Men's Issues and Counseling

16May 2017

Is He a Narcissist?

And How to Deal with Him

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, PA

Narcissism is on the rise. Millennials may surpass the “Me Generation” – they are often seen as entitled and self-absorbed. And narcissism is in the news every day: Several powerful world leaders, such as Russia’s Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-u are well-known for their narcissistic behavior. Famous entertainers and athletes are almost expected to be narcissistic – and they rarely seem to disappoint.

When people think about narcissism they usually visualize a man. There’s a good reason for that. Studies show that men are about three times more likely than women to show up as narcissists. What about the man in your life? Is he a narcissist? And what can you do about it?

It’s All About Him

Narcissistic men are similar to narcissistic women – but the men tend to be more aggressive, domineering, unethical and socially inappropriate. Many LATE Men are narcissistic. LATE men are Lost, Angry Teenagers – adult men who are developmentally immature (see my articles on LATE Men in this web site). These narcissistic men are lost because they operate on a false, elevated sense of self. But this inflated self, or personality, seems hollow and based in shame and worthlessness. And they’re angry when they don’t get their way – or when they’re “one-upped” by someone else.

The problem is huge. Studies show a dramatic increase in narcissism in the 21st Century. Men are generally more self-absorbed, entitled and grandiose. They’re more arrogant and insensitive to others. Narcissistic men are manipulative and controlling. They use others for their own personal benefit. Relationships and marriages are damaged or destroyed. There’s even been a significant increase in abuse and domestic violence that can be traced to male narcissism. And narcissistic heads of state are insensitive to basic human rights, and dangerous to world peace and stability.

Is He a Narcissist?

√ He’s so self-absorbed that he doesn’t seem to care about your needs or feelings.

He’s selfish – his needs and desires come first.

He complains or protests when you have expectations or make requests.

He always has the right answer. You’re wrong. He knows best.

He has an inflated ego. He’s smarter than others – more talented – the best.

Yet, at times, he seems quite insecure or jealous of others. He always seems to be looking for approval or admiration.

He gets very defensive and argumentative. It’s always your fault (or someone else’s).

He always needs to be in control.

Narcissism can manifest in minor, even subtle ways. This is referred to as narcissistic personality traits. Or it can be a full-blown characterological disorder. NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is estimated to affect 6% of the population. But men represent about 75% of all individuals diagnosed with NPD. At our Center, we estimate that at least 65% of our male clients (including husbands when we see couples) have at least significant narcissistic traits.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the APA) defines NPD as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy…”. This is a summary version of the diagnostic criteria:

  1. Grandiosity – exaggerated self-importance and need to be recognized.
  2. Fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, etc.
  3. Views himself as “special” and unique.
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Entitlement: unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment or compliance with is expectations.
  6. Exploits others – takes advantage.
  7. Lacks empathy: doesn’t recognize or identify with other people’s feelings.
  8. Envious or jealous of others.
  9. Arrogant, haughty attitude.

Does this sound familiar? If someone you know has 5 or more of these symptoms, he may have NPD. Otherwise, he may have narcissistic traits – one or more of the symptoms listed above, though not as extensive, or pervasive. But these traits alone can be very troubling and cause very serious problems.

Self-Esteem, Confidence, or Narcissism?

  • Normal self-esteem and confidence
  • Self-acceptance and self-assurance
  • Goal-oriented or ambitious with work-life balance
  • Appreciates, but does not need, compliments and recognition
  • Mutuality in relationships (give and take)
  • Feels guilty when his mistakes are hurtful to others
  • Appreciates and values contributions by others (a team player)

Narcissistic Traits

  • Over-confident, self-absorbed or selfish at times
  • Sometimes aggressive to get his own needs met
  • Occasionally controlling and demanding
  • Needs recognition and appreciation frequently (underlying insecurity)
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Some ability to be empathetic and compassionate toward others
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Similar to narcissistic traits, but more exaggerated and pervasive
  • Grandiose with no sense of humility
  • Excessive focus on his need to be recognized and admired
  • Preoccupied with his special personal qualities and accomplishments
  • Highly competitive – intolerant of anyone who may show him up or is “better than”
  • Lack of empathy or concern for others (and may throw them under the bus to look better himself)
  • Manipulative relationships – to obtain admiration and approval; to advance his own goals; and to maintain power and control over others
  • Deep core of worthlessness, well-hidden from others and himself
  • Over-reactive, defensive, “thin skinned” and argumentative – shifts blame to others

How to Deal with Him

Most narcissists don’t believe they have a problem or that they need to change. Unfortunately, research studies indicate that NPD is very resistant to change. Even the less serious narcissistic traits are stubborn, in part because these men can’t or won’t admit that they might be flawed. The good news is that you have choices, and you can often manage the situation effectively using the following approach:

  1. Emotional detachment from the narcissism, not the man. It’s not about you, and you don’t have to take it personally.
  2. Mindfulness – observe his attitudes and behavior from an objective, detached point of view. Avoid judgments.
  3. Use your mature, Adult self (see “Who’s In Charge?”). Your Adult self is loving and responsible – not reactive or judgmental.
  4. Avoid the Victim Triangle – These are the roles we play when we are emotionally reactive and get caught up in the drama: Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer. The only way out of the drama is Adult love and responsibility.
  5. Set boundaries – know when to say no, dispassionately (without drama).
  6. Self-care – Focus on your own needs, but not in service of avoiding or distancing from him.
  7. Suggest counseling or a men’s therapy group (without pressuring him). Or offer to go with him for “couples counseling.” Most narcissistic men can be taught to develop Adult ego skills and strategies. He can learn that it’s in his own best interest to learn how to work and play well with others!

If you would like additional information about narcissism, the LATE Men, coaching and counseling services for men, please contact us today. We’d like to hear from you about your personal experience, and we value your feedback.

08Sep 2016

illus-typeslatemen-blog

8 Types of LATE Men

How They Cause Relationship Distress
How Counseling for Men Can Help

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

This is another article in my series about the LATE Men – adult men who are developmentally stuck as Lost, Angry Teenagers. In my work with men over many years, I’ve identified 8 types of LATE Men. This article will describe these types, explain how they cause relationship distress, and I’ll comment on how counseling for men can help.

The LATE Men

The LATE Men (adult men who are Lost, Angry Teens) are emotionally and behaviorally unfinished, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men tend to self-sabotage, causing relationship distress, and problems at work and at home. LATE Men are often narcissistic, have under-developed identities, anger management problems, and they’re often passive-aggressive and defensive. They typically come from dysfunctional families – with divorced parents or broken homes, fathers who were emotionally or physically absent, mothers who were over-worked or overprotective, or they were abused emotionally or physically. Counseling for men, or couple’s therapy with a special focus on male psychology, can help the LATE Men to become the loving, responsible Adults that most men truly want to be.

