play in which macho male identity fairly runs wild.  The setting is a suburban Chicago real estate office in the early 1980s — at the time of the last big economic downturn.   Things are obviously desperately difficult for the salesmen in this office.  Few sales are being made.  To make things that much worse, the management of the office initiates a particularly brutal sales contest: first prize, a new Cadillac; second prize, a set of steak knives; and, the bottom two sellers end up fired.

The atmosphere that is created is a hideous stew of competitiveness, bravado, insecurity and intrigue.  The salesmen are brutally competitive, and obsessed with the question of who is up and who is down.  The salesmen’s competitiveness co-exists with their deep yearning for respect from the other men, and with strange, agonizing moments when the men stand revealed in their desperate vulnerability. 

If there is a tragic figure in the play, it is Shelley “the Machine” Levine, a salesman in his 50s.  Once celebrated as an unstoppable selling machine, Shelley has now lost the ability to sell.  He oscillates between pathetic begging, verbal abuse of others, obnoxious triumph and utterly craven despair.  He is trapped by the outer situation in which he finds himself, but also by his own relentless drive for success, which in his case can only mean that he is able to demonstrate his power and virility by outstripping and What Is a Real Man for Vibrant Jung Blog 2 humiliating other men in the office.

These salesmen understand themselves to be “men”, i.e., “real men” as opposed to the bureaucrats and paper pushers whom they feel are taking over the world.  The world of cutthroat competitiveness, deceit and inescapable isolation is what they understand to be their masculine birthright.  In watching these men, trapped by their circumstances, certainly, but above all, trapped by their individualism (not to be confused witn individuation!), insecurities, and by the hard but brittle masks they are compelled to present to each other and the world, it is hard to avoid the question, “Is that all there is?”  If so, things must seem to be pretty bleak for males.

 

Clearly Mamet portrays an extreme situation in excruciating and eloquent detail, but the questions that Glengarry Glen Ross raises are deep indeed.

How can men relate to each other without the demon of competitiveness destroying the possibility of friendship or even respect?

Is male self-esteem only to be achieved by winning competitions with other men?

Can a man show his vulnerability and humanity to another man without being humiliated for doing so?

How can I ever feel secure in my identity as a man?

These are questions I hope to explore in the next part of this series.


If you have any comments on this blog post, as always, I’d welcome them.  Also, if you have any topics or subjects that you’d like to see here, please let me know.  I value greatly the input of those who take the time to read this blog!


 

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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