Are you a man that struggles with your self care? Is the idea of maintaining healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels a total burden? How about maintaining a healthy sleep and exercise regimen? Having heard of all the research behind the positive effects of keeping a journal to manage stress do you still struggle with making it a practice?
Today, in keeping with my theme of celebrating masculinity, I’m taking a closer look at the self care challenges men face and what two changes can overcome them. In case you’re wondering, the first post on this theme defined the oppressive form of masculinity termed the man box, what defines balanced masculinity and ways to increase it. You can check it out here.
The 3 Biggest Struggles
In listening to the men in my life throughout the years and hearing the online conversation among men, here are 3 main reasons I’ve observed, men get can be stifled with their own self care.
1) The Man Box Shackles
This is listed as number one, but really, it is the root cause of the following two and so I will go into much more detail here.
The term man box was coined by the educator, activist and lecturer, Tony Porter in his famous TED Talk named “A Call To Men”. Although there’s a basic global understanding that to be human entails having and expressing emotions, the silent code most men adhere to and police each other to follow, says that expressing genuine emotion in it’s various shades, is a sign of weakness and so, not allowed.
Intentionally Piercing the Innocence of Boys
This paradigm initiates little boys typically from the age of 4 and up by breaking their spirit through social humiliation when genuine, non-aggressive emotions are expressed. The three emotions that are accepted and rewarded within this paradigm are essentially: sports enthusiasm, anger and confidence and later in adolescence, lust.
Societal Volcanoes in Our Schools
The pain of this social humiliation ensures that boys stay in line, essentially requiring them to bottle up their emotions. This way of being ensures an eventual rage-filled backlash in later in life as this poignant and brief video demonstrates called Emotional suppression in 50 seconds by the author of “Remaking Manhood”, Mark Greene. The video visually demonstrates the bottleneck period in young men’s lives that is created from this oppressive reality.
Not convinced? The numbers speak for themselves in this presentation done by USA Today on the statistics of mass shooting in this country, where a shooting occurs on average every two weeks in the US. 90% of the shooters are men according to a study from Mother Jones Magazine.
Rage Differences Between Men and Women
Author, columnist and criminologist at Northeastern University, James Alan Fox, says in this article from CNN, that “…. [men] often have poorer support systems, and are less likely than women to share their feelings.” He adds that “Women tend to see violence as a last resort, as a self-defense mechanism. You use violence if you have to, if there’s no other way out,”. Fox says “Men tend to use violence as an offensive weapon, to show them who’s boss.”
Societal Wound Leaves us All Hurting
Why are young men going to such lengths to regain a sense of control? It makes total sense to me how this unattended area in our culture is giving rise to a generation of rage filled boys where, if most are not involved in or bystanders of bullying, than their initiating more drastic measures, such as these shootings. If boys are not allowed to express emotion beyond those that display aggression, why wouldn’t frustration build over time only to explode? Why wouldn’t the slightest excuse and justification to relieve such pressure be an ongoing temptation?
Shackled Hearts = Lives of Quiet Desperation
Taking all this into consideration, is it any wonder then, why self care can be a total quandary for men?
The tragedy is that while men are generally brow beaten for not having as much self awareness and self regulation as women, any inclination of self awareness when it’s natural and spontaneous is badgered right out of them.
This badgering can be subtle in the way of sideways comments or exclusion from social circles, to the not so subtle ways of outright physical violence and even murder.
Women Helping The Shackles to Stay On
Men can also feel pressured from their partners to always keep it together and not drop the ball in terms of providing and performing in their roles of husband and parent. Living up to these demands in the world and at home leaves no breathing room to just be.
The Self Awareness Faculty Badgered to Extinction
The reinforcement of this silent man-code through its glorification in the media, sets young men up for a life sentence of internal turmoil. I can see how over time, emotionally shutting down becomes a habit and the naturally active faculty of self awareness dims. The unyielding burden of always portraying confidence, decisiveness and emotional stoicism strangles authentic connection in men’s adult relationships. This leads to their eventual breakdown only further isolating them.
Men finding it challenging to inquire within themselves about their needs in heart, mind and body is just the tip of the iceberg of the internal devastation most of them unconsciously live through.
2)The Hyper-Masculine Work Model
There is a hyper masculine work model still in place that says you should always be producing and making things happen no matter the cost. The concept of an overall cycle of rest and production being supported in work environments is only just beginning to make headway. The prevalent work model further ingrains the message that it’s what you achieve that matters most.
Since the man box defines men by how they perform, the arena in which to display this performance lies for most men in their work. In keeping with these performance standards, men usually have their whole identity wrapped up in their work titles and achievements, leaving little space for personal fulfillment in relationships or keeping tabs on ones health.
3)Being Always “On” Through Technology
Many jobs today are requiring employees to always be plugged into technology and available. This along with the fact that most people are depending on their devices for entertainment outside of work, exposes their bodies to it’s radiation for prolonged stretches of time. This exposure wires up our nervous system’s sympathetic fight or flight mechanism, making it hard to disconnect, relax and be present for our life outside of work.
What Can Turn This Around?
1)Commit To Being a Safe Place
As Blake Spence suggests in his TED Talk called “Expanding Masculinity”, commit to being a safe place for other men and boys to let their guard down by being accepting, encouraging, showing empathy and being conscious of stopping gender denigrating language when it begins. Model what balanced masculinity is in how you carry yourself, connect with others and most importantly in the way you interact with women. Silence is the dangerous preserver of digressions and cultural perversions. Openly address what the man box is and the price everyone has been paying for living within it’s confines.
Resuscitate The Heart of Brotherhood
When other men around you get the message that they can be real with you without the threat of being socially punished, your mere presence will bring relief. You will initiate the birth of authentic brotherhood and begin the resuscitation of men’s humanity in your part of the world.
2) Disconnect and Recharge in Your Man Cave
Society will not change overnight and it will take time to create those authentic connections with other men. In the meantime you don’t have to wait for that safe space, you can create it for yourself.
A Man’s Emotionally Regulative Environment
Dedicate a room in your home that is strictly for the use of satisfying and regulating your emotions. Reserve this area as a place where you can unplug and explore what interests you for the sake of it. Make this man cave one in which you display what you love, are proud of and aspire towards. Give yourself permission to pursue what makes you come alive unabashedly and be unfiltered in every embellishment of masculine detail.
7 Liberating Purposes for Your Man Cave
- A place for you to process big life changes
- A midway point for you to decompress from work to then be able to enjoy your partner/ family
- A place for you to find respite from a heated situation with a loved one and cool off
- A place for you to care for your body with a treadmill or perhaps some weights
- A place to listen to music of your liking or play an instrument
- A place to read what you enjoy
- A place to work with your hands and tinker with things to disengage your mind and invite reflection
2 Options For When a Physical Room to Yourself is Not an Option
- Make a man cave corner of shelves that display your interests next to a comfortable seat. Have headphones that you put on when you’re in that space to listen to your favorite music. Create an agreement with loved ones in your home that you will regularly spend a set amount of time there and that once those headphones come on you’re not available until your time is up.
- Go on a man cave trip weekly, monthly and annually to a place where you can’t help but unwind and just be.
In closing, my hats off to all the men out there fighting the good fight of exploring these inner shackles and doing the work to become free. The world is hungry for whole hearted men to lead positive change alongside whole hearted women. May we walk together as a roaring river of good in the face of the present global calamity.
What is your experience of the man box? What has helped you grind down it’s hold on you?
I’d love to know. If you found this post helpful take a sec to comment, like or share. As always thank you for stopping by and making me a part of your day!