Working with Men – The Right Tools for the Right Job
More and more 21st century men are curious about the type of men they are. They are ready and willing to engage with other men in an exploration of their manhood and of the male gender. They are not afraid of counselling, or coaching because they know that courage starts from within, they know that the heroes journey is about conquering the dragons and demons within.
The times when men would be stoic and let women do their inner work for them have long since passed.
Men and women have different ways of addressing issues of life. Generally, men are socially conditioned and biologically designed to be distant from their emotions and to be focused on the task. Men will collaborate with other men to resolve a shared problem and tend to define themselves through the work they do and by achieving goals. They often see themselves in a power hierarchy with other men experienced as allies, threats or competitors.
On the other hand, women tend to resolve their issues in the context of relationship and are able to access and experience their emotions which are so necessary to resolve issues with how we live.
Women are more likely to define themselves on their ability to establish and maintain relationships for which emotional availability and empathy are essential. They often see themselves in a network with other women, with their relationship within the network mediated by their rank against other women.
We could say that counselling and psychotherapy was developed in the 19th century. One of the pioneers was Sigmund Freud. He was a man whose clients were predominantly ‘hysterical’ or ‘neurotic’ women. I suggest that counselling and psychotherapy as we know it was developed by men to use with women that they considered were ‘hysterical’ or ‘neurotic’ and for which access to emotion and the ability to form an empathic (and transferential) relationship were essential.
Now, in the 20th and 21st century,we attempt to apply to men the empathic and emotionally based approaches developed largely by men to apply to women and then wonder why men do not engage! Men generally do not want to talk about their issues in a therapeutic, empathic relationship, they want to solve their problems for which an empathic appreciation is essential. No wonder conventional counselling and psychotherapy works better for women than men! Perhaps this is why more women than men seek it out.
Often, men seek out counselling and psychotherapy only when their personal sense of pride, self esteem and self-reliance has eroded to the extent that their problems are very complex and very severe indeed. Men generally live the ‘heroes journey’ in which they achieve a supreme goal by enduring a trial by ordeal in which they vanquish their enemies, overcome obstacles by living true to cherished beliefs which define them as men.
Imagine the sense of failure and shame when despite all that they do, men experience themselves as falling short of their goal and violating their beliefs! Think about your favourite action movie. In contrast, women generally live out the ‘nurturer and carer’s journey’ in which they are validated on the quality of their relationships. Think about a recent ‘chick flick’ and why men call them that.
If only men could work together on a shared task of solving problems! Men have used this process for millennia. After all, this is how men would hunt animals far larger and more dangerous than individual man! This is what men’s action in open thinking helps men to do.
It is about men working with men focused on resolving their issues in a way with which they can appreciate as affirming of the ‘tough’ and ‘sweet’ aspects of their masculinity.
Typical issues I deal with are depression, anxiety, panic, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), sexuality, work and career, crises, grief, trauma, relationships, separation and divorce, parental alienation, extreme alignment, anger, suicide, violence and abuse, definitions of manhood.