Why Are Guys SO Afraid of Counseling?
By Dwight Bain
Face it. All people have problems, not just women. Yet, the research shows the majority of people who seek professional counseling are female. In fact the majority of counselors are now women, (over 60%).
· Does this mean women have more problems than men?
· Does it mean women really are the “weaker” sex?
Or does it mean women are just more honest because they are being healthier by working on problems instead of ignoring them?
This process may explain why men tend to struggle with addictions to sports, alcohol, pornography, gambling, violence or drugs more than women do. Simply put a healthy person seeks out wise counsel when facing a challenge and an unhealthy person tries to figure it out by themselves. Here are the most common reasons men avoid counseling situations.
1. Pride, “I’m not the problem- everybody else is”
2. Fear of their problems being exposed “for the world to see”
3. Fear of being seen as “Weak” by not being able to solve all their problems alone
4. Fear of Criticism or feeling ashamed
5. Pain avoidance, basically “I don’t want to go to a place where they might make me cry”
6. Humbling to ask others for help, (not a good idea if you are facing major back surgery, right?)
7. Financial fears – with thoughts like, “Why do I have to pay to bleed out?” Or “Why should I pay a stranger to do what I know I should be doing anyway?” (Note – attending the average professional sporting event costs 3-30 times more than the cost of a professional counseling session. One challenges your thinking the other gives you a few hours to not think about anything. Guess which one the average guy will pick?)
8. Not having time, or saying they don’t have time to seek help, yet the average man spends over 20 hours per week watching sporting events on TV.
9. Big fear of the “Last stop” which is the insecurity of feeling like you have burned through every friend and now no one wants to listen to you talk about issues anymore. Basically everyone has given up on you.
10. Being “Numb” to life and forgetting how it feels to feel normal, or feel good, or feel joy inside, so the goal is to stay numb by not thinking or feeling anything important… or another version of this is to be able to talk about the entire batting averages of some guy they will never meet to avoid having to learn the names of their own child’s teachers. Major discussions about highly detailed financial markets, yet cannot ever remember the date of their own wedding anniversary.
11. Negative Expectations – “it won’t get better – so why even try?
12. Being listed as “Crazy” or being perceived as having a mental illness.
This one is interesting since the American Psychiatric Association is releasing a new guide to outline the diagnosable mental health issues in the United States. The results do not look promising. Early indicators point to 10% of the population have some form of diagnosable mental illness while 40% have emotional issues in varying degrees of severity. You have to wonder which half you and the people you work around are in, since the APA suggests that people who don’t seek out professional therapy when needed are actually the emotionally unhealthy ones. And you guessed it… it’s not women who skip out on seeking insight and emotional management, it’s the guys.
So should everyone go to counseling? Yes, but not all the time. Think of it like going to the Dentist, Chiropractor, Eye Doctor or Car Mechanic. You go to fix or maintain something in preventing bigger problems. Same with most counseling- It’s a short term approach to prevent long term problems. But it takes getting honest about issues, and that is a place where a lot of guys don’t want to go. They would take down a terrorist to protect their family, but when it comes to facing their own selfishness, or anger, or lust, or confronting a rebellious teenager or a controlling in-law, they act like scared babies and hide.
The Biggest Problem Men face
The biggest obstacle men face isn’t usually their actual problems. It’s simply admitting they have them. Actually admitting you have a problem isn’t easy, but it is the beginning to solving it.
The odd thing is that most guys like to “fix” everything for others. You know, tinkering with the lawn mower to make it start again, or rebooting a computer, or plugging leaks under the sink, or working on the router to get the Wi-Fi back up… you name it, most guys will try to fix it… unless it’s about improving them or their relationships. Seems backward doesn’t it? Actually it’s not. Fixing the car doesn’t require opening up your heart to possible hurt, rejection or criticism. Car’s don’t ask hard questions like when a son asks his father, “Why is it okay for you to watch bad TV, but it’s not okay for me?” Cars just sit there and don’t talk, think, feel or challenge a guy’s thinking.
Virginia Woolfe said, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” So understanding emotions are healthy to express, but may cause you to feel helpless in the beginning of the process is normal. To express negative emotions through journaling, talking or praying is a powerful start, but honestly looking at issues in light of the example of Christ is the most transformational. Deep spiritual insight creates major emotional change.
Here’s a thought, What if the Clutter in a guy’s car, was an actual reflection of the clutter in his mind? While there are no psychological studies to show the connection between messy cars and mental concentration, it is true that greater self-awareness leads to greater self-improvement.
It is a direct 1:1 correlation, which is why you always have to change you before you can change anyone else. This is especially true in marriage, yet many guys make blaming their wife or kids for their problems an art form. The sad reality is their wife and kids know that dad has problems too, but also know he would rather die than admit to any weakness.
So how can guys break out of the pattern of being average to become emotionally healthy? Simple, just follow these four principles.
1. Face it
2. Feel it
3. Grieve it
To face it is to get honest, to make it real. Since once you know you need to work on something like explosive anger, you now have to do something about it, or you have to lie and cover up. Guess which one most guys pick?
To feel it is to allow emotions to be expressed in a non-violent or non-threatening way. Since most guys learned how to “suck it up and be a man” which translated means “shut up” they don’t know how to describe what they are feeling. But they know how to be angry. That’s why anger is the most common emotion for men to express. They aren’t allowed to cry anywhere except their mother’s funeral, but they can be mad anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
To grieve it is to release the regrets of the past, face and feel the mistakes, take ownership for wrongs and to move forward in character development. This process leads to the final stage which is growth. A growing man will manage emotions instead of just stuff them. This is actually quite prudent since he will become more secure in himself to then lead his family in truth and that’s a good trade.
God wants men to be strong leaders. Not passive couch potatoes. If you are a guy let this article challenge you to lead your family in truth; if you are the woman in the life of a guy who blame shifts a lot, then it’s just about time for a real honest talk. Will he change? Will he take ownership to really be different? You won’t know until you ask.
About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.
Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeworksGroup.org