I’ve had experience of engaging with well-balanced men
These men are able to observe their reactions, triggers, and behaviours without feeling the need to become defensive or aggressive. Pondering on that, I wondered what traits they had in common. I discovered that there were 3 main traits.
- They felt secure in who they are
- They were able to own their wrongdoings
- They were willing to have difficult dialogues without going into attack mode
I’ve also had experience of engaging with men who feel easily threatened
These men tend to:
At the root of their discomfort is the belief that their self worth is based on how they’re perceived by others. If they feel perceived as less than another, this impacts them on a deep level. They don’t feel secure in their being. They want approval from another even if they’ve behave badly towards them.
These stressed responses are not unique to men, of course. This is how an ego that feels threatened reacts generally. But when you take into consideration the role men have been trained to play in society, it makes sense. It is no surprise then that this is still a common response for a particular type of man.
A strong man doesn’t ask for help
This is a deeply-engrained cultural expectation. Yes, we’ve broken out of all men automatically being expected to express in this way, but the perception still persists. How many comedian’s jokes are based on men refusing to seek help when they need it? I can think of numerous scenarios. Outside of the comedic sphere, the truth of this belief still commonly reveals itself:
Bottle it up, grit your teeth and push on through.
Deny it. Ignore it. Push on through.
Lonely and isolated?
Withdraw, shut down and imbibe alcohol or some other drug to get through it.
The noisy mind kicks in and goes into action with repetitive thoughts that encourage suppression of true feelings:
You can’t open up and make yourself vulnerable and ask for help! What would people think of you? They might judge you, think less of you, reject you, attack you! You can’t risk that! Stay strong!
These type of thoughts plague any insecure or stressed person. But men who cannot own their fears and insecurities are more prone to them than most.
Never admit that you have a problem
This is another ingrained response that comes naturally to the defensive male. To admit that you have a problem that you don’t know how to fix, is a seen as a sign of weakness. It’s much better to bottle up those feelings of vulnerability. Yet those feelings need an outlet. They must express somehow. How they express when repressed, is usually through defensiveness, anger, depression or rage.
Put that outer mask more firmly in place
This is a classic response for the defensive man. When your world appears to be imploding, rather than face up to that implosion, act instead as if everything’s okay. When challenged on it, deny everything and go into defensive or passive-aggressive mode.
The reality is it’s just too difficult for this type of man to just feel his feelings. They feel too painful. They feel too raw. They feel too exposing. They’re very uncomfortable to hold in his body.
Why are these feelings so uncomfortable to hold? Because they remind these men of the first time they felt that way. Some key incident in their childhood where they were humiliated or made to feel unsafe, rises up in their minds. So rather than address that key incident, they find it much easier to just keep pushing those feelings down.
Breaking free from automatic responses
The bottom line is that when we over-identify with any trauma as if it’s still happening, we go into defence mode. For the man who’s afraid to process that trauma, it’s much easier to keep repressing the memory it’s pointing to.
Yet the way through is to directly address that initial trauma. There has to be a willingness to feel the original pain fully – as intense as that may be. It is not required to do it alone, nor is it recommended. But feeling that pain, holding it in the body, letting the uncomfortable feelings rise and peak, is the way through.
Actively seeking support to stay in that pain while it rises is the solution. Admitting that you need help is the solution. Deliberately letting your mask slip and being willing to accept the depth of your hurt begins the healing process. Owning how vulnerable you really feel without chastising yourself for it, develops inner strength.
The defensive male can in this way release his over-identification with his suffering. For that is what he is doing in effect. He is seeing himself as his suffering. Not willing to see the initial trauma as an experience from his past, he pushes it away. The irony being that in that pushing away, he pulls the trauma closer to himself.
When we wish to ease our suffering, we must first own it and accept it, in order to release it. This is my wish, my prayer, for every defensive man. Let go of your identification with your suffering so we can connect with the amazing being that you truly are.
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