8 Types of LATE Men

As a specialist in male psychology and counseling for men, I’ve worked with hundreds of men over 40 years in individual therapy, couples counseling, and group therapy. The 8 types of LATE Men tend to cluster into 3 major categories – Lost, Self-Absorbed, and Angry. The 8 types are not mutually exclusive: each type is clinically and experientially coherent, but there is a great deal of overlap across the categories and types. All of them experience relationship distress, along with various types of self-sabotage. Yet all of the 8 types are distinct and clearly identifiable. And most of them tend to be good men – capable of being loving and responsible at work, in relationships and with their families. They’re often creative, supportive, caring, even heroic when it’s called for.

The Lost Men

1. Confused & Clueless Type – This type of LATE Man has a confused or unformed sense of personal identity. I’ve worked with a number of married men who don’t seem to understand why there is so much relationship distress. Their wives are angry and burned-out – they complain that their husbands are shut down, don’t communicate, and are disconnected emotionally and physically. These LATE Men are emotionally repressed, and have little or no insight or understanding about themselves. Counseling for men helps them to identify the parts of themselves that are buried and undeveloped. Through this process they can begin to form a core identity, with beliefs, values, and clear interpersonal needs and preferences. From that core identity, they can begin to communicate more clearly, act more responsibly and assertively, and relate in a more connected and intimate manner.

2. Depressed/Ashamed Type – This is one of the most common types of LATE Men. Depression in men is often masked and difficult to identify, because most men would be too ashamed to reveal their internal struggles. Instead, they may appear withdrawn, shut down, moody or angry. Depression in men is mostly shame-based – they generally feel not good enough or not worthy. They feel they don’t measure up to other men, or to the expectations of women or “society”. As a result, much like depressed teenagers, these men tend to isolate, under-function at work and at home, become irritable, and are unmotivated – and they may become self-destructive. Counseling for men is essential to provide emotional support, and to help them navigate through the relationship distress caused by their depression.

3. Anxious/Insecure/Avoidant Type – In the movie and musical The Producers, the character Leo Bloom is a great example of this type of LATE Man. Leo (played by Gene Wilder in the original movie, and Matthew Broderick in the musical) needed his little blue blanket to cope with his uncontrollable anxiety and insecurity. In real life, many LATE Men suffer with personal and relationship distress because of low self-confidence, anxiety and insecurities. And they often avoid people, and situations where there is conflict or other perceived challenges, because the anxiety is so overwhelming. Counseling for men with a special focus on anxiety can be very effective. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and couples therapy are particularly effective with this type of LATE Man.

4. Dependent/Addicted Type – Many LATE Men struggle with addictions and dependency on alcohol, drugs, pornography, video games, etc. The actor Robert Downey, Jr. is a good example of a LATE Man who sabotaged his career and relationships due to his chemical dependency. Probably due, in part, to his father’s drug use (and they used drugs together starting at age 6), this talented actor was arrested repeatedly on drug charges, did time in jail, and went through rehab several times, followed by numerous relapses. Counseling for men, along with recovery programs, family support, and meditation has resulted in 13 years of sobriety and a resurgence in his career. And like many other LATE Men, his relationship distress was reversed, and he is now happily married with 2 young children.

There is another aspect of unhealthy dependency in LATE Men that deserves special mention, because it results in serious relationship distress. One example of this type of dependency are young men, usually in their 20’s, often labeled as “failure to launch”. These young men are generally immature, not fully responsible, and dependent on their parents because they are unable or unwilling to fully support themselves and live independently. Another, even more common example, are married men who are excessively dependent on their wives. Some of them are either unemployed or under-employed, or their wives provide most of the financial support for the family. Many of these LATE Men depend on their wives to manage most aspects of day-to-day living, including household chores, raising the children, and planning other aspects of their lives together. These marriages are in a lot of trouble, resulting in arguments, distance and a lack of intimacy. Marital and individual counseling for men is often necessary.

Self-Absorbed Men

5. Narcissistic Type – Almost all LATE Men tend to be self-absorbed. It’s all a matter of degree. Narcissists are primarily concerned about themselves and their own well-being. They can be egotistical, vain, arrogant, hypersensitive, and they lack empathy or are unconcerned about others (resulting in a great deal of relationship distress). The extreme version is NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), which includes grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, exploitation and mistreatment of others, and other forms of arrogance. Many people believe that Donald Trump is a narcissist, along with other famous figures, such as O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, and President Richard Nixon. Counseling for men with narcissistic traits is most effective when the focus is on behavior – specific strategies for improving relationships.

6. Workaholics – This type of LATE Man operates from fears and shame. They often grow up with parents who are judgmental and have rigid expectations for performance. As teenagers, they struggle with low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, and they don’t have a solid sense of personal identity (or they just feel bad about themselves). This sense of personal shame, along with fears of judgment by others, follows them into adult life. They may find refuge in work, but it’s their only sense of identity and personal value. But no matter how much they do, they still don’t feel good enough, and they become lost in the work, stressed out and overwhelmed. They’re often disconnected from their families, resulting in a great deal of relationship distress. Counseling for men helps workaholics to achieve work-life balance by unearthing and resolving the underlying fears and shame that drives this addiction.

The Angry Men

7. Angry-Aggressive Type – Teenagers tend to get angry. They’re angry with their parents, who don’t live up to their expectations – or they’re angry because they want to be independent and their parents aren’t ready. And I believe they’re angry because they begin to see problems in a world that looks unfair, demanding, and perplexing. In the past, the role expectations for men were pretty straightforward. The world was less complicated, and a man’s role was to protect and provide. It’s much more complicated today. When boys grow up with relationship distress in his parents, and any level of neglect, abandonment or abuse, it’s no wonder why so many angry teenagers grow up to be angry men. The aggressive type of anger in men is something we see every day –road rage, arguments, fighting, abuse, angry impatience and demanding behavior are just a few examples. This is often a LATE Man who is full of emotional pain, depression, fears and shame. Counseling for men is essential to break the cycle of violence and anger, to help men work through the internal injuries and distress.

8. Passive-Aggressive Type – In the movie Meet the Parents, Robert De Niro was comically passive-aggressive to the extreme. With a bogus smile, De Niro would make negative judgments about Ben Stiller’s chosen profession. Passive-aggressive men often seem nice enough on the surface – easy-going, affable, and reasonable. They agree or make promises – but they don’t show up or follow through. Or they’re sarcastic and critical, often indirectly expressing their anger. The anger is usually repressed and counseling for men helps these LATE Men to identify and accept their feelings – and to find constructive ways to manage them.

If you’d like to read more articles about the LATE Men, please use the links, below. If you know a LATE Man, or if you think you’re a LATE Man, please contact us today for more information, or to set up an appointment with one of our counselors or therapists.

Who’s In Charge?

The LATE Men

The LATE Man in Relationships

The LATE Men – 5 Reasons Why Men Self-Sabotage

Self-Sabotage: The Epidemic

The LATE Man Grows Up

28Apr 2016

Illus-Yakity Yak-blogHow Men Are Missing the Mark

By: Greg Douglas, LMHC

During my work with couples I often find that partners seem to be talking to each other, yet neither one actually ‘hears’ what the other is saying. A wife was talking about her difficulties dealing with a child or co-worker while her husband tried to supply her with a specific answer to the problem. While the husband tried to find a solution to the problem the wife felt unheard and unsupported. This is a perfect example of how men are missing the mark. In the following examples I will show how counseling for men helps to diffuse relationship distress and create more positive connections.

