Archive for June 2017

Men and Grief: The Power to Learn to Love Again || Craig Freund

Men and Grief: The Power to Learn to Love Again

By Craig Freund

 

“Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. Grief is the price of love.” -Unknown

Often, we learn to love without one day expecting that it may change. We may learn to love unconditionally, without reason, intention or restitution. We may love like we’ve never been and won’t ever be hurt, while in fact, this may be love in it’s purest, most open and trusting form. As much as we love, inevitably, we will all one day find that love hurts and that grief is the price we pay for having had the glorious opportunity of a loving experience.

While love can be one of the most fulfilling experiences, the loss of love can be one of the most painful. For anyone, but especially for men, navigating the experience of love and it’s intimate partner grief can be a lonely, confusing and troubling experience. Although modern masculine stereotypes seem to be on the move, traditionally, men are taught to suppress emotion, never to cry and never to reach out.

In terms of emotion, for men, it is traditionally only acceptable to express stoicism and anger. For this reason, men often resort to feelings of anger or irritability when what may be under the surface is an experience of sadness and sorrow. This struggle with grief is not limited to the death of a loved one, but might be a break-up, lost opportunity or an old lifestyle. In varying degrees, grief accompanies our experience with loss, change or growth.

While grief can be one of the most intense emotional struggles in our inherently vulnerable human experience, attempting to suppress and avoid related feelings can only lead to greater difficulty in processing grief. Suppressing these strong feelings may prevent a sort of emotional or cathartic release. With this, men can experience shame in addition to the socially unacceptable difficult emotion.

As you can see, the grief process for men can become exceptionally complicated by various societal and cultural expectations and self-imposed limitations. Often, due to their upbringing and these cultural norms, men may not recognize the underlying core emotion and the process of suppressing becomes automatic or even unconscious.

As a result, displaced and unrecognized emotion may lead to social irritability, domestic violence, or substance abuse. This process of suppression and lack of emotional expression, can lead to what has been amusingly referred to as emotional constipation. As time passes, this lack of emotional expression might even lead to clinical depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, domestic violence or even suicidality.

This stunted grief may be one possible contributing factor in the shocking statistic that nearly 80% of completed suicides are by men. Furthermore, this issue of emotional constipation may reach beyond an individual struggle and on a more global level contribute to crime, violence, lack of role models and general societal difficulty.

 The question becomes, how do we deal with this issue and how do we support men in their grief process so that they might learn to love again? For starters, it’s important to normalize the myriad of difficult emotions that might need to be expressed. From sadness to guilt and even nostalgia, grief can bring up a wide variety of emotions. Male or female, masculine or feminine, these emotions are a completely normal and an even healthy part of grief.

Next, we can label these emotions and work to understand them. In regards to grief, what might sadness need to say? What might regret have to say about our loss? They might say that you’ve lost something near and dear, they might say that you wish you’d had more time with your loved one. As we normalize and listen, we might then allow ourselves to experience and feel the emotion, all in hopes of allowing for the relief of an emotional release.

Finally, let’s not forget to breath through this process and cope with what comes up. In grief, these feelings can often be overwhelming, this makes it important to find healthy ways to cope. With this, some men have found that tangible, related projects can be cathartic. For example, some men might benefit from a dedicated wood working project, art creation, memory box or even writing a song. These intentional and sometimes dedicated coping strategies don’t impede the process, but can better facilitate steps toward healing.

With this, keep in mind that is not necessary to take on the grief process all at once, but instead, if possible it is important to balance this with healthy coping or distraction. This isn’t a task to be completed, but a natural process to be engaged and respected.

 -Normalize

-Label Emotion

-Listen & Feel

-Breath & Cope

 Although grief may never end, with time and respect for the process, we can learn to live with it. The experience of grief itself might come and go, but generally speaking with respect for this process the intensity of the grief may lessen.

Most importantly, as we honor these emotions and the role they take in our process, we can hope that we might learn to love again. We can hope that we might learn to love with open hearts, unrestrained by the difficulty of suppressed emotion and stalled or displaced grief. Men with open hearts and the capacity to love become positive leaders, role models and fathers, demonstrating strength in a manner that will empower our fellow man to lead happy, healthy and successful lives.

Moving forward we might work to raise young men in a manner that normalizes emotional experiences, fosters emotional maturity and empowers an understanding of the information offered from our emotional states. 

