The psychology of men, and why traumatized men frequently need to develop an authentic sense of self-worth during the recovery process.
Men and Self-Worth
They way we perceive ourselves affects the way we interact with others; it affects our motivation, our development of life goals… pretty much every aspect of our lives. At a young age, we develop a sense of who we are as individuals. This sense continues to grow and change into adulthood. If all goes well, and we are products of secure attachment and an emotionally nurturing upbringing, we will probably develop a stable sense of self-esteem and self-worth. If something happens along the way to interfere with our development (such as childhood abuse or a traumatic event), our sense of self-identity may suffer significantly.
Self-acceptance breeds self-worth. In order to fully grasp our inherent value, we must first accept ourselves as we are – imperfect and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, self-acceptance can be quite difficult to master in today’s society. We are creatures of comparison; we constantly size ourselves up against others, and judge our own performance based on the successes and failures of our peers. When it comes to women, this constant comparison is largely physical. Mainstream media incessantly reminds women of their weight and their wrinkles; their clothing and accessories. A thin, attractive, well-dressed woman is valued more than her poor, overweight counterpart. Isn’t she?
When in comes to men, societal value is often determined by skill set; what unique proficiencies he brings to the group. This is especially true in male-dominated organizations such as the military, professional sporting teams, and the police force. In organizations such as these, skill sets will often prove to be far more important than personality (or personal well-being). Physical abilities will certainly prove more important than emotional or mental health.
Men and The Group Mentality
Every group – religious, political, athletic – believes that they are inherently better than all of their non-members. When it comes to politics and sports, members believe that they are better than their opponents. When it comes to religion, members believe that they are better than the outsiders – those who do not conform to their standards of living. (They may preach otherwise, but human psychology attributes itself to a certain level of piousness.) This is how it has always been. Interestingly enough, however, while being part of a specific group is often enough for women, men must work hard to establish themselves within their group in order to feel valued. Many men also strive to become members of a group that holds more perceived worth than others. While a woman may be perfectly content on the PTA Board, a man may struggle with feelings of insignificance unless he does something more drastic, like becoming an active soldier (part of a group that is honored beyond many predominantly-male organizations). This could be contributed to a variety of different factors.
Let us first revisit the impact that childhood abuse or traumatic experiences have on men. Men are often taught that emotional vulnerability equals weakness, which in turn translates to emasculation and a decrease in societal worth. When men undergo trauma, they are inclined to deny or ignore their emotional pain for fear of judgment. This pain does not dissipate over time – rather, it festers internally until a flashback or trigger pulls it to the surface, where it erupts in the form of anger, risk-taking (which could include drug or alcohol abuse), or any other variety of self-destructive behaviors. Grappling with unresolved emotional pain leads to a sense of isolation and insecurity, which, when coupled with the blow to self-worth that the trauma initially caused, can further lead to a desire to be valued. Somehow. In any way possible.
Why not become a high-ranking member of a distinctive group? Maybe join the military… maybe join a gang. The problem is, of course, no external involvement will adequately heal an internal issue. In order to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, trauma must be resolved, and a genuine sense of self-worth and innate value must be instilled.
Our Inherent Value
As human beings, we are valuable simple because we are – because we exist.
Self-acceptance, as a principle, implies that there are no evil people – only unfavorable behaviors. Of course, we must take responsibility for our behaviors. If we engage in enough destruction, society will hold us accountable. But ultimately, the choice is ours. In many instances, the trauma that we undergo during childhood will lead to lasting, negative core beliefs. If we are emotionally invalidated (as many men are), we may grow up believing that we are undeserving of compassion or positive attention. We may grow up believing that in order to be ‘real men’, we must deny our own passionate pursuits (and ultimate happiness) in order to provide for our families. Our value as men is determined by our ability to provide and protect. If we cannot do this, we look for value elsewhere. In organizations – in our skills. In what we can bring to the table physically.
Recovery begins when we accept that we are innately flawed, and that we are allowed to experience emotional upset. We are allowed to be sad, and we are allowed to experience grief. We are intrinsically valuable, and our sense of self-worth is born from internal fulfillment rather than external accomplishment.
Our program of trauma and addiction recovery focuses on instilling men with a vital sense of self-value, which stems from an underlying sense of self-acceptance. For more information on our male-exclusive program, please feel free to call us at 561-563-8407.