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As we discussed in the previous track, family relationships are an essential part of how a boy forms his own identity.
Dr. Farrell, author of The Myth Of Male Power, believes that men commit suicide in far greater numbers than women when they feel unloved, unneeded, or that they are a burden on society. Men have spent their youth training to be achievers, to be providers and protectors, and never learned the skills to deal with the humiliation that comes with failure in any of these areas. Whereas women are often encouraged to develop nurturing skills, taught to help each other through life's traumas, men are rarely taught these skills.
Technique: Exploring the "Imaginary Stranger" Relationship
James' view of his father as an imaginary stranger is fostered by societal pressure. Because James could not become close to his father and understand manhood, he took cues from the media, his peers, and other outside forces. It seemed beneficial to explain to James, "You receive what are called gender messages every day, which show you that men and women are supposed to act and feel differently. These gender messages are rigid, unrealistic, and unhealthy for you to develop into a nurturing father. They are the cues that tells you you can't play with dolls, you can't cry, and you can't submit to females."
Here's how I outlined for James Lynch's Four Key Gender Differences. As I read through this list, think of your depressed male client. Evaluate if any part of these four points would be beneficial in your next session.
Key Gender Differences
Three Effects of Anti-Femininity on Male Development
-- Effect # 1 - Anti-femininity caused James to avoid many potentially
healthy activities that he considered feminine, such as expressing emotions, taking
care of his body, and benefiting from close relationships.
As this information unfolded in a succession of sessions, James asked, "What does all this have to do with my depression?" How would you answer this question? See what you think of my response.
I stated, "As a boy you gained your gender identity based on gender socialization. Since you didn't know what it is to be masculine, you avoided feminine characteristics and relied on such stereotypes as male action heroes in the media. How can anyone compare with the military hero or the sports superstar? However, since you did not feel comfortable sharing your feelings of inadequacy, you compensated by separating from your feelings and tried to be the "real man" you imagined your father to be The "Imaginary Stranger."
Which male clients are you currently treating
who have gone through this process and are left in the aftermath of feeling helpless
and hopeless, which is the bedrock of their depression? I told James, "Men
feel hopeless because society demands the impossible of them. He is missing out
on the rewards of intimacy and emotional support.
-- Step # 2 - Second, I had James rate these aspects according to their importance, 1 being very important and 5 being not important. This forced him to decide what came first, work, family, exercise, and so on.
-- Step # 3 - Third, I asked James if there was anything missing from his list, such as good health for his family, etc.
-- Step # 4 - Fourth, I went through the list with James to find contradictions. For example, health was at the top of his list, and work was second. James was a workaholic and was not being honest with himself. His drive to succeed was keeping him from being with his family, which was his main source of happiness.
-- Step # 5 - In the fifth and final step I helped James address the areas that are causing problems and find simple solutions. For Alex, he was having trouble feeling overwhelmed at work because his employer encourages competition between employees. The purpose of this activity was to help James create a simple structure of personal intimacy goals.
As I review the Five Steps, evaluate if they might be
of assistance in value transformation with your James:
The next track will discuss counterdependence and how it relates to masculine depression.
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