Common areas where men miss the mark include:

  •  Trying to fix the problem
  •  Trying to make a point and change our partner’s mind (needing to be right)
  •  Believing that we are mind readers (or experts at reading signals)
  •  Feeling attacked in conversations and becoming defensive

Trying to fix the problem:

Men we are very solution oriented and seek to find answers to any problems that come our way. This can be very helpful in some situations such as problem solving at work or repairing a household appliance. However, attempting to simply fix our partner’s problems often contributes to relationship distress. This pattern often devolves into a pattern where the husband is working harder and harder to help his wife, while his wife is feeling like her husband is not listening to her and is not supporting her needs. Couples therapy can be helpful in these situations, and individual counseling for men can guide husbands toward more effective relationship skills.

I find fulfillment in helping my male clients to see how they are working much harder than they have to. There is often no concrete solution to these problems. What we can do is listen and provide emotional support. I recently worked with a young couple who experienced relationship distress, and the wife expressed a great deal of frustration. She didn’t feel heard by her husband. She tried time and again to show him how she felt and why she acted the way she did. Her husband repeatedly tried to show her that she was seeing the situation wrong. His wife felt dismissed and unsupported – and he was frustrated and confused.

A common technique I’ll use in counseling for men seemed to make a huge difference. I simply introduced the idea that the couple needs to focus on giving each other emotional support, rather than talking only about the content (specifics of what was said). Once both partners accepted this mindset they shifted their pattern and were able to reconnect.

The Fix:

  •  Listening– We must be engaged and responsive to the emotional content in our partner’s story.
  •  Understanding– Showing that we can see why our partner is upset – this starts the healing process.
  •  Supporting– Being there emotionally, and expressing empathy, opens up the door for reconnection.

Trying to make our point:

Men often tell me their goal is to “make my partner understand where I’m coming from.” This goal is understandable and often starts out with good intentions, yet it leads right back to the trap of not feeling heard and not feeling supported. When both partners are looking to make a point, one person plays offense (making their point) while the other partner plays defense (defending their point). This dance almost always leads to relationship distress – an endless cycle of back and forth with no resolution (sound familiar?). Another common technique used in couples therapy and counseling for men is to change the goal from making a point or “being heard” to “being able to hear.” This includes showing an ability to soften our approach and relent from our offensive attack to seek and understand where our partner is coming from (it is often not what you initially thought).

The Fix:

  • Stop playing offense and be responsive and empathetic– One of the keys to breaking out of this cycle of relationship distress is backing down from the position of offense and changing the goal of the interaction. Instead of trying to make one’s point, the goal needs to shift to understanding your partner’s feelings and needs.
  • Practice patience– Ask your partner to explain her viewpoint first.
  • Tune in– Repeat what your partner has said in your own words to show you are intently listening.
  • Validate her feelings– Respect that your partner may have different feelings than your own. This does not mean either of you are right or wrong.

Thinking we can read minds or interpret signals:

For men it is often difficult to read signals from women. We are witness to many signals on a daily basis, from changing body language to shifts in mood. Trying to interpret these signals without actually knowing how our partner feels and why they are acting this way is a recipe for relationship distress. We can’t read minds, and neither can our partners. Counseling for men helps us to be more in tune and engaged with our partner, which lessens the chance that signals are crossed and messages are misinterpreted. This gives us the chance to communicate effectively and avoid the many traps that come with believing we are experts at receiving signals.

The Fix:

  • Remain emotionally engaged– Rather than jumping to conclusions about what they’re thinking or feeling, we need to ask and to be open to hearing them and seeking to understand their experience.
  • Be willing to show a vulnerable side– Putting our own emotions out on the line can be scary. But there are many benefits, such as better connection, greater intimacy, and increased safety in the relationship.

Feeling Attacked and Becoming Defensive:

Men often fear coming to couples therapy. They may see this as sitting on a couch while their wives remind them of all the ways they are failing. Men often feel attacked and respond defensively as a way of protecting themselves. In counseling for men, many of my clients are very proud and do the best they can. Negotiating the multiple roles that men must excel in– along with being sensitive to their wives – can be very difficult for men today. When wives complain, men often experience this as an emotional wound to their pride and ego. The way to avoid becoming defensive is to understand that our partners probably love us, but they are experiencing their own perception of relationship distress. They are not complaining to make us feel bad. Rather, they may be protesting a need that is not currently being met. We must work to avoid personalizing what our wives say, and seek to understand how they feel and what we can do to respond with emotional support and empathy.

The Fix:

  • Don’t take it personally– Work to avoid personalizing what your spouse has said and seek to find a deeper meaning behind their protest.
  • Become compassionate and empathetic– Understanding that most of us are trying very hard to do our best can help us to see a need for increased support instead of defensive arguing.

If you would like more information about counseling for men and relationship distress – or if you would like to schedule a session with one of our counselors, please contact us today.

04Mar 2016

Photo-AshamedManFace in Hands-Blog

 

Self-Sabotage: The Epidemic

Why LATE Men Are Dying Young

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

During the past 15 years, more than 30,000 white, middle-aged men have died every year from various forms of self-sabotage. That’s 500,000 American men – an epidemic by almost any standard or definition. The actual cause of death is suicide, drug overdose, and liver disease caused by alcohol and drug addictions. These middle-aged men are experiencing emotional and relationship turmoil related to financial difficulties, separation and divorce, social isolation and depression. Counseling for men who self-sabotage can help to stem this tragic devolution.

Cause or Effect?

This epidemic of self-sabotage was discovered by a Princeton University professor who recently won a Nobel Prize in economics, Angus Deaton, Ph.D. In his December, 2015 report, Deaton used mortality statistics to show that white men in the 45-54 age group have been “hitting a midlife wall” (Men’s Health magazine, March, 2016). The article in Men’s Health accurately reported the scope of the problem in terms of addictions and suicide by middle-aged men. It did not adequately explain why so many men in this age group self-destruct. This group of men – I refer to them as the LATE Men – suffer from depression and feelings of shame – along with a tendency to under-function. And they are often socially isolated, separated or divorced.

Who Are the LATE Men?

The LATE Men are adult men who function much like Lost, Angry Teenagers. They are emotionally under-developed, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men are often depressed, and they tend to self-sabotage, causing problems at work and at home – often leading to separation and divorce. Counseling for men, with a special focus on male psychology, can help the LATE Men to become loving, responsible Adults.

By mid-life, the LATE Men have an established pattern of self-sabotage, including some or all of the following:

* Under-employment or unemployment

* Lack of success in careers or work environments

* Financial instability and hardship

* Marital distress, separation and divorce

* “Process” or behavioral addictions (internet, video, gambling, pornography, etc.)