In my work, I often encounter men who haven’t had the opportunity to develop the capacity for emotional intelligence, they’ve either explicitly or implicitly been taught to stuff their feelings and this, rather than expression is what has been reinforced.

With a collective effort, we can teach the importance of these emotional processes and allow boys to become men who are empowered to feel, able to love and are present for their families.

“What I needed more than anything was the strength, courage and permission to grieve.” -Ken Druck

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Thomas Campbell

Men and Psychotherapy || Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

men and psychotherapyJPEG

 

 “Some men turn away from all this cheap emotion with a kind of heroic despair… But this too can be an error. For if our emotions really die in the desert, our humanity dies with them.” 

Thomas Merton

 

     Despite modern stereotypes associated with talk therapy, this practice was once a predominantly masculine career choice. From the forefathers of modern psychotherapy including Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis, the practice was once limited almost exclusively to male practitioners. During the early development of this field, gender inequality was very much alive, just as it is today. However, overtime there has definitely been a shift not only in the practice, but also in the proportion of male and female therapists who facilitate the healing process. This modern day gender imbalance may be both a symptom and a contributing factor in a cascade of problems that significantly impacts the greater population and the male population in particular.

     In the world of mental health, the male population represents nearly 80% of deaths by suicide, furthermore men are much less likely to seek treatment than their female counterparts. This shocking statistic can certainly be attributed to gender stereotypes and culturally reinforced gender norms. These factors are only further represented by the minimal number of practicing male psychotherapists. While an ongoing feminist movement continues to strive for gender equality in regards to women’s rights, men continue to suffer the consequences of restrictive gender stereotypes and gender roles. For men, it is often culturally unacceptable to experience, express and discuss certain emotions. Furthermore, it is generally considered faux pas for men to seek help for emotional or behavioral issues. In fact, when men do not adhere to culturally preferred gender roles they can experience social rejection, loss of status, as well as fewer opportunities in work or with potential mates. Instead, men often bottle or repress their emotions leading to destructive behaviors or even suicidal actions.

     Recognizing this growing concern, www.mantherapy.org has implemented a humorous campaign in an effort to make psychotherapy more approachable for men. This campaign applies a masculine perspective in examining mental health issues that are more specific to the male population. Despite the clear benefit of this campaign, it will require an ongoing effort by those that truly care about the men in their lives to alleviate the stigma that men often experience when expressing emotion or seeking treatment. If you have concerns for your husband, father, brother or son, ask the tough questions, normalize their experience of sadness, grief or anger and encourage them to take a look at resources like Man Therapy, or even to seek support from a mental health specialist.

Starting a conversation can certainly save lives, however this is only the first step towards ensuring psychological wellness for the men in this world. 

     In an effort to further address this collective cultural issue, it is important to reflect on how this cultural norm is reinforced. Young men are raised to be tough and are either directly or indirectly taught that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. Young men are taught to seek out independence rather than relationships and can be stifled in regards to their emotional development. In an effort to address this ongoing cultural issue, we must take a look at how we are raising our male children. Rather than overtly or even covertly reinforcing the suppression of emotion, we must teach all children that it is okay to experience and express emotion. We should encourage children to label their feelings and to talk about why they might be feeling what they are feeling. By enabling our children to develop some degree of emotional intelligence, we can increase a cultural capacity for emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal relationship. In turn, we can hope that issues effecting the male population including substance abuse, domestic violence and suicidality will be on the decline.

     As we deliberately challenge what has become a devastating cultural norm, we can hope to increase the number of male mental health professionals that might help to further address a variety of patriarchal problems that seem to run in every family. Furthermore, by encouraging a cultural shift we can hope that male clients might further seek treatment from a professional whom they are most comfortable working with. It is true that a strong male who is capable of modelling appropriate emotional expression and regulation can very much encourage other men to follow suit.

     Various cultures in the history of the world have thought that tears were a sign of masculinity and strength. It was thought that tears reflected that a man lived by a code of values and cared enough to show this by experiencing emotion in various circumstances. It is very true that vulnerability requires courage, it seems that a man who is capable of expressing emotion might be that much more comfortable with their own masculinity. As I reflect on various positive male role models in my own life, I have great admiration for those that have had respect for emotion and were capable of expressing feeling.

