Your Relationship is your Greatest Asset
Understanding Men (?!)
Why am I qualified to talk about men? I’m not. But I’m surrounded by them. At home I have a husband, two sons, a male cat, a male dog that died 2 years ago and a male kookaburra called Harold that visits me nearly every morning on my back deck. At work, all the colleagues in my department, with the exception of a new appointment this year, are male. I loved bringing up boys: visiting building sites, playing pirates and reading Moby Dick. I was happiest when they came home covered in mud. Sounds sexist doesn’t it? It is.
I’m also going to draw heavily on a book Christian has written and his lectures on men’s mental health. Listening to the lectures has given me insights and lots of surprises about what it means to be male.
I’ve learnt enough to know how hard it is for men to be themselves in a world that increasingly seems to say that it’s wrong to be male. I watched this happen to one of my boys: it broke my heart.
OK, so we looked at controversial comments about women last week. This week it’s about men. Let’s get on with it:
Many men have a problem with anger
Men hate failing and particularly hate others seeing them fail
Men are not mind readers
Most men feel that if you take away their work they are a nobody
At work and in sport men know who the top dog is
It’s difficult for many men to trust other males
Men have huge hearts which they are constantly told to suppress
I know these are generalisations. This doesn’t apply to all men, but in his practice and in his lectures these are the ones Christian has found stand out.
Interesting facts: the larger percentage of our readers are male and females now initiate more divorces than males.
Since there is so much I could say about all these comments, I’m going to choose one with practical, immediate application. Let’s tackle the comment about anger in the straight-forward, problem solving way that men do: head on. Dealing with anger is actually all about having your head on: in the right way.
Let me start with an important point: strong emotions in men are not wrong. Women often make that mistake. I did. I couldn’t understand why my sons would listen to hard-hitting metal music, wanted to tackle each other on the football field or wanted to play mortal combat games on the internet.
Strong emotions, tempered by responsible thinking, are assets. Strong emotions help us survive. They teach us. They help us solve problems and are useful in relationships.
Strong emotions are as natural as fierce storms, raging oceans and howling winds. Too much suppressed anger can, however, become uncontrollable. It needs to be dealt with.
Below is the traffic light technique Christian gives his war vets to help them deal with the type of anger that consumes men so much that they do something irrational:
RED: STOP everything you are doing when gripped with a strong emotion
YELLOW: THINK. Tackle it with your head on - think about the emotion you are experiencing and ask yourself: what is safe to do? What is safe to say?
GREEN: GO. Put your safe choice into action when you are in control.
(Taken from Christian’s book Five Steps to Men’s Mental Health 2016: 89)
The traffic light technique is all about tackling strong emotions head on.
The men in my life, especially my three boys, fill my life with so much joy, adventure and passion. They are a constant source of strength, dependability and affection. They fill my love tank. It is not wrong to have the strong emotions that males experience in this complex world. It’s time to let boys encounter strong emotions, and learn how to control them, so that they can grow into men that can handle being men.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains an insight into your relationship and how to mend or grow it drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience working in psychiatry. They are told as stories. The central ideas are in bold. All the pictures are originals. We post once a month. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.