Doubling the value of your sessions

There is something ingrained into us that drives us to want to belong, to follow others, to fit into a tribe.  If we see that others are going in a different, more exciting direction than we are, we instinctively want to follow.

Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing then, because we can use this instinct to our advantage.

It’s the reason why the saying that you're the average of the five people you are closest to is true. 

Tribes move us... up or down, forward or backward.  

If you want to improve your diet, hang out with friends who are healthier than you.

If you want to learn to code, find friends to learn with.

If you want to double the value of your counseling sessions, find another friend to do it with you.  (And if you can, find two friends.)

Then meet with them every week to share about what you're both learning.  You'll expose each other to twice the knowledge, mistakes, and experience every week than you would have if you were running on your own.

With a second friend, you'll triple it.

And if your a consultant, therapist, or counselor is any good, they'll have more than triple the knowledge, expertise, and experience in this area than the three of you combined.  Now, you have a team, a tribe, a group to push you forward.

We need each other more than we realize.

Together, we help one another shortcut our way up in life.

if your heart speaks

if your heart tells you that it's best to be quiet,
can you listen to it
and rest secure in the shadows
and silence
as another man steals the show?

if your heart tells you that you won't ever
hold fame, that you weren’t made for the lights and screens,
can you accept it
and find joy and significance in what you are,
despite never being adored and widely seen?

if your heart tells you there’s more to life than what you know,
can you let go of what little you do know,
in hopes of finding more?

If your heart tells you she’s a lovely woman
but she’s not the right one
can you lay her down
because you know it's what is best?

if your heart tells you you’re hiding from yourself,
can you lay your pride down
and face the pain
that you run from?

If your heart tells you that you’ve taken the wrong path,
do you have what it takes to turn back for the right one,
despite how far you already traveled?

if your heart tells you you're chasing the wrong dream
will you lay it down
to go after the right one?

When your heart talks...
do you listen?

It's not about the porn

During a session this week, one of my clients shared with me how he always struggles with looking at porn the moment his wife leaves him home alone with the kids. 

Knowing that having a "craving" is anything but random, I asked why he thought he was tempted in this particular situation. 

At first, he didn’t know, so I asked him what emotion he feels whenever he’s left alone with the kids.

“Trapped."

"I feel stuck."

And upon further thought, "Then my fear of being trapped turns into frustration, and then into anxiety, and from there the urge to look at porn arises and grows with my anxiety..."

“Oh, wow.”

It clicked.

He found the reason for his temptation. 

He wanted freedom and relief from feeling stuck and his anxiety, not porn.

There's a key to understanding any compulsive habit in this story, and it's that there’s always a reason for our temptations.  It doesn't matter whether the struggle is with shopping, gambling, drinking or any other relieving substance or behavior you can think of.

This man wasn’t looking for porn because that’s what he wanted to do, or because he was immoral, or weak, he wanted to look at porn because he wanted relief from the suffocating feelings of his anxieties and other emotions.

Thus, being tempted by porn is never something to be ashamed for, it’s only a signal that your heart is under some form of distress or pain and it wants relief.  Your job is to learn how to see and understand the signs and signals and to then find comfort in a way that won't hurt you or those around you over time.

Car engines & the human heart

When something is wrong with a car engine, it knocks, shakes, sputters, and leaks. 

It doesn't use words or the English language, but it is talking. 

And when it does, it’s communicating what it needs.

And just like a car, your heart also talks and lets you know what it needs, but not with words... or by sputtering, shaking, or knocking. 

The human heart speaks with emotions.

The question that we must master asking and finding the answer to is, "What are my emotions communicating to me that I need?"

Toxic Masculinity & The Controversial Gillette Video Advertisement

If you've been following social media this week, you likely watched and read about the controversy around Gillette's latest video advertisement that attempted to call men up and encourage men away from "toxic masculine” behaviors.

I'll start by making this point clear, I have no problem with the Gillette add.  I agree that bullying, sexualizing, and harassing women in a disrespectful manner is outright appalling and a major issue.  

I do have a problem, however, IF the narrative in the video is being attached to the oppressive postmodern philosophy that is being spread about men, gender roles, and masculinity in our culture today- specifically in the College & Higher Education system, Social Sciences, Human Service Professions, and media.   

Standing on its own, the Gillette add is a decent and innocent video, but if it is unified with narratives about gender taking place in our culture today around postmodern ideals, to me, then it becomes a real problem.

Now as to whether or not Gillette is attempting to join this movement, they don’t clearly come out and say.  I’ll leave that to your own interpretation as it's also beyond the point I'm making.

To provide a bit of context about the postmodern ideas on gender I'm referring to, and more specifically in the human service professions, here’s one example: last week, the American Psychology Association revealed a new set of guidelines and ethics for how psychologists should best work with clients who are boys and men.  In the document, they address topics like gender, gender roles, "toxic" masculine ideology, privilege, and oppression. 

