The Knock out Punch: Men in Therapy

Ask any veteran Psychologist, Counsellor or Therapist what it’s like to work with soldiers, and watch them sigh and shake their head side to side. 

The military, especially the combat units, are a very masculine institution. In my PhD I discuss how the culture of masculinity is integral to the way combat soldiers made sense of their selves, and their role in the military. The military was a place where people are tested to their max, and pushed to their limits both psychologically and physically. In short, it’s where warriors are made.

So you can imagine how these masculine, manly men feel about talking about their feelings, especially to a civilian. Yet in my PhD I found that these warriors valued unburdening themselves by talking about their experiences with those they trusted. They did this because they knew if they didn’t, they would spiral into a dark, deep hole, consumed by their pain and anguish.

So if these ‘manly’ men can talk about their feelings then you can be damn sure the rest of us can. Here are three things I learned during my PhD and counseling qualification I would like to share with you.

I) Real men don’t talk about their feelings….do they?

Where does this idea that men don’t need therapy come from?  If you are from Australia, the U.K, western Europe, Russia or America ( I cant speak with confidence about other nations) society tells you that men are strong, powerful, analytical and aggressive. Therapy is thus frowned upon because men worry they might appear weak, vulnerable, and concerned with being viewed as ‘less manly’. Why?  Because real men, probably your dad, or your grandad, did not feel the need to talk about their feelings. And they were totally fine…Right?

Check out male rates of suicide,  (here is an article from the bcmj) and come back to me with that one.

What we are talking about here is how men believe society views they should be, how ‘real men’ should act, and how this view of men  influences the way they behave.

But this article is not going to trying and convince you to look beyond the culture you grew up in.  Instead, I want to ask you this:

II) Will mental illness defeat you, or will you defeat it?

If you let it, mental illness will beat you into submission. Two common issues, such as depression and anxiety, will overwhelm it if you don’t take action. They will kick your ass. What’s worse is, every time you try to stand up, it will beat you again, over, and over and over, until you learn to fight back.

III) The double jab, right hook

Which is more ‘manly’: Getting your ass kicked, because you refuse to learn to fight, or accepting you need to defend yourself, and let someone teach you how to trade punches, and maybe hit back harder than you get hit?

If you were told you were going to get into a ring with some bad ass fighter, what would you do? Would you proudly stick your chest out, shrug off any help, and walk into that ring unprepared, assuming you will be able to take them on because you are a a ‘real’ man? Or would you find a trainer to teach you some moves; like how to throw a punch, or how to block?

This is what therapy is. Therapy is you learning to defend yourself against anxiety, or depression. When you get knocked down, therapy gives you the tools to dust yourself off, stand back up, and give as good as you get. In short, therapy is the double jab, right hook.

But it gets better, therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps you don’t fancy the idea of  talking about your feelings. That’s fine, how about instead using your mind to control a video game? Sounds pretty cool right? I’ve got a post coming up about that later, it’s called neuro-feedback therapy, and the results may surprise you.


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