Thinking Outside of Your “Man Box”

The man box, we all have one. Lets see what is in yours…

The Man Box

Tony Porter is an activist dedicated to helping end violence against women, and he has come up with a really simple and easy to understand idea about how (some) men think. You can check out his TED Talk about the Man Box here.

Tony Porter came up with the idea of the “Man Box”. In this man box are all of the things men think it means to be a man. Some examples include; not showing emotion, always being in control of the finances, being the sole provider for the family, don’t cry, and being strong- just to name a few.

Where does the content of our man box come from?

We learn through our environment. So if our father, grandfather, uncles etc. believed that you can’t say “I love you” because it made them appear weak, then there is a good chance you will also take on this belief. Once you are an adult and have children of your own, you may also find it difficult to express love and empathy as a man. We are a product of our environment, and this is the process of socialization.

Through socialization we begin to form our beliefs about the world at an early age. We don’t get to choose our environment as kids.  What we don’t transform we transfer. The pain and suffering we experience today comes from generations of pain and suffering. Our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers pain is now ours. If they have not transformed their pain, they are giving it to you. Lets start thinking about what we need to transform in our own life journey so we can end the cycle of pain, suffering, and abuse for the next generation.

Us men need to, and can do better. Lets start to think outside our man box and make some transformations!

Thinking outside your man box

In order to transform what we think it takes to be a man and begin to break free from our pain and suffering, we need to think about 3 things;

1) Recognize where the contents of your man box come from

  • Remember, we can’t choose our environment as kids, but as adults we have the ability to change our thinking. Be a non-judgmental observer and think about your childhood. Who were your male influences? what were their beliefs? How did they treat others? Were they able to show you love, kindness, and respect?
  • Once we are able to reflect on our past and start making some of these connections between our environment and our current behaviors, we can then start to make sense of our behaviors. Then we can see where the contents of our man box came from. If you don’t like what you see, challenge yourself and make some changes!

2) Evaluate and challenge the contents of your man box

  • If you have read this far, good job! you have also probably been able to identify some of the contents of your man box. Do you see anything you don’t like? See something you might want to transform so you don’t transfer it to your kids? Great! Now you can start the process of challenging those old beliefs in your man box.
  • Ask yourself (without judgment) how is this belief serving me? my kids? my partner? co-workers?. Ask yourself, what is the honorable intention of this thought, feeling and behavior? If it is negative and abusive, then change it! One of the really cool things about our brains is the potential to rewire them and form new and healthy beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in!

3) Re-define your idea of what it means to be a man

  • Now that you’ve been able to identify and challenge your old ways of what it means to be a man, you’re almost there! Now you get to re-define how you want to move forward in life as a new man! Think about the things you were missing out on as a kid. What are some of the positive messages you wish you could have received as a child? What are some things you see yourself repeating in your family that had a negative impact on you as a kid? If you want to be more present for your kids, then take some time out of your day to be with them. Ask your kids how their day was. Ask about how they are feeling about that upcoming test. Start re-defining your man box!
If you want more help understanding and re-defining your man box I’d love to help you! Simply click here for more information about scheduling your first appointment!

4 Simple Steps to Enjoy Thanksgiving

The Holiday season is upon us!

The turkey has been bought, the decorations are out, and the eggnog is flowing! Everyone is excited to be with their family and start creating new holiday memories! Okay, well, maybe not everyone is looking forward to this time of year…

Are you one of those people dreading the family get-togethers?

There are many reasons you might be feeling this way. Maybe you have just gone through a divorce, there might be some tension between you and your family, you might not even be allowed to see your family to create those memories. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Whatever the reason, if you just aren’t feeling very thankful this year I want you to know that you aren’t alone!

Very often we are expected to be a part of the holidays with our families and feel all the joy and thankfulness we are inundated with. We might even feel some shame and guilt about not wanting to participate in the gatherings if we aren’t feeling the “Holiday spirit”. So, rather than skipping the Thanksgiving dinner all together to avoid those awkward situations, we go anyway and end up feeling uncomfortable and that we need to “survive” the evening.

I want you to THRIVE during Thanksgiving this year! I know you can do more than just survive! Here are a few tips to help you enjoy Thanksgiving a little more and help reduce your discomfort.

4 Tips to Help You Enjoy Thanksgiving With Your Family

1) Boundaries.

