June 12, 2024

Witnessing our Men & Caring for their Wounds.


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How many of us have lost a man—a father, brother, husband, or friend?

I dare say everyone reading this has experienced the loss of a dear man from our life. Death is, after all, inescapable.

However, the way we and the men we love move through the world can be more or less wholesome depending on what we notice, ignore, pursue, nurture, and how we engage. And healthy engagement requires accurate information for all parties involved.

Since 1992, June has been designated “National Men’s Health Month.” I bet you didn’t know that.

Part of the reason we may not have been aware is because in 1999, June was declared “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month,” and in 2009 it was made “LGBT Pride Month.” None of these cultural denominations supersedes the other, by the way. But it points to how “hot topics” tend to pave over what was previously there.

An ongoing cultural narrative states men are afforded “privileges” which, simply due to their gender, give them an upper hand in life. In the past, this was unarguably true. As recently as the 1970s, women could not get a credit card without their husband’s signature.

As we move further into an era which was once propelled by the feminist movement, actual statistics no longer support this privileged perspective. Women are more likely to graduate both high school and college than men. Women are also more likely to earn degrees and go into accredited professions. 

As the “privilege gap” between men and women has closed, another has tragically widened: death by suicide.

  1. Men account for 75-80 percent of deaths by suicide.
  2. Suicide is a leading cause of death in men under age 50.
  3. Men are much less likely to get help for their mental health.
  4. Thoughts of suicide are common among men.

Whereas 7.6 percent of U.S. adults identify as something other than heterosexual or non-binary, 49.5 percent of the population are men. And though we openly discuss distress and suicidality in the LGBTQ community, these tragic struggles for men go largely unrecognized. 

Why is the distress of one group buried while the struggles of another are essentially glorified?

One opinion: it’s become “unpopular” to love men. It’s not culturally acceptable to express concern for them, and as the collective wails, “Me too!” for the hurts we have endured, it’s “anti-feminist” to say: “Not all men.”

But it’s literally not all men.

I am a woman—who was once a little girl—whose body was “put through experiences” which were not only inappropriate, but which changed the baseline of my emotional and somatic reality for most of my life. I am a woman who was sexually coerced and manipulated. I am a woman who was date raped.

I am not some “unicorn” who has magically escaped being abused, gaslit, cheated on, and hurt by men. I’ve had my fair share, and then some, of abuse by the hand of the opposite sex—and I will still stand on a hilltop and scream at the top of my lungs: “It’s not all men!” Because it’s not.

Statistics suggest recidivism in criminal offenders occurs at a rate of up to and beyond 80 percent. That statistic is both for men and women, but these numbers suggest people (men) who are committing these offenses, and the (women) who are being assaulted or violated are having these encounters with the same offenders. 

My experience, in life and in my professional practice, is that most men have in some way, themselves, been abused. This abuse comes in the form of people who took it upon themselves to either “initiate” or humiliate them before they had a chance to come into manhood. And, as we already stated above: men are far less likely to talk about it. 

Men are as prone to shame and internalized self-loathing as women are, maybe even more so. Men are “allowed” far less emotional bandwidth, and are more often than not raised on stoicism, or at least have been in previous generations.

Brené Brown tells a story about a man addressing her after she delivered a lecture on women’s shame. He boldly asked, “What about men?” She replied she didn’t study shame in men. His response, to paraphrase: “How convenient…My own wife and daughters would rather watch me die on my white horse than admit to failure.” 

It is “unacceptable” for men to admit to failure, yet it is an unavoidable experience as a human being—and it is necessary for us to face and integrate in order to grow. How can they live with that dichotomy? Men are no less crippled in the search for “perfection” than women are—but it shows up in different ways.

Perhaps mental and emotional stoicism also seeps into the bodies of men. 

The “masculine way” is usually a “top down” control mechanism—mind over body—and though this paradigm is (regrettably) upheld by our modern materialist mindset through most every system in which we engage, it seems to affect men even more than women. Lack of “physical control” indicates failure, while succumbing to the needs and signals of the body and psyche is not only “not masculine,” but denotes weakness, and is rather a waste of time. 

There are tasks to be completed—jobs to be done! No time for muddling about in the messy realms of soul and soma. Life must be practical.

Aside from struggles with mental health, shame, and perfectionism, men are also less likely to seek help for physical ailments. 

Whereas many women hit an inescapable “burnout” in their forties and fifties (frequently due to changes in their hormones, lifestyles, and often needing to recover from lifetimes of people-pleasing) men are hitting something similar. And though none of us, men or women, in modern life are particularly prepared for the many resurrections required to come into maturity and experience true fulfillment, men particularly are not. By their nature, and due to social indoctrination, men seem psychologically more brittle.

How then does the great oak meet the storms of life if not to bend and sway? He breaks. He cracks. He topples. His roots upturned to the sky, the ecosystem he once supported left shaken in his wake.

We, who are left behind, must then compost what he once was, integrating his loss as best we can.

How can we all support the men in our lives? We can ask how they are. We can stop blaming all of them for the wounds dealt by some wounded and toxic men. We can nurture them and encourage them to nurture themselves. We can believe them when they say they are struggling.

We can extend our hearts and our hands to our brothers, lovers, parents, and friends—to our men.


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