Connecting with Men

Another month/season is flying past us! Each one brings everyone new challenges. Lately, we’ve seen adult men-both single and in family relationships- facing the challenges of post-Covid life.

According to a May article in the New York Times “traditional” male characteristics of stoicism, competitiveness, and aggressiveness, for example, may be what’s creating the phenomena of men disproportionately falling behind women in pursuing higher education; of men with higher levels of drug overdoses and suicide.

In the era of Covid-isolation, spouses struggled to maintain a sense of individual identity along with their previously established family roles, often in the confinement of their homes.

Is it possible, then, that the role of patriarchal provider has been challenged? The writer of the NYT story proposed that there’s a different, healthier view of masculinity to adopt. Rudyard Kipling, that incredible poet, described it in his poem, “If.” It’s the one about accepting setbacks as part of life; staying calm amidst the storm, rebuilding, enduring gains and losses with equanimity…and in the midst of it all not losing your self-respect; in fact, quite the opposite! He’s not describing stoicism; he’s describing courage to keep going when we’re actually scared to do just that!

This probably explains why I have had more male clients reach out (maybe because David is on my team!) and say things are not going well, and getting to the vulnerable place of self-reflection and self-awareness. One of my most effective tools is Dr. Lindsay Gibson’s “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents.” Clients are actually reading the entire book–quite the commitment to healing–and these clients are revising the qualities they model for our frightened children: Empathy and unconditional acceptance, just for starters.

Working on yourself is so much more difficult than trying to fix everyone else (remember one of my favorite videos?)!

As we continue to encourage self-reflection, it’s worth mentioning the impact social media has on us-the adults. While we scroll on Facebook (That is, for those of us over 30; Tik tok, Snapchat, and YouTube are still the rage), we’re modeling the behaviors we want our children to rise above. It’s easy to rationalize: We’re not spending the amount of time on it that they are! Why don’t they leave their rooms?

In terms of social media, I very limitedly embraced TikTok and Instagram this summer when my older son began helping me with my two accounts. He has made some videos and posts with my content, putting together messages (Take a look!).

However, in my office it is a different story. I have written articles and supplied quotes for years on the anecdotals from clients where it has made their lives substantially worse, sad, and even chaotic. No surprise at all that kids are self-diagnosing inaccurately on TikTok and I can substantiate how alarming some of the videos are that my clients watch and then emulate.

What seems like a byproduct of scrolling is that “The Week” magazine last week cited a French study from 2022 showing that the percentage of young adults having sex has dropped, and while porn consumption is one reason, scrolling is giving them a better ego boost than sex! Hmmmm…if younger adults have resorted to it in spite of their higher hormone levels, what does that say about “process addictions” (shopping, gambling, etc.) across generations?

More on that later, when we talk about Dopamine as the feel-good chemical in our brains. Till then, we hope you’re feeling content, enjoying summer activities that allow us to (re)connect, of course!

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Lynn Zakeri

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