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!

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!

3 reasons why we hurt people we love

Why does it seem that we hurt those we love the most? It doesn’t seem to make much sense does it? Shouldn’t we be going out of our way to make sure their needs are met and be paying special attention to their needs and desires? The answer is yes, unfortunately this is more the exception rather than the rule.

Here are 3 more reasons why we tend to hurt our loved ones…

1) We take them for granted:

When we seek a partner, we are typically looking for someone to share our lives with on a long-term basis. When we expect or assume that our partner is going to be around long into the distant future, it’s easier to become lax with staying present in our relationship and appreciate and appreciate our partner. With this mindset creeping into the relationship, communication slowly begins to fall apart.

Staying present with our partner takes time and effort. If we don’t know how to be present, we fail to miss the signals being communicated by our partner. If these signals about what our partner needs and wants from you go unmet it could be a recipe for contempt and disappointment.

2) Unintended consequences:

More often than not, we don’t intend to hurt others. However, if we fail to take care of ourselves, we fail to take care of others; including the ones we love. What we don’t transform we transfer. If I don’t love myself, I will have a hard time truly loving others and receiving their love for me. when I don’t value myself, I have a difficult time seeing the value in others. If I don’t appreciate myself, I will often have a hard time appreciating others.  When we fail to practice empathy and compassion with our partners, we foster a relationship filled with tension, contempt, and emotional isolation.

3) Intentionally hurting them:

Misery loves company. “If I can’t be happy then you shouldn’t be either”, “It isn’t fair that you have peace in your life, so I will create chaos in our relationship”.  Anger is a secondary emotion. That means that there is almost always a more vulnerable emotion driving the anger we experience. It can be difficult and even painful to identify and express those more vulnerable emotions like, disappointment, embarrassment, fear, and sadness. When we fail to identify and express these vulnerable and painful emotions in healthy ways, we will likely respond with aggression and anger.  Anger is easy to access and people know what anger is. Unfortunately, responding with aggression and anger often results in hurting those we love.

Here is the good news; you aren’t alone in this and things can get better! We aren’t born knowing these things but we can learn from our past if we are willing to be more vulnerable, learn to be authentic to ourselves and those we love.