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Dear Therapist: Am I Not “Man Enough” Because I Cry in Therapy?

Creator:
Published:
May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024
Read how this therapist addresses the male mental health stigma from our "Dear Therapist" series.

Dear therapist,

There is a dire issue surrounding men's mental health. Because we don't talk about what's bothering us. We just bottle it all up and bury it deep until it feels like we can no longer take it.

There seems to be a bad vibe about men going to therapy. At least that is my POV. And my generation is going downhill fast with our world in flames (pandemic, recessions, housing market). So we need to talk things out, no?

But I've heard we don't need therapy because "men don't go to therapy."

Should I feel guilty that I go? That I'm not "man enough" for crying in therapy over trauma that has built up for years? That I can feel peace for the first time in a long time? And as if a 100-pound dumbbell was lifted off my chest?

— A Man Who Wants to Break the Stigma

Dear Man Who Wants to Break the Stigma,

You are so right to point out an urgent need to break stigma around men and therapy. Within and outside of our faith-based settings, there can be narratives that “men don’t cry,” “men are less emotional,” or “don’t go to therapy.” When men do cry and allow themselves to feel their emotions, let alone admit the need for support along the way through therapy, friendship, etc., there is a sense that they are being “feminine” “weak” or “soft.”

This messaging disproportionately robs men of access to therapy and is very problematic. Men are much more likely to die-by-suicide, especially as they enter middle age, and suffer immensely with depression, anxiety, job dissatisfaction, panic attacks, substance use issues and compulsive behaviors. Despite these symptoms being treatable, countless men only step foot in therapy when it’s gotten so bad that functioning is significantly impaired, or a family member or circumstance demands it. This only reinforces the belief that “men who go to therapy are weak, broken, or deficient, because we often feel weak, broken, and deficient when we are suffering.

Guilt is an emotion meant to signal when we have acted against our values or have harmed others in some way. Excessive guilt is what we feel when we do something wise and for our good that we’ve been taught we “shouldn’t” do. Therapy, for you, and countless men I work with, is a way to live in accordance with values of health, purpose, faith, etc. Therapy is a good for society and for the individual communities we live in. You will likely feel guilt for your work in therapy because of the stigma you are actively working to break. That will release as you continue to see the fruit your therapy will bear as your peace, insight, and healing unfolds.

I often remind male clients that the perfect man, Jesus Christ, didn’t just cry – He wept. If you want to grow in virtue and Christlikeness, the path involves being willing to connect to the full range of human emotions safely. This includes connecting to your tears, your powerlessness, your inefficacy, as much as your joy, your peace, and your hope.

To be unimpacted by suffering is to cease to be human. We don’t need more men who are disconnected from their humanity. We need more men like Christ.

The men I admire most go to therapy. I am honored to count you among them.

— Dr. Julia Sadusky

Creators:
Grotto, Julia Sadusky
Published:
May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024
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