Men, depression and dealing with the unseen Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
As men we have a lot of demands placed on us in relation to work, family and relationships. The problem is that very few of us are raised to know how to truly deal with these demands.
As men we tend to deal with life based on what we see – the car needs cleaning so we clean it, the lawn needs mowing so we mow it. Whilst addressing what we see is obviously important it is only a very small aspect of life and how to live it.
The much greater aspect of life and the aspect we need to be most equipped for is what we don’t see. Emotions, for example, cannot be seen as such yet as men we are generally not very well equipped on how to deal with them.
Note that emotions are not always expressed outwardly. For example, a person who is frustrated can yell at someone or read a book. The former will make it obvious they are frustrated whereas the latter will show no external symptoms – though the person is frustrated nonetheless.
The reality is this: whether or not we choose to deal with our unresolved emotions is entirely up to us. We can choose to ignore them or even pretend they don’t exist, we can also choose to deal with some emotional issues but not others because they are in the ‘too hard basket’. However the fact is that our unresolved emotions will exist nonetheless, that is, just because we choose to ignore them doesn’t mean they go away.
To think that our unresolved issues will somehow go away if we avoid them long enough is pure illusion and based on ignorance. In reality we will continue to carry them around with us and as a result they actually have an influence in everything we do, in other words our entire quality of life is affected in every way. Whether we externally express our unresolved emotional issues is irrelevant, the fact is they are there and exist much like a festering wound that will not heal. Hence it is poisonous to continue through life and not deal with our issues, in particular our hurts. Only when we choose to address them can they be truly resolved and let go of.
When we do not deal with our emotions the tension from this builds up in our body and then our only alternative is to construct a lifestyle that is about managing the symptoms from not dealing with this tension. Enter all the self-abusive behaviours we know – for the alcohol, the overeating, the entertainment, the pornography etc. are all then used to take the edge off the tension or in some cases to completely numb the tension. Hence the key to addressing any unhealthy behaviours begins in learning to deal with the tension of our unresolved emotional issues.
Living a lifestyle that is about managing the tension is very draining and depleting because it takes a lot of energy to do, and hence it does not take long until a man will feel exhausted. Unfortunately what typically happens next is that a man will start using even more self-abusive behaviours in an attempt to manage the exhaustion. These behaviours are intended to energise the body in anyway such as energy drinks, coffee, sugar, intense exercise, reckless behaviour etc.
Note self-abuse is here being referred to as anything that is not loving, that is, anything that creates a worse situation for a person rather than truly supports them.
When the behaviours to manage the exhaustion fail, and inevitably they do, a man is left with his exhaustion. Typically symptoms of chronic exhaustion include lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating and negative thoughts. Other symptoms can also be apparent including irritability, restlessness and difficulty sleeping.
The above are common symptoms of depression. Hence when a man feels chronically exhausted and is no longer able to manage the symptoms of this he will feel depressed. A man in this state simply does not have the energy to be motivated, to concentrate and have clarity in his life and until his vitality returns nothing will truly change.
The question is as men what are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue with the self-abusive behaviours and just hope for the best? Clearly this approach to life is not working and will never truly work. Life is not about managing symptoms but about addressing the underlying issues, and history has shown that when we don’t deal with our issues life always becomes worse over time. At best we may gain relief or reprieve, we may buy time and seemingly be able to get through life or delay an unwanted outcome, however in the end we rob ourselves of the true quality and vitality in life we innately deserve. At what point will we say enough is enough and be true examples to our younger generations so that they do not repeat the same old ways resulting in the same old miseries?
In short the only way to truly live as a man in this world is to learn how to deal with the unseen, which, for example, is to learn how to deal with our own and others’ emotions. When a man learns how to live in this way, without perfection, he is truly equipped to be able to handle life. It is a forever refining process and approach to living that is both truly informing and deeply enriching. It is then that a man becomes truly useful in life - not only able to fix the lawn mower but also equally understand the dynamics going on between his daughters at home.
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.