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I had a client named Bill who was caught in the belief that men are not supposed to cry, and that emotions are for women only. He had become a victim of his own rigid view of life and of his fear of feeling anything.
He told me he had a concern of losing control if his feelings started coming up, so he used his thoughts to push them back down. In his holistic health consultations, we started a process to release his longtime repressed feelings and improve his distorted concept of what was required of him to be considered a “man.”
Through our discussions, Bill realized that his buried emotions surfaced in hateful sarcasm and jokes that put other people down. Actually, anger was the only emotion that he allowed himself to express, but he usually denied even its presence. He projected his emotions of anger, fear, insecurity and sadness into his relationships, and even attributed them to the other person.
Bill had become very judgmental of himself and others. He didn’t have a clear concept of his own identity and his worth. Consequently, his self-identity was lost trying to please everyone. The opinions others had of him superseded his sense of self and so he became their reflection of him, whether good or bad.
Bill tried to live up to the concept of his male stereotyping. This script dictated he could show no fear or he was a sissy. He couldn’t cry or he was “wuss” or a baby. If he didn’t act ‘tough’ he must be weak, a coward. He was locked in a competitive struggle to demonstrate his strength. Since he often fell short of this illusionary expectation, he had an inferior self-image. It was as though he needed to pull others down to the inferior self-image he held of himself.
He was a chronic fault-finder with himself and others. He felt criticized and carried a chip-on his shoulder; his relationships were a battleground of debates to prove his supremacy. His tendency to feel attacked in his encounters with others caused Bill to fortress himself with a wall of self-protection.
Bill agreed to use a process called “mindfulness” from the teaching of Jon Kabot Zinn, Ph.D., to get in touch with a realistic concept of himself and his interactions with others. In this process Bill practiced observing his reactions, allowing himself to be vulnerable. He had to implement an open-minded attitude so that he could begin to experience his true feelings rather than trying to deny them or make them go away. Over the next few weeks, he was able to better understand his behavior and to shift his perception of his attitude about himself and his masculine identity.
By doing this, Bill could let go of the false programming regarding his worth as a human being; he was no longer enslaved to his stereotyped role of masculinity.
As he became more accepting of his strengths and his weaknesses, he no longer was a victim of environmental influences that he felt required him to live up to an unrealistic standard of manhood. This acknowledgment became the seed of his self-awareness and self-confidence.
Patrice Joy Masterson, MA, is a life coach, a certified holistic stress-management instructor, Reiki master and herbalist who lives in Bedford, Ky.