* Chemical addictions (alcohol and illicit drugs)

* Prescription drug abuse and addiction (often related to chronic pain and other health problems)

* Anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic shame (feelings of worthlessness)

* Anger management problems

* Social isolation (from family and friends)

The LATE Men tend to reach a low point by their late 40’s or early 50’s. That’s when their levels of satisfaction with life hits bottom. They become burdened with a life of unmet goals, unrealized dreams, disappointment, and depression. It’s no wonder the LATE Men self-medicate with drugs and alcohol – or resort to suicide. Is it too late for LATE Men to benefit from therapy or counseling for men?

Hope and Help for the LATE Men

In my article “The LATE Man Grows Up” I suggest 8 steps to Adult male integrity. Even very depressed middle-aged men can benefit from counseling and therapy groups designed specifically for men. The 8 steps include mindfulness methods, non-judgmental awareness and acceptance, healing past emotional wounds, forgiveness and healing relationships, and practicing responsibility, commitment and leadership roles. In addition to these steps, we guide and encourage men to practice self-care, with proper nutrition, exercise, health care, and sleep hygiene. Finally, we combat depression with support and therapy groups for men, a focus on building healthy relationship patterns, and creating new, achievable goals and dreams.

Even the most destructive patterns of self-sabotage can be reversed. We have many years of experience helping LATE Men to live a new life of purpose, love and community. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today.

09Feb 2016

Busy growing man

The LATE Man Grows Up

From Insufficiency to Integrity

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

This is the fourth in a series of articles about The LATE Men – Adult Men as Lost, Angry Teens. In my “Who’s In Charge?” model of the self, all of us have four primary internal parts: An Inner Child, a Teenager, an Inner Critic, and a loving, responsible Adult. Teenagers may become rebellious, angry, confused and withdrawn – and some teens don’t grow up. Specialized counseling for men and men’s therapy groups effectively address LATE Man issues like anger management and relationship distress.

The LATE Men

The LATE Men (adult men who are Lost, Angry Teens) are emotionally under-developed, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men tend to self-sabotage, causing relationship distress, and problems at work and at home. LATE Men have anger management problems, and they’re often passive-aggressive and defensive. They typically come from dysfunctional families – with divorced parents or broken homes, fathers who were emotionally or physically absent, mothers who were over-worked or overprotective, or they were abused emotionally or physically. Counseling for men, or couple’s therapy with a special focus on male psychology, can help the LATE Man to become the loving, responsible Adult that most men truly want to be.

Growing Up – The Emerging Adult Man

The LATE Men I’ve worked with in therapy over the past 35 years helped me to see myself more clearly. Like so many other LATE Men, I struggled for years with self-sabotage, shame, anxiety, anger management problems, and relationship distress. Years of psychotherapy helped me to understand and cope with a painful childhood full of loss and family problems. Personal development workshops taught me to see myself more honestly and to become more responsible and emotionally balanced. Attending men’s groups helped me to see my true nature as a man, and empowered me to be a better husband, father, and a leader.

About 10 years ago I was counseling Andy individually and in couples therapy (Andy is a pseudonym and he represents many LATE Men I’ve worked with over the years). I’ve found that counseling for men is very different from working with women. After about 6 months of therapy, Andy would make a little progress only to be followed by regressions into old patterns of LATE Man behavior (avoiding responsibility at work, anger management problems like road rage, passive-aggressive behavior with his wife, and alcohol abuse). I was feeling some frustration with his lack of progress when, during a therapy session, I told Andy that he needs to “grow up.” He told me this was the first time anyone was that direct with him – his wife would be critical and complaining, but it was laced with her own anger and judgment. Andy had a physical handicap from birth that contributed to his LATE Man behavior – and his parents and other authority figures were permissive to a fault. Andy told me that my entreaty to “grow up” changed his life.

He thought about this often, and it empowered him to be the loving and responsible Adult man he wanted to be.

This is the goal for LATE Men – to become fully functioning, Adult men. I define the Adult part of us as loving and responsible – for one’s self and others. The steps for achieving this goal are outlined below.

8 Steps to Adult Male Integrity

1. Honest Self-Reflection – Counseling for men is often necessary to help LATE Men see themselves more accurately and objectively. Men’s therapy groups are especially effective because the men learn to give very honest and direct feedback to each other, in a supportive manner, and without judgment. This type of therapy helps men to identify and understand their feelings, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns. Most LATE Men need to begin with a thorough inventory of negative personality traits and behavior.

2. Be MAD (Mindful, Accepting, and Detached) – LATE Men are often unaware of their thoughts, feelings and behavior – and their effect on others. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment. Mindfulness is a skill that is easily learned and practiced daily. This calming and centering practice is especially useful in anger management. LATE Men can replace emotional reactivity with emotional detachment, acceptance, loving kindness, and letting go of past injuries.

3. Emotional Integrity & Regulation – Counseling for men helps LATE Men to identify and understand their feelings, often for the first time. They learn about the 5 feelings – mad, sad, glad, ashamed and afraid. They learn to regulate their emotional reactions – especially anger and shame. LATE Men often live their lives in anger and shame. Emotionally injured as children, they feel not good enough but they build a defensive wall around themselves. When they feel injured as adults, LATE Men tend to react with anger or with passive-aggressive behavior (they shut down, become uncooperative, or take revenge). Emotional regulation is a skill that is easily learned and practiced by men who are committed to the process of personal growth and development.

4. Healing the Past & Forgiveness – LATE Men are often unaware of childhood injuries, or they minimize their importance. Counseling for men helps them to recognize incidents or patterns of neglect, abandonment and abuse. The purpose here is to piece together an accurate picture of childhood influences that explain – not excuse – LATE Man behavior. Andy learned to avoid responsibility partly because his mother over-protected and enabled him. He became passive-aggressive because he learned that direct expressions of anger in his family were unacceptable. Childhood wounds are healed in the process of supportive therapy, and by using new skills of self-love and re-parenting the Inner Child, along with a step-by-step process of forgiveness (letting go of the past).

5. Integration – A central goal of counseling for men and men’s groups is integration of the self. The four parts of a LATE Man’s personality are fragmented and mostly unconscious. The Inner Child is wounded, and his needs are unrecognized (or he’s coddled, and given too much). The Teenager is lost and angry. The Inner Critic is demanding and judgmental. Often, there is no Adult in charge. The mindful process that occurs in therapy and self-development work results in narcissism being replaced by healthy self- love (loving the Inner Child). The angry Teenager is contained – and is given opportunities to find his unique identity and voice. Also, the Teenager is let off the hook – he no longer needs to protect the wounded child because the Adult takes on that responsibility. The Inner Critic is respected – that voice also protected the Child and Teenager. The Adult works cooperatively with the Critic to distinguish real threats from narcissistic threats. And the Adult loves the other parts, allows the Child to play and the Teen to express himself responsibly and creatively.

