Why Do Men Have Such Trouble With Intimacy? (Full article at the link in alternet.org)
Real intimacy, unlike sex or hanging out, requires a vulnerability the ‘man code’prohibits…. The answer is that most men are taught from an early age to be competitive, that feelings are a sign of weakness, and to avoid vulnerability and dependency at all costs. The ideal for men is fierce independence and strength. Herb Goldberg writes in The Hazards of Being Male that 85% of the men in this country have no friends…. Because men are taught to be competitive, strong, never cry, and not show emotion, they may either buy into this wholeheartedly or consider all intimacy-creating activities as weak and stupid, or they may feel like a fraud for having feelings and sensitivity at all…. All this is not to say that men are incapable of intimacy, dependency, or vulnerability. They are quite able, but our culture does not support it. One of the main reasons for drug and alcohol use is for medicating pain, and that would include emotional pain. Men, who feel bottled up, sad, angry, and depressed will often become workaholics, drink, or do drugs to avoid feelings. For men to understand how to be intimate, they must first learn more about who they are, what they want, and what is truly important to them. Feelings tell us what we want and what we need, so without them, we are like a ship without a rudder. So many men lead lives of quiet desperation, never letting anyone in or themselves out. A man who takes a look at who he really is and allows his essence to be known is far stronger than the burly, silent type who lives his life in utter isolation.
Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dickinson from the trailer for the film Rio Bravo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This interesting article only begins to untangle the influences of our US culture on gender identity. The elders of our society is now baby boomers who grew up with John Wayne and the like for male role models. Women grew up watching women who lived a standard of subjugation to the male dominated world. Some baby boomers rebelled in a big way. They have had a significant influence on our culture. Gender roles are in flux, a period of transition, changes that Gen X and Y are continuing. The male liberation movement has lagged behind, adapting to try to maintain some semblance of compatibility with increasingly liberated women.
Our motivations are largely emotionally driven. Negative emotions push us to face and act on those things that make us most uncomfortable. Positive emotions allow us to enjoy success and give us energy to meet new challenges. But negative emotions inspire us to make changes. Misery is perhaps the most creative force in our lives. Seldom do we make major changes in our lives without considerable emotional pain. Each negative emotion comes complete with an intuitive [but incomplete] guide to action. Anger pushes us to stand up for ourselves and speak up when we’ve been treated with disrespect. Fear makes us hyper-vigilant to potential danger and readies us to duck or run away if needed. Sadness makes us review over and over again what we’ve lost. That ruminative search is for the knowledge to compensate for our loss [as well as reassess its meaning and purpose. Ultimately, such learning leads us with the wisdom to understand our lives from a new perspective and make our actions more adaptive.] Guilt reminds us of our responsibility in the errors we make and motivates us to work to understand our mistakes and learn how to avoid repeating them….
Emotions are made to be understood by experiencing them, by sitting with them for a time so as to make some sense of them. By trace emotions to their origins you can come to understand what they might mean for you today. That will enable you to make a reasoned decision about what should be done. As hard as it is to sit with a profoundly negative emotion, you will find that emotion an amazingly creative force for change.