Establishing and maintaining your boundaries is the most important tip to help you through thanksgiving dinner this year. It’s also one of the most important tips for life in general! If you are going through a break up, not able to see or bring your family to dinner, or if you’re grieving for any reason, you’ll want to maintain healthy boundaries. If you don’t want to talk about it, then don’t. Find a healthy and effective way to communicate your boundaries.

An example might sound like; “Aunt Mary, I understand you’re curious about my relationship and how I’m doing. Right now I’m not really sure how I’m doing, and I’d rather not talk about it tonight. Lets just be with family and enjoy the evening”. Notice how I don’t avoid her or give in. I am able to knowledge Aunt Mary and her curiosity, but I don’t allow the conversation to go any further leaving me feeling upset and uncomfortable. When we set healthy and consistent boundaries we find peace and contentment.

2) Plan Ahead.

Don’t get caught flat footed! If you know you are going to a family gathering where people may ask you some questions that you don’t want to talk about, come up with a plan on how you will address this. Planning ahead about what to say and how to handle potentially uncomfortable situations can help reduce your anxiety. With anxiety under control, you can begin to enjoy your time at the family gathering!

3) Be open to new experiences.

It’s important to remember that this year may not be like last year, and that’s okay. Different doesn’t mean bad, it’s just different. When we start to compare today’s experiences to past experiences, we bring the past into the present. This attempt to relive the past prevents us from enjoying the people, conversations and interactions that are in front of us today. If we can be open to new experiences we can start to find true peace and contentment.

4) Keep it positive.

During your next Thanksgiving party, and you begin to notice yourself becoming anxious, angry or sad, remember the thought-feeling-behavior connection. What we think we feel, how we feel is how we will behave. If we think positive, we feel positive, and our behaviors will reflect positivity. Being mindful of our thoughts is the first step toward mastering emotional regulation. With our emotions under control, we have deeper conversations, more meaningful relationships, and more satisfying experiences. Keep those positive thoughts flowing!

 

Men and Empathy; The Struggle is Real.

Why do some men have a hard time with empathy?

Lets start with some definitions…

  • Empathy means to deeply understand, and share the feelings someone else is experiencing. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Sympathy means to express feelings of pity, and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

Empathy allows us to connect deeper, and listen more intently. If we are allow ourselves to be more vulnerable with each other through the use of empathy, we will experience healthier and more satisfying relationships.

Sympathy creates distance between people and prevents healing. Think of sympathy in terms of a sympathy card; the card offers some passive consoling from a distance. “I’m sorry for your loss” is much different from, “I am so sad to hear about your father passing. I know how close you were to him and you must feel devastated”.

Here is a great video from Brene Brown explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy!

So, why do men struggle with empathy?

In short, society told us not to show any emotions (other than anger of course) in order to maintain power and control over self and others.

From a very young age men are being told to hide or stuff their emotions. If a young boy is learning to ride his bike, falls and begins to cry, what is the typical response from his father? “walk it off kid, stop crying and act like a man”. That father has effectively taught his son that it isn’t acceptable to show emotion.

Remember, empathy requires you to access your vulnerable emotions in order to connect with others suffering.  So, if men have been taught not to express our emotions, how can we access them for others in order to connect? How in the world are we supposed to have the vocabulary for it when we have been spending our entire lives stuffing them deep down not allowing ourselves to practice this skill?

Emotions always get what they want, and they want to be expressed and heard! When a man feels those vulnerable emotions like, sadness, fear, embarrassment, disrespect, or anxiety, and he fails to express those emotions he will end up resorting to anger as a way to express the vulnerable emotions he is feeling.

3 things men can do to increase empathy

  1. Emotions do not mean you are “weak”, they mean you are human.
  2. Everyone experiences emotions, it’s okay to let people know exactly how you are feeling.
  3. practice makes perfect. Start by putting your vulnerable emotions out there for others little by little.

Men have been socialized for a very long time to deny our emotions, so rewiring our brains to become more comfortable with using empathy in our relationships will take some time and mindful effort, but it can be done!  I want to challenge you to re-think what being a man means to you. Lets start exercising our empathy muscle and start experiencing more loving, connected and fulfilling relationships!

Click here to schedule an appointment and start your journey to a more empathic life!