One of the challenges for therapists who work with men is to identify the symptoms and chart the treatment for the men who come to their practices with a new vision of men and masculinity.
More specifically the concept of mascupathy, which is based on the understanding that socialized masculinity is itself diseased—in other words, pathological—and is the source of many of the symptoms that men exhibit in treatment.
The following are some ways to determine if mascupathy is affecting you, and how to find help if it is.
In society, men are expected to appear tough and invulnerable. This unrealistic social construct of masculinity affects men's psyches and is the source of externalized symptoms, such as aggression or defensiveness, as well as acting out behavior which commonly includes excessive use of substances, non-relational sex, angry outbursts, and other emotional distancing. Recognizing that these types of externalized symptoms are products of societal pressures is the first step in understanding how to treat male clients. For women, understanding these tendencies in many men can help in improving relationships. Understanding men’s psyches provides a template for better relationships.
Mascupathic men are blunted in their ability to establish and maintain open, authentic, and intimate connections with others. They seldom share feelings with others—especially other men. They also engage in one-up-man-ship and hyper-competitiveness which undermines trusting and open relationships. You can make behavioral change if you participate in experiential group therapy with other men where you will learn honest self-disclosure, reflective listening, and empathy. Once you incorporate these values, you will be able to use these healthier behaviors beyond the confines of the group room and establish more open-hearted relationships.
Mascupathic men are not willing to self-disclose. Many believe, or have been taught through life experience, that showing weakness will result in ridicule and scorn. For example, most men are unwilling to admit feelings of shame, anxiety, or loneliness because of fear of appearing weak, helpless, or feminine. In experimental group therapy, you can affirm one another for disclosure and honesty, and you can incorporate these values in your relationships outside of the group.
Through socialization, men learn that introspection is reserved for women and consider emotions to be a waste of time. One of the hallmarks of mental health and gratifying relationships is self-awareness. Many men have virtually no consciousness of their thoughts and feelings, and are therefore at the mercy of those thoughts and feelings. They are emotionally lost. Through therapy you can learn to identify distorted thinking and destructive feelings, which will increase your ability to create more life-fulfilling interaction with others.
Since mascupathy is a socialized disorder, it is important for you to rediscover healthy manhood in the presence of other men. Group therapy helps men develop healthy relationships. Most men are, of course, adverse to treatment; especially treatment in a group setting with other men. For example, one person who was a police officer said he’d rather chase an armed criminal down an alley than sit in a group of men and talk about feelings.
Fortunately, some men are mandated by the courts to go to group therapy after conviction for domestic violence, assault, or drunk driving and, although initially resistant, they usually open themselves to the program of accountability and compassion. Other men come voluntarily when their lives become so emotionally painful that they realize they must find a way to change their thinking, feeling, and behavior.
When men demonstrate feminine qualities, such as openness or dependence, they may be told by their fathers or other male figures that they fall short of the expectations of manhood. These reminders may cause men to feel shame for exhibiting their emotions. Partners should affirm men for behavior which is traditionally seen as feminine—compassion, conciliation, and open-heartedness, but group therapy needs to be the primary agent of change.
Mascupathic men who suppress their emotions are often filled with shame and may even act out in violent behavior. Share your concerns, fears, and even joys with your significant other, another in group therapy, or someone who you can trust to be a listener, not a critic.
Mascupathic men have a long personal history of adhering to a socialized version of masculinity that is aggressive, tough, and invulnerable. Learning to relate to your friends and family in new ways takes time and positive encouragement. While partners may help with the process of change, change can be most likely to happen if the individual finds a new man-pack in group therapy, one that provides new and different messages. The ancient and still powerful man-pack taught men toughness and invulnerability. The new man-pack in a men’s therapy group setting provides men with an environment in which you replace competition with conciliation, hierarchy with egalitarianism, and aggression with assertiveness.
Many characteristics common in men, such as aggression and defensiveness, are signs of the newly-developed concept of mascupathy. To redefine the concept of masculinity, it is important for you to learn new, healthy ways of relating to others that encourage self-disclosure, connectedness, and emotional expression.
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