By Jonathan Shannon, Coach, October 7, 2019
Masculinity, as we’re probably all aware by now, can turn nasty with catastrophic consequences for the person affected and the people around them – something Mike Miller knows all too well. Miller is programme director of Reach at The Cabin Group in Thailand, a rehab centre for men struggling with addiction. While Miller believes traditional masculinity – “a set of accepted behaviours for men” – is not all toxic, he thinks there are things that men get “trained” to do that don’t help them to thrive. We asked him to explain what these were, and what you can start doing about it if you think any of what he says applies to you.
What are the expectations of masculinity?
A lot of the time our worth is attached to what we provide and what we produce. When men introduce themselves they’ll say, “What do you do?” Not, “Do you have kids? Do you have a family?” It can make our worth attached to what we do, not who we are. Feelings are sort of in the realm of women, and we get messages like don’t be weak, don’t be vulnerable.
Which parts of masculinity can be unhelpful?
The message of being very stoic and keeping your feelings inside. That doesn’t have to be harmful, unless you have a need for support to get your emotional needs met – if you’re carrying a lot of stress, pain, anxiety, fear, depression. If you’ve been trained not to reach out and admit that your need help, there are going to be some maladaptive [not helpful or appropriate to the environment or situation] coping behaviours that come into play. That could be things like drinking and drug use, problematic gambling, problematic sexual behaviours like promiscuity that gets in the way of intimacy. And if you can’t have intimacy and you need help with getting your emotional needs met, how is that going to happen?