When such topics are heightened to this measure by such an accredited organization, one would assume that this is because of an overwhelming amount of psychological pain and suffering that is taking place within a culture due to the proposed problem.

With that assumption, essentially, the ASA is claiming that we have a psychological epidemic that's being perpetuated by male dominance and masculine gender roles in America.  

Fair enough, I can see how one could come to such a claim.  But of all the mental health research, science, and ideas that the ASA could focus on bringing national attention to, why of all things is "toxic masculinity" at the top of the list?  

What about childhood trauma and ACE's, PTSD, shame, sexual brokenness, loneliness, or any of the other underlying issues that might be perpetuating these masculine toxic behaviors?

Before I dive into how murky (or corrupt?) this is, here's an example, among countless others that I have, which also adequately reveals how saturated the college system is in urgently promoting similar postmodern messages:

Yesterday, in the FIRST DAY of my World Civilizations college class, of all the things that could be taught about the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history, the first article that my class was assigned to read was about the origin and history of the dominance of the male patriarchy.  

...I mean, seriously?  You're telling me that the best place to begin learning about the civilizations of Babylon and the Roman Empire is male dominance?

I expected these indoctrinating conversations about gender and masculinity in my Sociology classes, but I was surprised that this postmodern narrative seeped it's way over into my 1st assignment in a human civilization class. 

I could go on and on with examples from my college professors promoting their ideology, and other colleges too, but nevertheless, to come back to the narrative around the Gillette advertisement, IF the video's narrative is attached to everything we're reading in the media about men and masculinity, the ideology around gender that is being spread in our college campuses, and how these social theories are being perpetrated by national human service institutions, it is concerning.  

I agree that tyrannical, stoic, and excessive aggressive behavior is toxic for men, their families, women, and our society, and I have empathy for those who are attempting to use these ideological efforts as a genuine attempt to alleviate the pain and suffering within our communities. 

But is pointing the finger at "male toxicity" the best way to solve this issue? 

Or better yet, is "male toxicity" even the real issue?

From my experience professionally working with and consulting men on emotional health issues- bullying, sexualizing women, and harassing women is a sign of a much deeper issue than "men being men."

In fact, in my opinion, it's a sign of a boy who was never raised by a man. 

Men who bully other men also don't struggle with what they define as “masculine toxicity” either, they struggle with repressed pain, anger, insecurity, and the inability to regulate such emotions. 

Systemically, such behaviors are rooted in developmental, emotional, and mental health problems, rather gender or cultural stereotype issues.

Without any disrespect toward those who have been hurt on the behalf of men, and not to use these points as an excuse, let's state this problem for what it is.  Men are not toxic...

Men are in pain.

Just look at the rates of male suicide, fatherlessness, addiction, PTSD, and incarceration.  As a group, we're returning from wars emotionally and psychologically scarred with little to no resources for handling PTSD,  we're being raised without fathers, (and if we are, the chances are high that our fathers were stoic, emotionally detached, and/or overbearingly rigid which leads to numerous physical, emotional, and mental problems), we’re committing suicide at record rates, struggling with loneliness, and being raised with little to no tools on how to regulate our emotions through life's pain and suffering.  So yeah, (and again, this is not meant to be an excuse) it's no wonder we have issues with incarceration, assault, sexual addiction, and "male toxicity."

Maybe the best thing we can do is rather than pointing our fingers at external issues, surface level behaviors, and the wounds created by them, we can begin to look deeper at the hearts of those committing these acts and how we can best help.

Sure, make more inspiring commercials.  

Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't.  It's beyond the point.

What we truly need is to create a culture that no longer encourages men to deny or run away from their emotional wounds and instead encourages men to take pride in taking responsibility for their pain and facing their shadow, to remove the stigma and shame around men who are suffering, and to provide access to proven resources for men who want to grow and get emotional and mental help.

For the men reading this blog who are likely already on this journey, unless we wish to watch more men lose themselves to the emptiness and pain of isolation, rage, and addiction, or to watch before our eyes as deceitful ideas seep through our nation that will leave our future boys without any truth, identity, or sense of meaning, we need to share our stories and encourage our brothers and friends to join us on the journey we're on. 

Perfect or fractured, weak or strong, we need to come together.  We need each other.  And more than ever, as men, we need to set an example and embody the change we wish to make by taking responsibility for what's lurking in the shadows of our own souls, by facing the darkness and demons within us, and by striving to "clean our own house" as perfectly as possible before facing the world.

Because if you have yet to notice...

The world is asking for you stand up, to be whom you were made to be, and to lead us.

A razor commercial can't change a community, marriage, or family legacy...

But you can.

You are the voice, the leader, the change we're waiting to see.