Home Concepts Adult Development THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

THE VULNERABILITY OF MEN: SWIMMING UPSTREAM TOWARD INTIMACY

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Past Experiences and Lack of Role Model Causes Shame/Rejection

It is not uncommon for men to grow up lacking the positive and crucial influence of a father figure and male role model in their lives. Even when men have a father figure who is physically present throughout their upbringing, the father may not be emotionally present to meet the needs of the growing son. Frequently, fathers are unable to be emotionally present due to adherence to traditional masculine norms resulting in the inability to express emotion of love and affection towards their sons. He interacts with his sons in a cold and emotionally distant manner. These fathers may feel that inflicting discipline on their sons is more important than anything else and failing to teach their sons such discipline is doing them a disservice – a value that may have been passed on from their own fathers. They rationalized by calling it “tough love”. They end up being highly critical since they believe that being strict and punitive is what will make their son a “real man” in the long run.

These fathers ended up passing on the traditional masculine belief system to their sons. This cycle has continued in many families for generations and is a strongly ingrained pattern between fathers and sons because even in today’s more progressive society, traditional masculinity is still very much alive across cultures, communities, and families.

Men raised by a traditionally masculine father and who, themselves, live by such norms, carry with them much “emotional baggage” that affects many aspects of their lives (e.g., family, friendships, intimate relationships, career, etc.). The influence of this baggage is ever-present with men not realizing that their personal and emotional struggles stem from their upbringing and their constant striving towards satisfying and upholding the image of a man. Men often feel trapped and unable to remove themselves from the powerful hold that traditional masculinity has on them. Some men expressed awareness that they were raised by a cold, emotionally absent, and critical father and this awareness often made them feel that they want to be different in their treatment of their own son (or children). They may end up over-compensating.

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