A man is independent, controlled, self-sufficient and values family above all else. Of course hard-times happen to every man, but the strong man knows how to handle their own issues. To bring someone else in to help with your problems may be necessary for some, but not for stable men.
If you agree with that first paragraph, I want to challenge you. It is likely unsurprising to you that men are less likely to seek therapy than women and are more likely to deny difficulties in their lives. In fact, men who adhere most closely to traditional male gender roles are the most likely to avoid therapy but they also have higher rates of depression, anxiety, relationship dissatisfaction and alcohol abuse compared to other men.
There is a certain nobility and honor to the traditional male gender roles that teach men they are the master’s of their own lives. The appeal of a persona that is self-sufficient and emotionally controlled is the carrot at the end of a stick in the never-ending quest for masculinity. But for many men, this quest leads to unaddressed emotional issues instead of strength.
When faced with the prospect of seeking therapy, many men are quick to judge themselves as being weak or overly dependent if they get help. This self-ridicule undercuts the assumption that a man should stay quiet about their stresses and when they feel overwhelmed. I believe this line of thinking is driven by a misunderstanding of therapy.
Therapy is still relatively new and it wasn’t until post world-war II that therapy for men became common. With anything new, it’s useful to consider the potential for a resistance to a changing world. Perhaps the first men that observed horse riding shunned the rider’s dependence on the horse for travel. Perhaps the emergence of the automobile led horse-riders to criticize its passenger’s softness. With technological advances and modern tools, tasks do become easier. While this may initially threaten masculinity of pioneers, it is those pioneers that pave the way for a more effective approach to life.
Maybe traditional gender roles has always pushed men to avoid getting help or making tasks easier. In this way, the men who refuse help are the ones left in the dust of progress. Therapy is not a crutch or a last ditch effort… it is a tool. Therapy is a means to living a valued life. Macho men may fear this tool for its threat to their self-reliance and emotional privacy, but brave men prioritize their values over a costly quest for masculinity.
At its core, therapy is a tool for focusing life towards values such as family, personal growth, love, and connection to others. If you are considering the use of this tool, go forward with confidence that you are deciding your life is more important than any societal image of an ideal man.