While a great deal is written about the changing forms of masculinity and the ways in which men can address the practical challenges of their lives a great deal more needs to be done before men are ready to accept the legitimacy of their feelings and emotions.
One of the greatest struggles we experience in therapy is getting men to see how their early years were shaped by the sensations, feelings and responses of those closest to them. A great deal of sense-making goes into rationalizing their experiences rather than realising their lasting impact. One by-product of this intellectual layering is obscuring or at worst denying the legitimacy of their feelings.
I make it a regular part of every session to ask men how they feel when the session is over. My aim here is the straightforward one of discovering whether they felt the session was moving or troubling or physically upsetting. In the early sessions the question is in effect ignored by men who would rather tell me what they thought. We have to use what we have but a failure to engage with the emotions will not allow men to develop a fuller understanding of the roots of their behaviour. Once the emotions are acknowledged then men can begin to talk and to unravel in ways which feel safe and useful. We can then integrate an understanding of the value of emotions into the therapy. The result of such work is a reinvigorated man ready to share and open up to himself and others. What’s more once equipped with the skills learnt in therapy a man will be better able to understand his own responses and manage his behaviour in a calmer fashion.
Men are not machines. Allowing themselves to realise this can be quietly revolutionary.