Where do our ideas of who we are and who we should be come from?
Think of all the “musts” the “shoulds” the “oughts” and all the other assumptions we have that influence the way we think and behave. Where did they come from? Who taught us?
Our parents? Other family? Friends? Peer groups? Teachers? Society at large?
Do all these assumptions benefit us?
Some or all of these groups will either directly or indirectly have had an influence on who we perceive we are or should be. None of us is immune.
The most common responses I get from male clients suffering from anxiety, depression, breakdowns and suicidal thoughts linked to an overwhelming belief that they and they alone are responsible for everything and everybody so that they get to the point where they feel can no longer cope is “I have to be strong”. “Have to be”. There it is, “have to” equals “must”.
This assumption is influenced by their belief of what it means to be ‘a man’ and so the dialogue goes “I mustn’t burden anyone else with my worries, others have enough to cope with without me adding to them” and “I have to look as though I am in control and can shoulder all of the responsibility because if I don’t I will be less of a man. I will be seen as weak”. I will feel emasculated“ and that of course is shameful.
Of course in most cases they cannot keep up this psychological defence for ever because eventually they will crack.
What have we done to our male population that they fear not being enough of a man? Why have we perpetuated social conditioning that equates not being man enough with toxic shame?
The result? Men do not communicate what they are dealing with, what they are going through. They do not, often will not, talk about it. Just look at the number of suicides of men in the UK. In 2015 it was over 4500 and in many cases the man’s family had no idea that anything was wrong.
We all have a responsibility to change this highly toxic aspect of our culture because it often starts with care givers in childhood and then insidiously insinuates itself into every aspect of our lives.
There has never been a better time for men to talk. Men’s mental health issues are out there, being openly discussed by men. There is massive support available now. More than ever before because at last there is a recognition that we are in deep crisis over men’s mental health. Find it. Take advantage of it. Take the risk of finding the way to a better, more fulfilling,more meaningful life.
Jan Merrills LL.B P.G.Dip Counselling and Integrative Psychotherapy | MBACP | www.clearmindscounselling.com