Consider that researchers found that 80% of men in the U.S. have experienced an adverse childhood experience qualifying as traumatic. 80%! For instance, did you know that several studies have found that one in six men in the U.S. is a survivor of an abusive sexual experience before age eighteen? And this is likely a low estimate because many men don’t talk about it or may not even recognize it. But it’s not just abuse (sexual, neglect, physical, verbal, emotional), or events like a natural disaster, accident, war, or being the target of a crime that can be considered traumatic. It’s “every day” stuff too.
For instance, take family dysfunction, including: having seen your parents consistently argue and fight in a bad marriage, divorce, having had a parent that suffered with an alcohol/drug addiction or an illness (mental/ physical), was emotionally or physically absent or jailed, mistreated you, was overly critical of you. Perhaps you felt different, outside the box, and experienced ridicule, bullying, or stigmatization as weird, a freak, or a “fag,” instead of having your uniqueness, sexuality, or gender identity celebrated. Maybe you suffered a misfortune, loss (of a loved one, pet, place, thing) or even later in life, money, a career set back, a horrible event like 911, military combat, and the list goes on and on. Whatever your unique situation, the humanity of our individual struggles unite us all. If you’ve had, or think you might have had, such an experience, you are not alone.
But the extraordinary pressure to be a “man’s man” causes many men to tough it out alone, concealing their pain and vulnerability. We often “man up.” Most men go to great lengths to prevent social humiliation and shame that could be brought on them and their families if they are seen as weak. The consequences of men bottling things up inside however, are profound, and impact us all. For example, did you know the U.S. loses more of its soldiers to suicide than combat? Or that during The Great Recession, rates of: anxiety, depression, body-image issues, relationship problems, accidents, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, unsafe sex and new HIV infection, physical disease, and premature death among men, as well as male perpetrated violence and crime against other men, women, the elderly, and children, have all increased dramatically (some by 65%!) from stress. Why? Traditionally, it’s only socially acceptable for men to express “macho” emotions like anger and channel it through competition, aggression, and violence. Unfortunately, it’s drilled into us that “real men” aren’t supposed to show emotion because it’s feminine and weak. For this reason, some men prefer to dodge emotions all together, embracing stoicism and focusing on their outer lives – sports, women, family, work, material success. While honoring men’s outer achievements, the truth is, it’s not “woman-like” and weak for men to build the inner skills necessary to vent their more sensitive emotions in a positive way. On the contrary, it’s heroic – courageous, strong, and admirable. In fact, it’s part of healthy masculinity for men to learn to navigate their inner lives successfully, valuing themselves and defining their own manhood. Moreover, it’s part of being human. It takes great courage and strength to remove some of the masks, achieving a male authenticity that leaves your manhood intact. It’s a respectable accomplishment that demonstrates great character, benefiting all men, women, and most of all – you.