San Diego Therapy for Men

By: Sarah Zucker, PsyD

As a woman, most of my closest friends and confidantes are women, but I love the men in my life dearly. My father is a man, my grandfathers are men, and my husband is a man. If you have any solid men in your life, you know just how precious they are. They are simple but complex, just like us! And yet they suffer as a result of living in the same system, just like we do, only on the flip side. Where women are stereotyped as catty, hysterical, and fragile, societal pressures and stereotypes dictate that men are stoic, strong, self-reliant, and emotionless. They are sometimes portrayed as incompetent buffoons in the media. We know this is not accurate, but the message gets drilled into our brains day in and day out. “Be a man,” “Real men don’t cry,” and “Man up” are just a few phrases said frequently in our culture.

We know our men are so much more than that. What is true is that both sexes are hurt by trying to conform to ever-constricting stereotypes. It’s also true that men and women tend to communicate and experience emotions differently. But this does not mean that men are from Mars. A mix of nature and nurture has taught many men how to survive their feelings in this uncertain world by burying them, avoiding them, getting physical, or getting angry. Rarely are men taught how to experience emotions and cope with them in a healthier way.

Some basic emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. When men feel less acceptable emotions, such as sadness (feeling hurt) or fear, they tend to do things like work longer hours, withdrawal from family and friends, consume more alcohol, or become enraged. Sometimes people, especially some men, don’t even know how they feel, which can be very frustrating.

Many men have asked in therapy what it actually means to feel your feelings, and this is an excellent question. It means paying attention to sensations in your body. It means putting voice to what you’re feeling and identifying what is underneath it. It means sometimes writing down how you’re feeling and getting it out on paper. But most importantly, it means taking a risk by being vulnerable and talking to someone about how you feel. Consider talking about your feelings more openly, whether to a friend, family member, or a professional. Counseling and therapy is a great option, and there are many good psychologists in San Diego who can help you. The American Psychological Association even has a whole division dedicated just to men; that’s how important we know you are. A therapist can be helpful because he or she is trained to help you effectively express your emotions, gain an understanding of your feelings, help you find healthy ways to cope, will likely not be shocked by whatever you are going to tell them, and must keep your information confidential, so nobody will ever know you were there if you don’t want them to.

If you don’t want to see a therapist yet, talk to a trusted friend or family member. Usually if you’re going through something, at least a few other people in your circle have gone through the same thing. There is no need to suffer in silence. Identifying your emotions, being vulnerable around others, and sharing what’s difficult in your life is a skill that is honed over time. Especially if it wasn’t modeled for you as a child, it will develop with practice, so take it easy on yourself.

So why should you talk to someone at all? Men (and women) who do not talk about things can be more isolated, less emotionally available for their loved ones, suffer from depression, anxiety, and insomnia, have anger outbursts, feel isolated and alone, and suffer significant health issues due to stress. Don’t let that be you. Therapists can even help you practice how to talk about feelings and become more comfortable with them. Getting to know your emotions and putting voice to them can help you to feel more connected and better about yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to check-in on a topic whenever you need to, and you won’t have to carry all of that weight around on your own. As social creatures, we all need support and help from other humans at times.

What have you been keeping to yourself that it might be beneficial to share? Who are the people in your life that you feel comfortable talking to?

Note: Although this article is directed towards men, who tend to struggle with this the most, it applies to plenty of women and transgender folks as well. So if it applies to you, by all means, swap out the masculine and apply it to yourself.