men and psychotherapy
John Gray told us that “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” and enough people related to what he had to say to make the book a best seller. He drew a picture of men as insensitive, sexually driven, narrowly focused, result-driven oafs who may be well intentioned but tend to be antisocial and clueless. When men consider going into psychotherapy or are encouraged by their wives, sweethearts, friends or other family members, they are often certain that the therapist is sitting there with his or her notepad, an accusing look, and the intention of whipping him into shape for the women in his life. And if his wife is asking him to go to couple's counseling with him, he is certain that he will simply be ganged up on and told to change. Why would any sane man step into that room?
Media images of superheroes reinforce the stereotypes that goad us to be tough and unemotional. Am I less of a man because I sometimes feel fear? And they play on our tendency to see women as visual candy and sexual objects. What if I don’t live up to the standard of the super stud? What if I’m shy and reserved? What if I feel awkward?
What if I don’t make tons of money? What if I don’t know what to say when my wife or lover is upset and crying? What if I’m a terrified that I won’t be a good parent? What if I get frustrated and lose my temper?
I’m more easily hurt than I might show when people criticize me, when my friends don’t respond to my phone calls or emails, or when the lover in my life prefers to be with friends. I hate confrontations but I don’t like feeling that people are walking all over me either.
I’m a normal human being, not a stereotype, and I have normal human problems. I wish that someone would see me that way instead of as a project to work on. I wish someone would appreciate how hard I work, how much I care, that when I’m cut I bleed, that I’m not trying to make things worse but I don’t always know how to make them better. I’m not superman! Though sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that I ought to be.
Men need a place to sort out their lives as much as women do. If they are fortunate, they have good models in the fathers and uncles and other older men who populated their lives as they grew up, but too many of us were parented by men who struggled with these same issues and didn’t find anyone to turn to for support. For us it may be helpful to sit down with someone who is sensitive to the problems men face in their lives and who does not judge us poorly for falling short of superhero status.
Others of us may have been fortunate to find understanding women who would listen and guide us, but it may also have left a longing in our lives for the companionship and understanding of men. We are often surprised to find kindred souls in the men’s groups run by the Men's Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy.
Whether you would prefer to relate one on one with a therapist or join a group of men, a world of understanding and acceptance awaits you, a place where you can feel free to be yourself, where you can explore your wounds and your possibilities.
A continuing group for men 60 and over is currently looking for additional members. Life continues to be an adventure as we evolve in our middle years and as we focus less on work or on raising a family. Join with five other men in a safe environment to talk openly about redefining yourself and your relationships. Lend strength to other men from your own experiences and help create a sanctuary from chaos and stress. Richard Bloom has led men's groups for 40 years and is an associate of the Men's Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy. Currently there are openings in a group on Thursday night from 7:15 to 9 for men approaching or of retirement age. For information call (510)548-8285 or email RBloomMFT@sonic.net.
Richard Bloom, mft, is a psychotherapist with over 40 years experience helping individuals and couples. He has offices in Santa Rosa and Berkeley.
For more information or to schedule an appointment call: 707-665-0846.
Richard Bloom MFT 09312