6. The Joy of Responsibility & Commitment – LATE Men often view responsibility and commitment with dread. They believe they should be more responsible, they make demands on themselves, but they operate from shame and fear. They see themselves as not good enough, and this leads to avoidance, defensiveness and self-torment. Counseling for men is highly effective in teaching the LATE Men to take pride in themselves and their deeds. They learn to be responsible for themselves and live a life of balance and self-care (including work, family, friends, nutrition; exercise; and relaxation).

7. A New Relationship ParadigmRelationship distress often drives LATE Men into couples therapy or individual counseling for men. Wives and girlfriends often resort to the ultimatum – “Get therapy now or I’m leaving you.” Direct encouragement by significant others in couples therapy or by other men in men’s therapy groups are helpful in learning a new relationship paradigm. This includes skills such as listening to others and taking feedback non-defensively, letting wives and girlfriends influence them and their decisions, staying emotionally connected and responsive to others with empathy and compassion, and showing love every day with small acts of loving kindness. Finding mentors (at work or in the community) and healthy male friends can also be essential to personal growth and development.

8. Leadership – Men are natural leaders, and our neurobiology is programmed with innate abilities to protect and provide for others. A final step in a LATE Man’s evolution from insufficiency to integrity is the development of leadership roles at home, at work, and in the community. Leadership roles can first be developed and practiced in men’s groups and workshops. Leadership tasks and functions range from being a loving and responsible spouse and a positive male role model for children, to providing guidance, training, motivation and vision to others.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Gandhi

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves’.”  Lao Tzu

Andy, like many other courageous men I’ve worked with, taught me a great deal about LATE Men, and about myself. I’ve learned that even the most confused and troubled men are capable and motivated to learn and to grow – to become loving, responsible Adult men with integrity. Counseling for men and men’s therapy groups are highly effective when there is a deep understanding and compassion for LATE Man struggles. Some communities also offer support groups for men (meetup.com is one possible resource), along with personal growth and development workshops.

We would like to hear from you about your experiences with LATE Men, and we welcome your comments about this series of articles. Please contact us today for additional information about services for LATE Men and their significant others – including counseling for men, men’s therapy groups, and couples therapy.

Other Articles in This Series:

Who’s In Charge?

The LATE Men

The LATE Man in Relationships

The LATE Men – 5 Reasons Why Men Self-Sabotage

19Oct 2015

The LATE Man in Relationships

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

This is the third in a series of articles about The LATE Men – Adult Men as Lost, Angry Teens. Women often encourage counseling for men – or bring men into couple’s therapy with them – because their men won’t communicate, they’re irresponsible, or they’re emotionally disconnected. These men are often LATE – late to develop, mature, or to show up in the relationship.

The LATE Man

The LATE Men are emotionally under-developed, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men tend to self-sabotage, causing problems at work, at home, and in relationships. They usually grew up with dysfunctional family dynamics – divorced parents or broken homes, fathers who were emotionally or physically absent, mothers who were over-worked or overprotective, or they were abused emotionally or physically. Counseling for men, or couple’s therapy with a special focus on male psychology can help the LATE Man to become the loving, responsible Adult that all men truly want to be.

This article describes how LATE Men do relationship. Specifically, how they behave in relationships, how they view themselves and their wives or partners, their feelings and emotional reactions, and what they need from a partner or spouse. Counseling for men will also be discussed, along with implications for couple’s therapy with a focus on male psychology.

What LATE Men Do (and Don’t) in Relationships

o They Re-Create Childhood Wounds

The LATE Men carry mother wounds and father wounds from childhood. Mother wounds result from at least 3 different types of circumstances:

1. Mothers who are overburdened, often holding down a job and raising children simultaneously. This type of unavoidable abandonment or neglect leaves emotional wounds.

2. Mothers who are over-protective and controlling, often due to their own fears or anxiety.

3. Mothers who are verbally or physically abusive.

Father wounds are almost universal for LATE Men, due to absent or unavailable father figures. These male children often have no appropriate male role models to help them develop responsible and loving adult behavior. Many other fathers are LATE Men themselves, and they may be excessively controlling, angry and abusive with their children.

These unfortunate circumstances result in a breakdown in some in the most basic functions of healthy adult male behavior. Like teenagers, the LATE Men are lost – with identity confusion and a true lack of understanding and ability to function in an adult manner. Most of these men need individual counseling for men or couple therapy.

o They fail to protect and provide

There is wide spread agreement that the primary function of adult men throughout history is to protect and provide for their women, their children, and their tribes or communities. LATE Men tend to under-function. They don’t show up for people who count on them. They’re irresponsible, and they self-sabotage. Protecting wives, children and families is instinctive to almost all animal species, including humans. The modern version of protection is to provide for the family. Unfortunately, LATE Men often fail to protect or provide in relationships today.

o They disconnect emotionally and physically

LATE Men may try to fix problems or control their partners. And when women don’t want to be fixed or controlled they often object to this subjugating treatment. The LATE Men often become defensive in response to this perceived attack. For this and other reasons, LATE Men will disconnect, distance, or shut down.

o They avoid and may develop addictions

Avoidance takes many forms – LATE Men won’t talk openly about their feelings or needs; they may obsessively watch TV or sports, play video games, and cruise the internet; and they may become addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography.

How LATE Men See Themselves and Others

o Not good enough

LATE Men may not admit it at first (they may not even know it consciously), but they usually have some awareness of their self-sabotage, and they see themselves as inadequate, incompetent, inferior, lazy, defeated, or a failure. A major goal of counseling for men is to unearth these self-defeating perceptions.

o Misunderstood and doing the best they can

When LATE Men hear complaints, criticism and judgment by others (especially wives and co-workers or bosses), they frequently see themselves as being misunderstood. They believe they’re doing the best they can, and people are too hard on them or unappreciative.

o Victim

LATE Men often feel that people treat them unfairly. They believe people make unreasonable demands, or have unrealistic expectations. Even a simple request may be viewed as excessive pressure or even an attack. Complaints or criticism are viewed as an attack on their character. This view of wives and partners is often a major focus in couple’s therapy.

o Wives and partners are…

…confusing, dramatic, unreasonable, demanding, nagging, withholding, and unappreciative.

What LATE Men Feel

o Anger

The LATE Men are Lost, Angry Teenagers who are developmentally stuck. They’re angry because they feel like victims, and see wives (and others) as treating them unfairly. And anger is very frequently used as a defense – a defense against underlying feelings of hurt, fear, sadness and shame. Anger may even result from depression – angry men often feel helpless, hopeless, and full of self-doubt and worthlessness.

o Shame

The Achilles heel for many adult men – especially the LATE Men. Shame is the psychological and emotional version of a compromised immune system for many men. The LATE Men feel like failures – or they unconsciously defend against this deep emotional pain. As adult men, our primary function in life is to protect and provide for our wives and family. When we fail, or see ourselves as failures, it’s a serious blow to the “ego” for most men. It’s a devastating injury for the LATE Men.

o Numb

The LATE Men have great difficulty tolerating strong emotions – in themselves or others. Men’s brains, in stark contrast to women, evolved to support their role as protectors and providers. Women need to talk about their feelings – their brains evolved to nurture and emotionally support their family and tribe. Men need to take action to hunt and protect their wives and families. Historically, emotions other than anger got in the way for men of action. Today, emotional discussions create excessive stress, especially for LATE Men who feel threatened by feelings they can’t control or fix.

o Injured

When LATE Men believe that people treat them unfairly or make unreasonable demands – when they feel judged, unappreciated, misunderstood, etc. – they feel wounded. The technical term for this is narcissistic injury. Different, but related to narcissism, this type of injury is ego deflating to LATE Men. Counseling for men and couple’s therapy helps men to heal, grow (up), and to connect to others with emotional integrity.

