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Male Issues and Difficult Realities

Truths about Men and Masculinity

An honest understanding and respect for the difficult issues encountered in the lives of men may seem counterintuitive for some people. Here are some facts, and supporting research data, on the status of men in modern society:

In developed countries such as the United States, Men are, on average, disadvantaged relative to women in these key respects.  Men comprise the majority of prisoners and the majority of the homeless. Men live shorter lives in part, due to higher rates of suicide and workplace deaths. Bias against male defendants may contribute to sex disparities in the American criminal justice system, including in the administration of the death penalty. American women control 60 percent of personal wealth and make or influence 85 percent of all consumer purchases.

Poorer outcomes for men may stem in part from structural inequalities in the American education system. About 77 percent of teachers in the public education system are women. Girls get higher grades than boys in all subjects. Several studies suggest that stereotyping can bias teachers’ assessment and grading against boys. The U.S. Department of Education has for some time steadily and selectively limited athletic opportunities for men. High school boys are much more likely to face (often counterproductive) disciplinary actions such as suspensions or expulsion than are girls. Women compose an ever-increasing majority of college students nationwide. The overwhelming majority of those sanctioned in schools under Title IX rules are male, and the majority of Title IX administrators are women.

I entered the psychotherapy profession with the intention of practicing as a generalist, carrying out the personal value of having gratitude for my life, and utilizing the gift of my life for the greater good and the betterment of society, resolving as a generalist-therapist to “help the world become a better place, one person at a time.”  Then, as the years progressed, I found myself working with more male clients, not necessarily by choice, rather that male clients would naturally seek and find a male therapist, like myself.  This of course comes as no surprise, as the psychotherapy profession has over time gradually come to be dominated primarily by a female presence and influence, in terms of providers, perspectives, philosophies and clinical approaches, leaving therapist-seeking mainstream men with fewer and fewer choices for therapist providers.

I have worked with men from the late 1990’s through to the present time, and observed in the public discourse of contemporary society a strong cultural negative bias against men and pejorative overgeneralized referencing of men and maleness as suspect, dangerous, oppressive, violent, hostile, generally untrustworthy and by their nature politically incorrect. In my opinion, views such as these are is simply absurd and serve no purpose aside from projection and blame.  

The reality of Men’s psychological and emotional experience is that is, indeed in the majority of cases, very unique to each individual.  Men hold, experience, process and release emotional material in a manner that is healthy and uniquely masculine.  Men also experience everyday traumas and deal with the common emotion of grief in ways that may be invisible, undervalued and misunderstood by the people closest to them in their lives. At times this may compound a man’s suffering and sense of isolation; however counterintuitive, it may point him towards providence.

My experiences in private psychotherapy practice, academia, and community mental health have provided me with insights into the hardships grieving and traumatized men face in not being respected, heard or acknowledged in their emotional pain.  It remains common that a man’s emotional pain simply either unrecognizable or is taboo in our culture, despite societal encouragement for men to ‘be more vulnerable’ – just take a look at the representation of men, boys and especially Fathers in media advertisements, film and television programming – and then ask yourself, “Is that this the way I want the world to think of my own Father? my own Brother? my own Son?…”

To make matters worse, men are not only ignored in their pain, but in the late 20th century the greater part of society has found it acceptable to blame men in general as a singular birth group for the ills of society, and the crimes of history.  Ironically, paradoxically, and hypocritically, it is de rigueur to speak negatively about men, using terms like ‘toxic-masculinity’ while such a term is clearly othering.

Since graduate school, I have been interested in working to learn more about men’s issues and to learn better ways to provide counseling services that were proven to be actually helpful for men.  During the entirety of my psychotherapy career I found it frustrating there seemed to be a lack of adequate clinical training specific to addressing men’s issues. There were books, continuing education, even certifications for various other vulnerable populations and marginalized persons, yet few to nothing designed for the common, ordinary male, and not centering the natural nature of men and the masculine as form of pathos.  Searching further, I found The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health, published by Springer/McMillan, as a good comprehensive reliable source of clinical reference material on men’s issues.

I recommend the works of Tom Golden, LCSW, and his publication, How Men Heal.  Reading Tom’s book was like breathing fresh air.  Tom provides a concise, common sense explanation of men’s psychological development and how to maintain male mental health, and that men’s issues are not just male grief and everyday male trauma, but all of the other related issues including things like domestic violence, suicide, men’s health, false accusations, and many more.  

Concerned men have been involved in writing a proposal for a White House Council for Boys and Men with a great group brought together by Warren Farrell. You can see their proposal here.  Here are some links from outside California, for further information regarding Men’s mental health: Maryland Commission for Men’s Health – Three survey reports on the health status of men in Maryland.  One report was on Men’s Health in general in Maryland, another was on Men, Boys, and Suicide and another on Male Victims of Domestic Violence.   If you want to see the official version of these files  you can find them here.  

Men are to be treated in an equitable manner and with love and respect.  In some ways we continue regarding men’s issues like way we treated grief back in the 1970’s when we knew much less about it, minimized it, and only a few were raising awareness.  Men’s issues in today’s world are treated similarly. 

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