I spoke today at Paradise Valley Community College about the effects of culture on men, and, specifically, how as men, we are driven my the messages that culture brands into us.
Being a “real” man in our culture means to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” and take care of things on your own. You “shouldn’t need to seek out help,” even when you’re depressed.
Could you see how this could create more suffering? By not asking for help, men will spiral deeper into the problems that they should be asking for help for.
Our culture doesn’t permit men to be depressed, sad, or even non-productive. It doesn’t allow for men to be emotional, and yet the same culture that tells us that also says that men should be emotional beings, especially within the context of an intimate relationship. It’s cultural schizophrenia.
6 million men a year are diagnosed with depression, and who’s to say how many are undiagnosed. Depression can only get worse without the right help, which would include counseling and psychiatry.
To “be a man” means a lot of things in our culture, and leaves little room for experiences that are not consistent with its definition of being a man. Weakness, sadness, fear – all are emotions and experienced that are sidelined when it comes to being a man in our culture, and that’s unfortunate. To integrate the whole experience of being a human being – both the feminine and masculine – is to be whole. To integrate the feminine is to be be female; rather, feminine feature, such as emotional expression, empathy, kindness, are things that are lacking in today’s modern man.
So, to lop off one side of our humanity and to accept the culturally-driven messages about what it means to be a man is missing a lot. It’s missing exactly one-half of the story.