Despite this, it is true that the tough guy stereotype dies hard and it might only be through a collective effort that our culture can strive to improve the mental health of the men in this world. 

     If you or a man in your life is struggling with behavioral or emotional issues, encourage a conversation, validate/normalize their experience and encourage them to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. As with emotion itself, therapy is not a purely feminine domain, therapy can very much take on a no bull shit, tough love perspective that is interwoven with genuine understanding and unconditional positive regard. If you have specific concerns related to men’s mental health, find a therapist that is familiar with and specializes in men’s issues. Finally, check-out some excellent supportive resources such as man therapy or the good men project.

“If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.” 

-Seneca

 

www.mantherapy.org

www.goodmenproject.com

Dancing With Change || Dorothy Wallis

Dancing with Change by Dorothy Wallis

Life is movement, change, and continual transformation.  

If everything stayed the same life would not only be boring, it would cease to exist.  When you are challenged with changes in your life that seemingly “come out of the blue,” or are initiated by external forces or that you are unprepared for, it is natural to put on the brakes and resist.  Sometimes change is hard to understand.   As Alan Watts says, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”   These days I am feeling the quick motion of life sweeping me off my feet into an entirely new realm and the only thing I can do is go with the flow.  Jumping into this river of life can be demanding because it can be so easy and comfortable to stay on the shore of what is known….  

The only Way to make sense out of Change is to Plunge into it,

Move with it, and Join the Dance”  

~ Alan Watts

I’ve had my share of uncomfortable and sad moments with the process of moving out of my home and town that I’ve known for 24 years.  Yet, even this town is not the same as when I first moved here.  It has changed big time.  The slow paced lifestyle of a small country mining town has turned into an upscale hip gathering mecca drawing people into its vortex of dynamic energy.  There are still the hometown parades but now the downtown is buzzing with lively restaurants that are filled every day and hour of the week.  Community has a new face.  The personality of the town has changed reflecting the current wave of lifestyle embodied by a new generation of occupants.  

I realize my nostalgia is for a time that has passed and I am feeling the same pangs for “what was” that my grandmother felt when she left her farm for a half-acre in town.  That was downsizing for her.  Whatever change in breadth and scope of place or circumstance is an adjustment.  The faster pace of life with more cars, more people, houses stacked edge to edge and lack of space is something I am reluctant to face.  Adapt, I must and adapt I will.  

My heart is full even as it aches.  I am cherishing thousands of precious moments of love, beauty, and memories that have added such richness to my life.  I am not the same person that first laid eyes upon this plot of land.  I have grown and changed; my family and friends have grown and changed too.  These eyes have always appreciated the process of creation and growth and I see the beauty in what has transpired not just in the land but mostly in the hearts of my companions and neighbors.  Are we more loving….more caring?  Our shared experience of life has mellowed our hard line ideals.  We have grown together….raised our children, helped one another in times of need, and been involved in giving time and energy to our schools and community, forging an unspoken but deeply felt bond of trust and understanding.  We have matured and learned how to forgive and let go of expectations.  

There is a sense of completion in this phase of life.  One by one the original families that settled in our little hamlet are selling their homes as their grown children venture into the world. Families with young children are moving in. Their spirit infuses these streets with fresh stimulating energy.  I hear the sounds of laughter and giggling as the children play games in the meadow and feel reassured of the continuity of life.  “The beat goes on” with the humming rhythm of the eternal cycle.  What comes next, I do not know.  Life holds the promise of utterly unique metamorphosis and diversity. So, I take the plunge and dance, dance, dance into my beautiful life of infinite possibility.  May you too treasure each incomparable moment, let go of regret, find the power in forgiveness, notice the good, appreciate kindness, see the beauty in the unfolding transformation and dance into the never ending journey of change.


About the Author: Dorothy Wallis

Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice with an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She is an International Spiritual Teacher at the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality.

As a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit, her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.  www.TheDorWay.com and www.Heartfulnesspath.com

Fruits of the Spirit || Lora Cheadle

Fruits of the Spirit

By Lora Cheadle

Ingredients for a Happy Life

I’ve noticed a lot of relationship stuff on Facebook lately. Many of my friends are celebrating anniversaries, several friend’s kids have gotten engaged, and there are always a multitude of articles such as: making others fall madly in love with you, what women are biologically programmed to find attractive in a mate and what all men wish women knew.

