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Let's Talk About The F-Word...

In Western culture men are not supposed to be vulnerable. It is unmanly to talk about feelings. I recall watching the original Karate Kid and the influence the instructor, John Kreese, instilled in the young men known as Cobra Kai.

John Kreese: Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?
Cobra Kai: No, Sensei!
John Kreese: Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?
Cobra Kai: No, Sensei!
John Kreese: Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?
Cobra Kai: No, Sensei!

Terrence Real identifies in his book a paradox that occurs in how boys and girls are socialized in Western culture. In his book, I Don’t Want To Talk About It, girls, are more commonly accepted to express emotions and connect with others, but then girls are regularly discouraged from developing their public, assertive “voice.” Boys, in contrast, are encouraged to be assertive and be a leader as Western culture promotes a stoic legacy which implies men should avoid expressing emotions, and be “tough”, and resist building intimate connections with others by solving their own problems.

Expressing how we feel and what we need is not just a “guy” thing it is also a “gal” thing. Although, for men it tends to become more secretive and men try even harder to keep their issues hidden which eventually can lead to unhealthy results in the form of physical pain, abuse & addiction, violence, or sexual dysfunction. Furthermore, for men, when it becomes increasingly difficult to suppress their pain the resulting behavior typically takes place externally in the form of action or aggression towards others.

Which leads me to the F-word....Feelings. As a therapist many of my clients have expressed they were afraid to reach out. Afraid to reach out to their partner, close friends, family, and definitely afraid to talk to a therapist. Not all my clients, but many of them, share their personal history and experience with feelings and it is very common to hear that they learned from a young age that men are supposed to be strong.

Therapy for men carries a stigma and there are many false narratives that I am inspired to breakdown in an effort to empower men of all ages to feel safe being vulnerable with others, speaking their truth with courage, and becoming confident in who they are.

Silence is the incubator which fosters an environment for shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment to grow and become painfully overwhelming. For men, it is critical to breakdown and re-frame the many cultural constructs, family legacies, and social influences that have embedded themselves in their current psyche.

Feelings are a part of the human experience. While we all have them, we do experience them differently. Which is great! All humans should be afforded the opportunity to feel safe and comfortable expressing how we feel. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and it takes some work to unpack our previous experiences, develop new concepts, and build the courage to move forward and talk.

The F-word should be one of the most empowering words in your vocabulary. For men, my role is to be a partner and create a space that encourages you to have the courage to speak about how you FEEL!