The Montfort Group

Six Ways Men Can Benefit From Counseling

Recently, I looked at my husband across the dinner table and asked, “What’s the hardest part about being a man?” He gave it thought and answered “Emotions. We have to hide our emotions.” 

The conversation moved on to experiences he had in middle school where he was bullied and humiliated. “Who did you tell,” I asked? “No one really,” he said. “I sucked it up.” 

Boys Aren’t Allowed to Cry

Forty years later and he remembers feeling powerless and alone. I pressed on with the conversation. Did you get the message that boys aren’t allowed to cry? “Oh yes,” he answered. “No showing of weakness in tears, sadness or hurt.”  Seeing his face cloud over as the memories surfaced, I’d never seen him look quite so vulnerable. I wanted to weep for the young boy who remained stoic on the outside while feeling helpless on the inside.

My husband maintains a stoic posture. He doesn’t say when he’s feeling anxious or worried – despite being married to a therapist – but after 20 years, I’ve picked up on some of the signs. He gets quiet, withdrawn and into his head as he processes whatever is going on internally. 

My husband is not unique in his stoicism or quiet suffering. I work with men who follow a similar pattern. They withdraw, aren’t sure how they feel, can’t find the words to describe their fears or pain, and often push the discomfort away by distracting themselves. That’s got to be hard. 

I asked other men the same question. Responses were varied.

Managing my anger

Finding a mate

Maintaining sexual performance

Living up to expectations

Believing I should know things that I don’t

I think we are less tolerant of men expressing emotions; not being allowed to feel fear, failure or vulnerability. As women, we can feel locked out when they won’t “share” their feelings when truthfully many men don’t know how or don’t talk the same language. This is where therapy can help.

1. Understanding and Expressing Emotion

Perhaps there’s a struggle with anxiety, sadness or just being in a funk that gets in the way of enjoying life. Finding the words or naming the feeling can be a challenge. Talking to someone who can offer tools to help navigate an emotional landscape can be liberating!

2. Navigating Expectations 

For many men, the pressure to be successful can carry a huge burden. And with it, the challenge not to be defined by work. When expectations aren’t met, the feeling of failure can be a heavy one.

3. Feeling Stuck

Everyone feels stuck at some point in their lives. It’s normal! Taking time to figure out the parts that don’t work or no longer serve can go a long way to provide clarity and reassurance. 

4. Relationship Angst

When a relationship isn’t going well, or a breakup creates heartache, it can be hard to talk to friends about the grief that follows. Talking to a relationship specialist can offer perspective and strategies for recovery and healing. 

5. Anger Management

Anger is a reaction to another emotion or feeling but when angry outbursts distress family members and significant others, it’s time to figure out what’s going on. Therapy can help. 

6. Sexual Intimacy

Much of sex is tied to what happens between the ears but when the focus of sexual intimacy is an erection, the anxiety and pressure to perform are real. Exploring what happens between the ears can provide relief for you, your partner and your confidence.

Protective Veil

A former colleague, recently diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, described how he managed his fear and loneliness. When the terror grabbed him at night, he talked to God and asked for strength. He shared his illness with a select few. But over time, he understood that the illness offered up some emotional freedom.

“I ripped off my protective shield which opened me to the truth and everyone around me,” he shared. “I wasn’t afraid to talk about it and learned to trust that emotional despair is part of being human. I had to let it wash over me in order to move through it.” 

And finally, he shared this insight as we continued our conversation.

Men have a hard time revealing their truth unless there is trust that wraps around them again and again. To pierce the veil of protection, how and when you poke is critical.

We all carry a protective veil when it comes to emotions but I think it’s especially hard for men. How, when and with whom you poke through that veil is important and why therapy can also offer a path to emotional freedom.

Picture of Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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