I grew up in a similar way that I think most men I know did. I was brainwashed into believing that what made a man look and feel “manly” and “masculine” was for me to act as if my emotional world did not exist.
I was completely clueless about the unintended consequences of this directive that would compel me to become emotionally ignorant as a result of hearing the constant warning: “Don’t be a sissy!”
Being humiliated to avoid knowing and expressing the internal emotional landscape of my Life created a huge blind-spot in me about who I was as a person.
Without that inner knowledge, I had no internal compass from which to make important life-decisions. As a result, I did things to please others to get their approval because I never figured out my own genuine interests and passions. I was the obedient good boy who did what he was told in order to keep everyone else happy and approving of my behavior.
It wasn’t until the age of 35 that I pinpointed this co-dependent mandate of traditional masculinity, which was: Knowing who you are as a person is not as important as performing tasks to get other people’s approval.
This not only defined my childhood, but it also shaped my adult decision-making regarding the way I interacted with intimate partners. It became obvious to me that because I knew nothing about who I was as a person, there was no way that I knew how to create closeness in an intimate relationship.
I got into my own personal therapy and began a journey that I continue to this day, which has been to re-wire my childhood need for co-dependency, and to mature emotionally into my adulthood.
It was humbling for me to learn how emotionally immature I was as a grown man. It was obvious that my adult life was being run by this wounded Little Boy inside me who had no idea how to make healthy, mature adult decisions – especially in relationships.
I had lived my life up until that time obeying the masculine survival directive to protect, provide, and procreate without ever considering what it is that gave my life a sense of purpose and meaning.
The men who come to see me in my private practice…EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM…struggle with the weight of this same cultural commandment to ignore their internal compass.
Their dilemma is one of living their whole lives serving others – not necessarily a bad thing – but at the expense of remaining clueless about a) who they are, and b) how to make choices and live their lives from that authentic place inside themselves.
Having my doctorate in Psychology has not immunized me against the angst and stress of the tough emotional experiences that continue to shape my personality. But those moments are balanced out by the joyful, passionate experiences I have that also give me a sense of who I am.
This to me is the light side and the dark side that defines my human experience.
And this is what I try to teach the men who seek my advice in therapy.
Even though I have worked my butt off to explore and define my own internal compass, there are still times that the wounded Little Boy in me wants to take over and go back to that outdated dysfunctional approach to my Life.
It’s not easy for any of us – including me – because we are stressed-out humans seeking stability and comfort.
So I’m not gonna ask or expect you to do anything here that I would not or have not expected of myself.
But if I can do it, YOU can do it.