What LATE Men Need

o What they believe they need

LATE Men believe they need a break. They believe they need others to back off and see how unfairly they’re being treated. They want their needs to be met by wives and partners (appreciation, not to be bothered, sex, meals and household chores, etc.) without an expectation that they show up responsibly in the relationship.

o What they really need from wives and partners

The LATE Men need love, friendship and connection just like all of us. Women are understandably challenged by LATE Men. Women’s counseling services with a sensitive and non-judgmental approach to dealing with LATE Men can be very helpful. Men in general need the physical presence of women in their lives. Just being there lets a man know he is loved and cared for. And they may not admit it, but they need a nurturing approach by the women in their lives. They need loving touch – not smothering. They need to know they’re loved and appreciated.

o Specialized counseling for men and couples therapy

LATE Men need to recognize and understand the developmental and cultural forces that contributed to their lost sense of self, angry feelings, and destructive behavior patterns. They need a compassionate and accepting approach by counselors and therapists who are trained in understanding and working with male psychology, emotions and behavioral patterns.

o Accountability and responsibility

LATE Men need to learn that they will feel better about themselves and become more successful when they are accountable and responsible. Counseling for men, including specialized men’s therapy groups, is designed to empower men with acceptance, understanding and compassion.

Men are often reluctant to ask for help. They grow up believing that they need to do it themselves. They are the fixers and problem solvers – asking for help is experienced as shameful. This process is even more difficult for the LATE Men, who desperately need couples therapy and counseling for men. We encourage men who identify with this description to contact us today about counseling for men. And we encourage women who are in relationships or married to LATE Men to approach their men with love and compassion, and suggest couples therapy or individual counseling for men today.

14Sep 2015

ManHeadDownDepressed

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Jared Padalecki struggled with anxiety and depression, and he’s telling the world about it. I’d never heard of Jared Padalecki until he appeared one day in my online news feed. Jared is the star of Supernatural, a horror fantasy show on The CW TV network. Two months ago, he appeared at Comic-Con, and 7,000 fans in the audience lit candles in his honor, after he went public with his own depression – and because of his efforts to help men who struggle with depression, anxiety and related conditions.

This past June, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study about depression and anxiety in American men. They reported that almost 10% – or one in every ten men – struggle with anxiety and depression. I believe the numbers are considerably higher because men don’t talk about it openly, and they experience depression differently. Less than half of them are ever treated for their conditions. Padalecki wants men to know that depression is nothing to be ashamed of. He wants to reduce the stigma associated with male depression, and his message to men is “Always Keep on Fighting.”

Padalecki isn’t the only famous man to go public with his personal fight against depression. Other spokesmen have included athletes (Terry Bradshaw), actors (Robin Williams and Jon Hamm), journalists (Art Buchwald and Mike Wallace), TV hosts (Stephen Colbert), and astronauts (Buzz Aldrin). Throughout history, many famous, powerful and influential men have suffered from depression, including President Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig van Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Vincent van Gogh, even Sigmund Freud and the Buddha himself.

We are taught from an early age that “big men don’t cry.” We learn that a man is supposed to face his problems, usually alone, and fix them. Men should “pull themselves up by their boot straps”. This becomes a double whammy for men – when they become depressed or anxious, they need to hide it in the shadows, and they feel ashamed. Partly because of this tendency, exacerbated by social and cultural expectations, male depression is often more difficult to identify. And, in fact, depression in men can be quite different from depression in women.

What does depression in men really look like?

There are 7 common patterns and collections of symptoms:

1. Depressed men often appear irritated and angry more than depressed. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness are generally unacceptable for men. A man is supposed to be powerful, in control, and able to fix things. When a man starts to feel sad or powerless, he will often judge himself negatively. The resulting feelings of shame are unacceptable – even dangerous to his male ego. Irritability and anger will automatically take over to protect and empower him. For additional information about angry men, see my article The LATE Man.

2. Men who are depressed or anxious self-medicate more frequently than women. Men learn that it’s not okay – even shameful – to ask for help. Relationships between men are often based in competition, and male friendships tend to revolve around activities rather than conversation (especially emotional discussions). To feel better, many men resort to alcohol, drugs, and other addictive behaviors (such as sexual compulsions).

3. Closely related to #2 above, many depressed or anxious men develop an avoidant style. Avoidance can take many forms, including excessive use of video games and the internet, pornography, and watching sports on TV. They may also avoid daily responsibilities at work and at home.

4. Men who are “stressed out” may be depressed. They may appear to be burdened, and excessively worried about work or finances. Everything becomes pressured. This type of depressed man may work long hours, and he may be over-controlling or a perfectionist. Under the surface, he often feels a great deal of self-doubt, inferiority, and shame – hallmarks of male depression.

5. Withdrawal, numbing, and isolation. Depressed and anxious men feel the need to hide their emotional state. They won’t communicate or express their feelings due to shame, and they become socially withdrawn and disconnected. They often appear to be emotionally shut down, and they experience a type of emotional numbing. Relationships and marriages often suffer the consequences.

6. Aggression, superiority, and the “need for speed”. Also known as “Character Armor”, some men unconsciously and defensively cover up their anxiety and depression with a façade of aggression, superiority and controlling behavior. Behind this mask is often a man who is full of fears, self-doubt, deep sadness and emotional pain. This type of man may also take excessive risks, and his reckless aggression may show up as a need for speed (e.g., road rage).

7. Depressed men may feel excessively tired, “burned out”, unmotivated, yet restless in an aimless manner. Physical symptoms may appear, such as headaches, stomach distress, and backaches. Other symptoms are also common in women, such as insomnia, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in sex or normally pleasurable activities.

Counseling and therapy helps many men with depression.

Effective therapy for men who struggle with depression and anxiety may include individual counseling, men’s therapy groups, and/or couples therapy. The most effective methods for men include

* Compassion and empathy

* Sensitivity to shame issues

* A deep understanding of the dynamics of male depression and anxiety

* Cognitive and solution-oriented approaches (thoughts, beliefs, values, and concrete solutions that empower men)

* A male emotional focus (men experience and express feelings different from women)

* Building male-oriented strengths (tapping into men’s innate needs and abilities to protect, provide, compete, and to use personal power constructively)

If you or a man you know struggles with depression or anxiety, please call us today at 561-955-6090, or complete one of our contact forms.