Then there was the post from The Onion that my son recently shared. It was entitled, “Study Finds Not Acting Like Total F*&%ing Moron Most Attractive Quality in Potential Mate.” Although the article was satire, it actually made a very important point, which you don’t even need to read the article in order to benefit from. And that is, don’t act like a jerk.

Everyone has Troubles, the Difference is how we Respond to Trouble

Life is hard. For all of us. Nobody goes through live unscathed, no matter what they may say and no matter what you may think. Everyone experiences loss, heart break, devastation, sadness, depression and pain. True, some may seem to have more or less than others, but really, it’s about the same. Everyone experiences hardship. The difference is how we handle that difficulty.

Being Positive For Ourselves

Most people are resilient and most of us like to feel good, so we go ahead and act happy, even when we aren’t. Not to lie, or to put on a false front, but simply so we can feel as good as possible. Because feeling good feels better than feeling bad. So, for whatever period of time that we are out in public, we put on a happy front, and quite often, because of the happy front we’ve put on, we actually feel happier.

Not Burdening Others

Sometimes we also feign happiness for others. There are many situations where it’s not appropriate to say what’s really going on in our lives. For better or for worse, there are things that we just don’t say, and there are things we just don’t want to hear from others.

How would we react if our favorite barista told us that she’s super tired because her husband got drunk last night and woke her up at two in the morning to fight about their credit card bill, which was too high to pay off? What if a co-worker said she was sorry to be so out of sorts, but that she hadn’t felt loved in years, and that the emptiness of a bad marriage sometimes really got her down. What if the checker at the grocery store shared that his grandma is battling cancer and that his ex-wife was bipolar and he is scared to leave the kids with her more often than he was comfortable with because his grandma needed so much help?

In some sense it could be a relief to hear that others had problems too, and it might make us more compassionate, but in another sense, it could unduly burden us. We might think, “What, so now I’m supposed to be late because you can’t get it together?” or “What am I supposed to do with that? Am I supposed to help, offer advice, give you the day off? What do I do now?” Which is why culturally, we just don’t air our dirty laundry!

Everyone Hurts, All the Time

Just because we don’t share our problems, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. We aren’t the only ones with problems and we aren’t the only ones digging deep, putting on a pleasant face and going on with our day to the best of our ability. Everyone else is too.

Which brings us to The Onion article that my son posted on Facebook. The most attractive quality in anyone, not just a potential mate, is not acting like an idiot. Treating everyone with respect, kindness, and with the assumption that everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

It doesn’t matter what kind of a relationship we are talking about either. Whether it’s a long term one or just a fleeting interaction in public, the only thing that matters is how kind we are to each other.

The Common Denominator is Kindness

When I started thinking about my relationships, and what I wanted out of those relationships, I started off with longer lists of qualities. I want friends who are humorous and supportive, who are open minded and loving, but very quickly I saw that those qualities are actually fairly superficial. Yes, I want a partner who is humorous, but I also want one who is serious. I want friends who are supportive but I also need friends who give me my space. Yes, I strongly prefer those who are open minded, but I also deeply appreciate those who have strong beliefs. The common denominator to any of my desired qualities is kindness.

If someone is serious or funny, I want them to be kind with their words. If someone is supportive or aloof, I want them to do it with kindness and gentleness. If someone is committed to their beliefs or open to a multitude of new ideas, as long as they go about it in a kind and gentle way, I’m perfectly fine with whatever they think.

It made me see that living a beautiful, joyful, peaceful life really isn’t that hard. All we have to do is be gentle and kind. To understand that suffering is a universal human quality, and that everyone suffers is all we need to know. To know that it is not our job to change or alleviate this suffering is also helpful. We don’t have to have solutions. We don’t have to find the answer. Literally, all we have to do is be kind and gentle to everyone around us. That’s all.

It reminded me of a wall hanging that a friend gave me when I got married, that was taken from Galatians 5:22-23. It was a row of apothecary jars labeled with the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I always thought of it as the Ingredients for a Happy Life, and although I have failed to use those ingredients, those ingredients have never failed me. Pretty simple recipe, if only we remember to use the right ingredients!


To read more of Lora’s writing, visit her website.

About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here!

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth