kinds of direct self-destructive behaviors do men frequently engage in?
self-destruction involves behaviors that cause damage to the body in a straightforward
way. The two major direct self-destructive causes of death are substance abuse
-- including tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs -- and suicide.
of the largest factors in the seven-year, male-female longevity difference is
the sex difference in the use of tobacco products; the only legally available
commodities in the United States that, when used as intended, will likely result
in the death of the user if given enough time. There is a long tradition in advertising
of associating tobacco use with masculinity. The Marlboro Man is probably the
best example, a rugged cowboy who enjoys smoking cigarettes in wide open spaces.
Suicide is the ultimate self-destructive act. Although females attempt suicide
more often, males complete suicides four times more often than females in the
United States. Teenage girls make 75 percent of all suicide attempts within this
age range, but boys make 80 percent of all complete suicides.
Father, Like Son
To appear masculine, boys must develop those qualities
that fathers seem to have: rugged independence, dominance, self-confidence, and
restricted emotionality. These characteristics are some of the extreme aspects
of masculinity. Yet the extreme becomes the norm, and sadly, a boys first
model of masculinity is often based on the exaggerated behaviors of a man who
is emotionally isolated from his family. In order to keep their masculine identities
intact, boys gradually lose awareness of any sense of personal inadequacy and
take on the habit of masculine posturing. Because his father does not display
any evidence of self-doubt, the boy unconsciously learns that feelings and displays
of inadequacy are indications of a lack of masculinity.
feelings of vulnerability, sadness, or hurt are similarly seen as evidence
of masculine weakness. To further complicate the picture, boys cannot name
or talk about this conflict. Acknowledging or asking for help with self-doubt
is considered unmanly. Doing so would threaten the masculinity they have learned
to value so highly. Losing awareness of these feelings becomes a valuable coping
skill. A boy learns how to act like a man, to avoid losing at all
costs, and to not tolerate making mistakes. He defends himself against anyone
who thinks that he is not powerful, strong, or forever right. The son grows into
the man that his father appeared to be. When he grows up and marries, he wants
and needs emotional closeness with his wife but is terrified of intimacy, so he
settles for what he knows how to do: compete, detach, bully, and act in other
stereotypical and unhealthy masculine ways. To a great extent, he becomes his
father, shaped as much by his fears as by his strengths.
who consistently, habitually, and systematically squelch their feelings for long
periods of time eventually cease to feel altogether. When they do, they lose their
points of reference for understanding the feelings of others, and they become
dehumanized. Empathy for the self is gone, and thus empathy for the other has
become impossible. Empathy for Self does not result in self-indulgence. When a
man recovers his emotional experience, it becomes possible to access the emotional
experiences of others and have satisfying and intimate relationships. Appropriate
empathy for the self leads to acceptance of the responsibility for changing destructive
are the ABCs of Change?
-Learn a language for
-Learn to feel for yourself as well as for others.
on new words and meanings.
-Learn how to support and encourage yourself.
at understanding the pain behind your own mask so that you can develop empathy
-Give yourself a break.
that you are not to blame for growing into these problems.
do not mean that you are flawed, bad, or a failure. They do mean that you are
responsible for changing them.
happens to men who grow up without learning to deal with feelings and inner conflicts?
men who fail to deal with emotional conflicts suffer themselves and/or cause others
to suffer. The most severe cases involve homelessness, criminal behavior, and
suicide. Consider the following statistics, all of which are related to the phenomenon
of masculine depression:
-Of the over 1 million people in United States
prisons, 90 percent are men.
-52 percent of all female murder victims in the
United States are killed by their male ex's or partners.
-1.8 million women
are victims of spousal abuse each year.
-70 percent of homeless people are
-Men die an average of seven years earlier than women.
-Men are disproportionately
involved in substance abuse.
can look at a variety of social and psychological forces that conspire to encourage
men to deal with depression by becoming destructive to themselves and/or others.
They involve problematic childhood relationships with their mothers and fathers,
the learning of poor techniques for dealing with emotional difficulties, and the
failure of social systems to hold many men responsible for their destructive behavior.
Even in relatively normal men, these conflicts can emerge when emotional
pain combines with the cultural directives to be a man.
the laCEU Continuing Education for
Social Worker CEUs, Psychology CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUsrger culture, masculine depression is often seen as moral failure,
mainly because of the harm to others that masculine depression usually breeds,
and because men are considered to always be in control of themselves. Moreover,
there is a sense that nothing can be done about disturbing male behavior. This
boys will be boys attitude leaves people feeling helpless in addressing
the problem. Because the pain is behind the mask, the depressive origin of these
behaviors is not well understood; solutions are often punitive or misguided. Instead
of looking at the origins of male behavior, people tend to focus solely on its
when depressed men are well aware of their problems, they are less likely
to seek help in a culture that considers help seeking to be unmanly. Unable to
express themselves, gain support from friends, or request professional help, many
depressed men are left alone with their problems. All depressed men are disturbed,
and unfortunately, many also become disturbing. The solution is elusive because
the appearance is deceiving.
from The Pain Behind the Mask: Overcoming Masculine Depression. Lynch,
John & Kilmartin, Christopher.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Journaling Activity #4
The preceding section contained
information about Masculine Depression. Write three case study examples regarding
how you might use the content of this section of the Manual in your practice.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are the ABCs of Change? To select and enter your answer go to .