16Jun 2015

Illus- ManHourGlass Running

The LATE Men

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Why do so many men sabotage relationships and careers? Current cultural stereotypes of men range from bumbling incompetence to aggressive, macho insensitivity. I’ve worked with men in therapy and personal growth workshops for over 30 years, and I’ve identified a type of adult man I call the LATE Men, Lost, Angry Teens, and they are often stuck in an adolescent level of development – literally, LATE to grow into full adult functioning.

In my “Who’s In Charge?” model of the self, all of us have four primary internal parts: An Inner Child, a Teenager, an Inner Critic, and a loving, responsible Adult. The Teenager seeks independence, identity, and acceptance with peers. Teens may also become rebellious, angry, confused and withdrawn. Adjustment problems are more likely to occur in distressed or dysfunctional families, where adolescents do not receive the guidance, emotional support, and other resources necessary for healthy maturation and individuation.

The LATE Men develop in an uneven manner. They may become accomplished in some limited areas, such as academics, sports, and even in their roles at work. However, they function only marginally in other roles, and these are the most common problems I see in the men I treat in my practice:

1. Lost Identity – LATE Men generally don’t have a clear picture of themselves. When they first come into therapy, they often say that they’re stuck in a rut and don’t know who they are. They don’t know why they feel the way they do, or they don’t know what they’re feeling at all – they can talk about “stress”, but are often less aware of feeling anxious. Or they’re “frustrated”, but often deny feeling angry. They rarely say they’re sad or depressed – more often they’re “tired” or “out of it”. Many men have told me that they feel like a failure, or just “not doing well” at work or in relationships. These feelings of shame and low self-esteem – not good enough – are a core issue for LATE Men.

In his first therapy session with me, Sam, a reasonably successful attorney in his mid-40’s, told me he’s happy, but wants to be happier. He said he has a good life, but he feels he should appreciate it more. He couldn’t understand why he doesn’t work harder to build his practice, and he wondered if he even wants to be a lawyer. He loves his wife and children, but feels his wife should do more with her life than have lunch and go shopping with friends. For some reason unknown to Sam their sex life has deteriorated. During our first 2 sessions he sounded increasingly frustrated – even angry. He often expressed how he “should”, do things differently, sometimes in very contradictory and confusing statements. And he made similar demanding statements about his wife – she should get a job, she should have different friends, and so forth. When I asked him about his feelings he would deny the anger that was becoming increasingly evident, along with the underlying anxiety and fears about himself and his relationship with his wife.

LATE Men often define themselves by their work roles and by their perceived levels of success at work. And they often don’t know what they want. They tend to under-function and under-achieve, and LATE Men are often dependent on others emotionally and/or financially. Studies indicate that large numbers of young men over the age of 21 still live at home with their parents – many of these are still living at home after age 30.

2. Anger – LATE Men frequently report frustration, irritability, and angry outbursts. Many acknowledge road rage, kicking or punching holes in walls and doors, and verbal aggression or abuse. They tend to be defensive and passive-aggressive. For example, Sam is often withholding with his wife – he shuts down emotionally, shows up late, and he makes promises to do things with her and doesn’t follow through. I’ve found that many LATE Men unconsciously use anger as a defense against underlying fears and shame. Sam is beginning to recognize his fears of losing his wife – she is “finding herself” now that she’s in therapy, and she no longer submits passively to his controlling behavior.

3. Avoidance – LATE Men often report problems with procrastination, work avoidance, emotional distance from others, and evading responsibilities at home. Addictions (to alcohol, drugs, video games, and pornography) are often used to escape from work and relationships, and are used by many LATE Men as a form of self-medication to cope with painful feelings of shame, fear and sadness. Sam told me that he used alcohol excessively in the past, and even developed a cocaine “habit” that scared him. He told me his wife disapproved of the drinking and occasional pot smoking (he never told her about the cocaine), and when they had their first child, he quit using the drugs and significantly reduced his drinking.

4. Relationships – Historically, men were dominant over women. They were larger, stronger, more physically aggressive, and social and political structures tended to be male dominant. The women’s movement and other social and economic forces, has created a crisis in role relationships between men and women. Men are biologically programmed to interact more with the physical environment – we’re hunters and we see our role as provider and protector (not emotionally sensitive communicators).

Today’s men are often confused and fearful about intimate relationships. If they are strong, aggressive and commanding – accepted and admired traits in the recent past – they may be viewed as insensitive cavemen. If they are emotionally sensitive and vulnerable they risk being viewed as wimpy or weak. No wonder the LATE Men tend to either avoid intimacy or react with defensiveness or anger when they’re questioned or when they hear complaints or demands from the women in their lives.

Sam didn’t get it. He thought his wife had entitlement issues – spoiled by the life style he provides for her. Now he’s beginning to see how she distanced emotionally after years of his controlling, demanding behavior.

The LATE Men come from all walks of life, with all types of family backgrounds. However, it’s no surprise that the majority of LATE Men report absent or emotionally distant, angry fathers, and other distressing family dysfunction. These men rarely had desirable male role models growing up. And their dependency on mothers for emotional and sometimes financial support filled them with an unknown and deep seated sense of shame and self-doubt. How were they to learn how to be a man in a world with few or conflicting guidelines and expectations?

What can be done to help the LATE Men? My work with Sam illustrates the possibilities. He is learning how to see himself and his relationships differently. He’s learning the language of feelings – how he can experience and manage his emotional life effectively and with a sense of masculine strength. And he’s beginning to communicate these feelings effectively with his wife. Every LATE Man I’ve encountered exhibits some level of healthy adult functioning. Individual, group and couples therapy is highly effective in helping men to develop the loving and responsible adult self they aspire to.

13Nov 2014

Illus-Man- WhichDirection

5 Reasons Why Men Need a Different Approach

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

It’s a fact: Women are more than three times more likely to seek counseling or therapy than men. And it is estimated that more than 40% of all men in therapy were encouraged (or pressured) by wives, girlfriends, and others.

It’s also quite clear that men need professional counseling and therapy. Here are some additional facts:

> 6 million men suffer from depression

> The suicide rate among men is four times higher than for women

> Men are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than women

> One in every 3 adult men have cardiovascular disease

> One in every 5 adult men develop alcohol dependence (1 in 12 women)

> More than 65% of married men have had at least one extra-marital affair

Men don’t seek therapy for several important reasons. Men learn from an early age that they are supposed to fix their own problems. They often resist therapy because they might feel like they’ve failed – a shame-based response. Men need to feel competent, independent, and in control. Men don’t want to talk about their problems because it makes them feel like there’s something “wrong” with them, or they’re “not good enough”. Or they’re angry and defensive – a characteristic male response to any question about their adequacy. And men aren’t programmed to talk about feelings – a mainstay in counseling and therapy. In fact, the male brain, in comparison to the female brain, literally has less capacity to experience and talk about emotion.

Clearly a different approach is needed with men. Specifically, there are five reasons why there should be a different approach by counselors, therapists, and anyone who wants to encourage a man to seek therapy.

