We hear a lot of complaints about men who aren’t able to connect emotionally, so where to they begin to change that?
I received a call this week from a man who pointed out that there is a lot available to people about how men are emotionally unavailable, and about why men become emotionally unavailable, but very little about how men can be more emotionally available!
It hit me between the eyes, how much we talk about the “problem” but not the solution.
How I understand emotional unavailability as a personal development coach, is a lack of ability to deepen connections with yourself or others in a way that provides availability to the full emotional experience that that connection brings.
Whether you’re available or not, nothing is ever for sure, only for maybe. So for most people it boils down to choosing limiting connection because of fear. It’s a coping strategy, which I have written about on The Good Men Project before.
So how do you become more available and be the man you truly want to be while still feeling safe and remaining open to flow?
#1—Be patient with yourself and the process
It’s a lifelong process, this is not a quick fix or finish line. It is an evolution, allowing you to become more and more you and less and less your fears or conditioning.
You start by noticing where and how your unavailability is holding you back from connection, self-acceptance, and living with ease. Reflection is key, you can do it through journaling, asking loved ones you trust what they think, going to therapy, or working with a personal development coach.
You stop seeing emotional unavailability as a flaw and instead as a strategy to safety. You begin to see that up until this point it has probably served you really well and now just like a shirt you once loved that kept you warm and fit you well, you are outgrowing it.
The signs of outgrowing it are a desire to deepen your connection with yourself or others, a calling to self-discover, a desire to want more meaning in your life and to question where you are and what you want.
Often when a man is developing this awareness he can become unsure of his ability to really move forward, thinking “things never go my way” or “I always mess things up” or “this is just how it is.” These are the types of self-talk someone who is unavailable has because they live in fear and are always protecting themselves over fully living or experiencing life.
#2—Learn to comfort yourself when you’re afraid
One key skill to be developed early on on this journey is self-soothing. You need to work out all the ways you can care for yourself without withdrawing or shutting life out. So maybe hobbies, therapy, a coach, art, walking, work, positive self-talk, affirmations, support groups, people who really get you, journaling, getting to know your needs and so on …
How you approach self-soothing has be developed in as many healthy ways as possible; food, alcohol, drugs, sex, and so on can soothe to some degree, but are more likely to create disconnect or unavailability than openness in the long run.
#3—Add in courage and self-compassion
You’ll need both the courage to risk living more openly and the compassion to know when you need the comfort of self-soothing on this journey.
Becoming emotionally available for a man is about getting in the game of life, playing as the midfielder. Learning how to manage yourself in life’s happenings, instead of avoiding or controlling life’s happenings. Learning when to rely and open up and when to hold your own council.
#4—Let go of control over anything but your own choices
Stop trying to control what people think of you or how you look or how things “should” be done. Focus your attention on yourself in a compassionate way and don’t get caught up in controlling others. Control is an attempt to stay safe and it automatically cuts you off from your own healing and makes you unavailable.
#5—Be open to new experiences
Try out new places and doing small things a little differently. This opens you up to the flow that positive psychology talks about. It allows you to push the comfort zone in safe ways. It allows you to be more available to life.
It is a balancing act and, like I have already said, there isn’t one right way. There is your way and your journey.
Life will happen, it will hurt and it will feel amazing. That is for sure. Being available for it simply means you are present to experience it rather than avoiding it, clinging to it, fearing it, controlling it, or rejecting it.
Photo: Getty Images