Boys are issued this message when they are small.
Men, just like women, are caught in their own double bind. Scarcity has grabbed hold of our culture,
"the never have enough syndrome," and it's not just "don't be perceived as weak," it's
"you better be great and powerful!"
We ask men to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in, and we pleased with them to tell us when they are afraid, but the truth is, that most women can't stomach it. In these moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust. And men are very smart. They know the risks and they see the look in our eyes when we are thinking, "C'mon! Pull it together. Man up!"
Not to oversimplify something as complex as the response to shame,
but when it comes to men, there seem to be two primary responses:
pissed off or shut down.
Like women, men develop shame resilience, this changes,
and men learn to respond to shame
with awareness, self-compassion, and empathy.
But without awareness, when men feel that rush of inadequacy and smallness,
they normally respond
with anger and/or by completely turning off.
I asked another therapist,
a man, about the concept of
"pissed off or shut down, "
he told me this story to illustrate the point.
When he was a freshman in high school, he tried out and made the football team. On the first day of practice, his coach told the boys to line up on the line of scrimmage. The therapist had grown up playing a lot of football in his neighborhood, but this was his first experience on a field, in full pads, across from boys whose goal was to flatten him.
He said, "I was suddenly afraid.
I was thinking about how much it was going to hurt,
and I guess that fear showed up on my face."
He said his coach yelled his last name and said,
"Don't be a pussy! Get on the line!"
He said he immediately felt shame coursing through his body.
"In that single moment, I became very clear about how the world works
and what it means to be a man."
I am not allowed to be afraid.
I am not allowed to show fear.
I am not allowed to be vulnerable.
Shame is being afraid,
showing fear or being vulnerable.
When I asked him what he did next, he looked me in the eye and said,
"I turned my fear into rage and steamrolled over the guy in front of me.
It worked so well that I spent the next twenty years
turning my fear and vulnerability
into rage and steamrolling anyone who was across from me.
My wife. My children. My employees.
There was no other way out from underneath the fear and shame."
Shame resilience --- is about finding a middle path.
An option that allows us to stay engaged
and to find the emotional courage
we need to respond in a way that aligns with our values.
Teach our boys and men
vulnerability which takes courage
and the ability to find their honest voice.
Daring Greatly - Brene Brown