Men, tenderness and the opposite of abuse: But are we ready for it?
Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
History is unfortunately riddled with horrendous forms of abuse committed by men. Today we are still plagued by frequent acts of physical and psychological abuse by men which has an ongoing and devastating effect on the quality of our lives and communities everywhere. Domestic violence is now extremely common within families, not to mention the violence we see in pubs and nightclubs along with intense road rage and offensive language that can play out in public.
Is it not time to truly put an end to this abuse?
Men are not naturally abusive, and so where does the road to abuse truly begin? And as a society how can we offer foundations that truly support men to not only not become abusive but to maintain the tenderness that is their natural expression?
We ought to remember that abuse involves extreme acts that occur as a result of a man choosing to not live true to himself for a long time. Hence much can be addressed well before a man becomes abusive, if as a society we are truly willing to eradicate it.
We know babies and very young boys are by nature super sensitive, and there is generally some acceptance of this during this time. Yet at the same time from the moment a boy is born, society places an expectation on him that says ‘a boy must become a man’, although this ‘man’ does not allow for sensitivity and tenderness. The boy is essentially asked to leave behind these innate qualities and dare not express them if he wants membership into the world of ‘men’.
Is it possible that the road to abuse first occurs when a boy chooses to begin toning down or in some case shutting down his natural sensitivity?
If we do not accept men as naturally very sensitive, and nurture and foster their sensitivity in every way, are we not rejecting their natural nature and asking if not demanding they be hard, tough, or rough? Do we have a responsibility to support men to live their natural qualities if we truly do not want to live in a world where sometimes men can become abusive? Whilst men are absolutely responsible if they choose to be abusive, we ought to foster men to live naturally rather than allowing if not expecting them to be who they are not. And if we have an issue with men being sensitive, have we asked ourselves why? In other words, what do we get to avoid dealing with by keeping men desensitised?
This is a big question and one that we ought to deeply consider.
It is easy to say that we don’t want violent men but the real question is do we want men who are caring, tender and sensitive?
Surely the answer to that is a no-brainer.
But is it?
When a mother frets that her boy isn’t tough enough on the football field, or if she feels concerned that he won’t ‘survive’ in the world if he keeps crying when he gets hurt, what is she communicating to him?
Or, when a woman is turned on by a man who treats her with disinterest, what is she saying about how a man should behave towards her?
Could it be that women can avoid dealing with their lack of self-worth and childhood issues related to their father as long as men do not express their sensitivity? For when a man is truly tender with a woman, his presence asks her to surrender to her own gorgeousness. But if she has not cherished herself, if instead she has lived in the lack of self worth of berating herself and putting herself down, then this will understandably be confronting.
And sadly in some cases, abuse by a man can be a more familiar option for a woman than the love she actually deserves.
Many women have great difficulty with accepting tenderness and sensitivity in men to varying degrees because it can bring up issues around not being held so tenderly by their own fathers.
And what of men’s reactions to other men that express tenderness and sensitivity? Could it be that it is too painful a reflection because it brings up the deep regret of having left their innate qualities behind to join a mere construct of what it is ‘to be a man.’
For both men and women, if we do not deal with the hurts that come up through the reflection of tenderness and sensitivity in men then we are defaulting to choosing ‘not-tenderness’, but not-tenderness is not a thing, so in its place we get what we later will have issue with. In essence we are choosing roughness, stand-offishness, rogueishness – in other words, and in the long term, we are choosing ‘abuse'.
Hence if both women and men appear to have something to gain by keeping men desensitized, is there not a big game going on here? Whilst on the one hand we all want to live in an abuse-free society, we also want to continue avoiding dealing with our unresolved issues. In essence we want our cake and to eat it too.
Perhaps we each have a responsibility to reflect far more honestly about how we conduct ourselves and to accept that we are all playing a part in keeping abuse within society. Whilst some may be acting more obviously abusive than others, we ought to consider how as a society we are allowing or enabling this way of living to continue and what we personally have to gain by keeping society the way it currently is.
In this way we will redefine what ‘abuse’ actually means, as we begin to address the more subtle underlying issues that provide the bedrock for its more extreme outplays to occur.
If enough of us do this, we will begin to eradicate the more extreme acts of abuse once and for all, and then eventually, the more subtle forms as well.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.