One For the Boys: Why Therapy is Manly

I have received several requests from my male identified readers for something that speaks directly to them. So, here goes…

WARNING:  This post contains stereotypes. I know not every man relates to what I’m writing here but I’m speaking to those who do. I also know that this may speak to some women.  So, ignore it if it is not relevant and change or eliminate gendered words as you see fit.  Okay, enough qualifying.

Therapy, what’s up with that? Why should you spend an uncomfortable hour in a room with a total stranger talking about private things you wouldn’t even tell your mom? Why spend time considering how you feel?

Feelings are controllable, right? Just pack ‘em up and put ‘em away. Yup, just stick them away in that shed out back and don’t look at them. Never. Look. Even when you hear noises, loud noises…don’t go back there.

That scream inside the shed will stop eventually if you don’t disturb anything, or if you have another beer…that could work. But don’t have too many beers ’cause then the shed gets sloppy and stuff starts leaking out around the bottom of the door. Stinking putrid ooze of rotten whatever is in there and it is vile I tell you, vile. You don’t want that gettin’ out.  People will talk.  They’ll know you have a stinky shed full of feelings and thoughts and fears that you can’t keep organized. 

*waves hand in front of face*-This is not the shed full of screaming crap you are looking for. I’ll just call you Dr. Spock and it’s all good (if you can excuse the mixed sci-fi metaphor).

So…how often has that approach actually worked for you? And, if it has in the past, how is it working now that you have an intimate partner? Kids? Stress at work? Yup, it really starts to stink out back doesn’t it.

I’m going to put it to you this way…real men clean up the shed. Real men brave the stink and say, “Hey, that’s my stink and I’m going to do something about it.”

But what can you do about it? And no, “scoop it back up and stick it in a drum in the shed” isn’t a long term solution.

Think of a therapist as your personal toxic waste clean up consultant. Here’s a basic clean up plan:

 1. Remove the overgrowth.

Overgrowth usually consists of anger interspersed with grandiosity or arrogance. A thick layer of insensitivity may also be present. Barriers consisting of withdrawal, obliviousness and an obsession with sports, video games and other addictions of choice can round out this containment strategy. It has to go. If you can’t get to the door of the shed, obviously, nothing else can happen.

 2. Identify the toxin

The most common toxic elements housed in men’s sheds are a deep fear they are unlovable, shame about who they really are and grief around loss of caregiving as a child. There are lots of variations and subsets but it all comes down to fear, shame and sadness.

3. Sit down with yourself for a while

The toxin, in its raw form, can seem unbearable, impossible, disastrous and devastating. Far better to turn back to self-righteous anger, Call of Duty or porn, right? Well…no, not really. That’s covering up the stinking screaming with other stuff. In fact, by engaging in the customary avoidance strategies, you are creating a world where those that care about you and want to connect with you are pushed away and hurt. They start to accuse you of being lazy-disappointing-selfish-neglectful-cruel-promise breaking-lying-cheating…whew…smell something brewing here? It stinks.

Therapy helps you find the ways to sit down with the sad, shamed, fearful parts and realize they are you. They don’t stink that bad unless you let them rot alone in the dark in the shed out back. You may even start to have a bit of compassion for yourself, stop being so judgmental, let someone love you for you and not the unreachable standard of strong manly perfection you think you should be.

A good therapist knows how to help you sit with those things and not feel like you want to die or kill something. A good therapist knows how hard it is for you but that therapist doesn’t let you off the hook. In therapy you can figure out how to make sense of yourself and give meaning to suffering. You would be amazed at how a little meaning imparts nobility and honour to an otherwise despair filled scenario. Once you have your sense of honour back, you can deal and deal well. Deal like a man, from a place of strength that comes from your fearless compassionate sniffing of your own stink.

Real men check out the shed. They run a conduit out there and install a lighting fixture. They inventory, organize, fix the broken stuff, value the antiques and don’t let the rot eat away the preciousness that is their heart and soul.

Thinking about you guys and how beautiful y’all can be makes me want to cry. Maybe you will too, but I swear, it’ll be between you, me and the shed.