For men, the longer we carry around that baggage, the more disconnected we become from the real possibility of healing.
After my divorce I was about as closed off and detached from reality as a hurt man can be. Being cheated on drudged up a lot of old feelings that I’d buried, as well as creating new insecurities. However, hubris and pride wouldn’t allow me to admit that I needed serious help. And that was the first time someone suggested I go to therapy.
When men go through a situation that breaks them down, they gather the broken pieces and carry them. No matter how big and strong you are, lugging around the broken pieces of your life is going to weigh you down. The heaviness of regret, anger, and disappointment will sit in your chest; smothering you and cutting off the ability to breathe. For men, the longer we carry around that baggage, the more disconnected we become from the real possibility of healing.
Deciding to go to therapy was my first step in becoming an emotionally mature man. Men reach a point in life where they need to re-program their minds to disassociate toxic behavior as normal. For me, therapy was the first opportunity I had as an adult to develop my own perspective of what healthy manhood and masculinity is and isn’t.
It’s important for men to know that therapy isn’t going to work unless you’re paired up with someone who understands what you want to achieve. Your mental health and emotional growth is of the utmost importance so find a therapist who’s willing to get in the trenches alongside you.
I wanted a therapist who would treat me as a whole individual. I had issues from my past that I wanted to understand. I wanted to create a fresh blueprint to facilitate dealing with my coping mechanisms. And lastly, my major goal in therapy was to self-love. Through a year’s worth of sessions, I came away with a few bits of wisdom that can help all men improve on the goodness they already have.
Men have to learn how to assign words to feelings that weren’t synonymous with anger.
From an early age, I remember being mad to the point of having outbursts. Through countless conversations in therapy, I realize that I wasn’t an angry kid. Lonely. Abandoned. Betrayed. Those were real. No one cares to teach boys how to self-assess. No one explains to boys that anger isn’t the default emotion. Don’t be afraid to let go of the hard, irritable disposition.
It’s okay to start small and make small changes.
One thing that turns men off from therapy is that they feel that change will be forced on them. Nobody likes their faults pointed out because usually we already know what they are. What I realized is if you really want to change your life, you have to first address the details. Therapy isn’t meant to be a quick fix. Changing who you are begins with writing a new script of internal dialogue; that can mean doing a basic action every day that you’ve never done before.
Accepting that the goal posts will move.
One of the weaknesses I have is I compare where I am to where other men my age are. Men do this both consciously and unconsciously. We sometimes do things to impress other men or to compete with other men. You want to keep pace with peers. The rat race is disheartening. The loser is always the one who a) lost control of his emotions and b) wasn’t comfortable with adjusting. Therapy got me to think beyond my set list of goals. Realistically, a man’s definition of success will change several times over his life. You have to be satisfied with failing and know that failures welcome new beginnings.
Men need to cry more often.
Along with distancing myself from anger, I realized that crying is a necessity in emotionally maturity. Men are taught as babies to not cry—how many times have you seen a parent tell their son to “man up!” As a kid, being called a punk was grounds for fighting. To show emotional weakness was to make yourself a target. It’s time we stop being robots. Crying is not only therapeutic, it often absolves a man from using words. There were several times when I broke down in my therapist’s office. He let me cry. And when the tears stopped, it was as if something had mentally clicked. Tears can help a man understand a part of himself that he didn’t know how to access.
Sitting in a therapist’s office might be the first time in your life that someone actually listens to you and gives you a safe space to be yourself. Therapy made me a better man by showing me how to love the things about myself that I hid. Ultimately, my therapist is the one man who changed my life for the better. I haven’t looked back since.
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