1. Men and women are fundamentally, biologically different. The male body is larger and stronger than the female body. Historically, this has enabled men to become protectors and providers – the hunters, warriors, and defenders for their families and tribes. These basic roles were never questioned or debated until very recently in history. A new approach to men who need therapy would include an acceptance and sensitivity to these biological differences. Men need to feel competent, independent, and in control – and they need appreciation from the important people in their lives.

2. Men are underserved in the world of therapy – and a misunderstood subculture. The “talking cure” of therapy was originally developed by men like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and others. It’s ironic that therapy has become so female-centric. Far more women seek therapy, and the fields of counseling and psychotherapy are heavily dominated by female practitioners. Men today are expected to be powerful – even aggressive – in their business and professional roles, but sensitive and emotionally intimate at home and in relationships with women. They need to compete in the workforce and provide for their families – and they’re often in competition with women for dwindling jobs and financial resources. These and other strains that result from new paradigms in our social and economic culture create a great deal of stress and confusion for many men.

3. The male brain is remarkably different from the female brain. Recent advances in neurology and neuroanatomy (brain science) have revealed that the male brain evolved to emphasize primary functions of competition, aggression, and sexual pursuit – far more so than the female brain. And the male brain has less capacity for empathy and verbal communication than women. A major focus of counseling and therapy is to help men talk about their feelings and personal problems. No wonder men are reluctant to consider therapy. A new approach to therapy with men would appreciate – even respect and honor the natural male need to compete, to fix their own problems, and their aggressive instincts.

4. The Man Cave Instinct. These neurological and biological differences also result in a tendency to retreat, hide, or simply find comfort in a cave. Men have less need than women to be actively and consistently socially connected. They have a biologically based need to retreat from conflict. Since the brain automatically reacts to conflict as danger, the body is flooded with stimulating chemicals that trigger the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Like most mammals, men will fight only when retreat is impossible (or at least perceived as impossible). That’s why men will often shut down when there’s conflict with a wife or girlfriend. And after a long day of stress at work (much like a day of hunting or fighting off predators), men need the protection and comfort of a warm cave. A culturally sensitive approach to men in therapy today might include a deeper understanding and appreciation of a man’s need to disconnect from emotionally “dangerous” conversations about problems and feelings.

5. Men need to feel like they’re doing a good job. The single most important role of men throughout history has been to protect and provide for their primary social group (family, tribe, community). The need to provide and protect is instinctive and adaptive – essential for survival and procreation. Therapists and counselors should be keenly aware of men’s most important core emotional and psychological vulnerability – shame. If a man struggles in his primary role function – to protect and provide – or if he perceives that other people question or criticize his abilities, he will react in much the same manner as an animal in danger. He will retreat (shut down, withdraw), or he will fight if he feels cornered (anger, rage). In therapy, and at home, men need to feel competent, productive, appreciated, and respected.

Men are more likely to engage in counseling or therapy when a significant other (wife, girlfriend, family member) appeals to his need to protect and provide. And the therapy itself will be more effective when the therapist is authentic, direct, and sensitive to his shame issues. Talking too much and too quickly about his “problems” and how he “feels” inside is counter-productive. Once the man feels safe (not threatened by perceived criticism, complaints or competition), he’ll start talking. Once he feels accepted and understood without judgment, and when he feels empowered to find his own solutions, he will often be willing to work very hard at being a better man.

10Aug 2013

who_in_charge

Who’s In Charge?

Do you know the definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Have you experienced problems similar to the following?

 

• I keep making the same mistakes in my relationships.

• I keep choosing the wrong person to be in relationships with.

• I’m sad or anxious most of the time and I’m not sure why.

• I tend to sabotage my relationships and my jobs or career.

• I get too angry and blame others, or I avoid certain situations or people.

• I’m not successful because I procrastinate and avoid responsibility.

• Sometimes I feel that I’m just not good enough.

I have developed a new, simple tool to help you understand where these feelings and patterns of behavior come from.
And this same tool will help you to make positive changes in your life.

The diagram below, Who’s In Charge?, describes our internal parts. There’s an Inner Child, innocent, vulnerable, often dependent. A unique part of this model, the Teenager, wants independence, but is often lost, angry or both. Our Inner Critic is judgmental, blaming, and demanding. Fortunately, all of us have an Adult part – loving, responsible, appropriate, and competent. We all have these parts, and sometimes things get stuck.

 

whos-in-charge-diagram

 

Take Mike, for example (a fictitious name, and a composite of clients I’ve worked with). At work, Mike could never get organized. The files were stacked up on the floor, and he was often late getting reports completed. He often avoided making calls and distracted himself by surfing the Internet. At home, his children were afraid to ask for help with their homework. They were afraid because he would get angry and criticize them. His wife was fed up. He didn’t help with chores, or he would finally mow the lawn after a lot of complaining. She said he was never happy. The distance between them grew, and their sexual relationship was almost non-existent.

Mike was a LATE man – a type of adult man I refer to as a Lost Angry TEen. In fact, when I asked Mike how old he felt when he was avoidant, angry, or distant with his wife, he said he was about 15 years old. It’s no wonder. He told me that when he was 15 his father was verbally abusive. No matter what he did, it was never good enough. His mother was passive with father, but she always took care of Mike – by cooking his favorite foods, covering up for him by completing his chores and fixing his homework. Mike learned to play it safe as an adult by avoiding work and expecting others, such as his wife, to take care of things for him.

You can use this model to help you identify Who’s In Charge when:

  • Your feelings – mad, sad, ashamed, or afraid – are out of proportion to the circumstances (excessive and inappropriate);
  • Your relationships are stuck – with too much fighting or too much distance;
  • Your thoughts and beliefs are negative or self-destructive (all-or-nothing thinking; self-defeating beliefs; etc.).

Then you can use this model to make positive changes in your life. Try these exercises, and repeat them frequently:

  1. Visualization – Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Picture yourself as a fully responsible, loving Adult. Recognize your current strengths in these areas. What do you look like in this role? How do you feel? How do others respond to you? What are your results – how are your relationships? How do you succeed at work and elsewhere?
  2. Written description – Write a one page description of your Adult. Be realistic, but stretch yourself and write about the Adult you know you have within you.
  3. Read this description out loud to yourself every day for 90 days. Then read it out loud once a week
  4. Re-parent your Inner Child – Visualize the little girl or little boy inside you. How old is he/she? Ask your Inner Child what he or she is feeling. Ask the Child what she/he needs. Then, from your Adult self, tell the Child that you’re there for her/him; that you love her/him unconditionally; that you will take care of her/him. This exercise is especially effective when you use a mirror and look into your own eyes as you talk to your Child.
  5. Write letters to your Inner Child – Tell your Child everything you wanted to hear from your parents growing up. Let your Child know that you’re there, you will take care of him/her, and that you love him/her unconditionally.

After a few sessions of therapy with me, Mike was actively using this model (he told me he taped the diagram to his computer monitor!). He said it helped to guide him in his family relationships and at work, to be the man he always wanted to be. He started taking care of his “Inner Teen” in a loving and responsible manner.

For more information about the Who’s In Charge? model, about Inner Child work, or to make an appointment, please contact us today.