Strong

Are You Strong Enough to Address Your Feelings?

Many male clients prefer to see a male counselor. As a male, I can relate to not wanting to address feelings and many male (and some female) clients like this. I can relate to sweeping things under the rug or moving on without dwelling on the past. I was raised to deal with problems all by myself or to “ignore and override.” as I hear many men say. I used to think this was being strong. However, I have come to realize this isn’t strong at all.

Many of my male clients are ex-military men. While I never served in the military, I am thankful for the service. I can see that processing feelings about unmentionable, but required actions in the heat of battle would not lead to positive outcomes. In situations like this, I can see that doing so would look or perhaps be weak. And to be clear, this does not just apply to ex-military men or just to men, it’s just that the culture and upbringing of many in these categories lend themselves to teaching people to avoid their feelings.

Many male clients come into my office and brag about their strength because they can ignore it and move on. The problem is that most have been unable to really move on. Instead, they have issues swept under the rug to the point where the slightest tap of the rug brings up filth and years or decades of unpleasant experiences.

I believe that real men (or women) can address both logic and feelings without shame. People who are fearful of counseling because perhaps they may cry soon realize that even if they do, so what? Sometimes a 30-second conversation about something one was afraid to bring up because of the emotional nature solves critical problems that have existed for years or decades.

So, when male clients come into my office saying they don’t believe in counseling and try as hard as they can to run away from their feelings, I don’t think they are strong at all (usually through little fault of their own). Does running away from battle make one strong? The pattern often resembles or matches that of a Withdrawer in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Real men can talk about what bothers them, sweep the problems away from the rug, and emerge happier and healthier than ever.

I also understand that is how most men were raised or conditioned, so it takes some getting used to. Sometimes acknowledging that something is a problem, it isn’t worth fighting over, and moving on is enough (with the really small stuff). Bigger problems just get bigger when ignored. But, at the same time, acting like you are strong because you are afraid to confront your emotions is perhaps one of the weakest behavior of all.

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