Written by: Ian Whitelaw, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The societal rules and regulations for men that are unwritten yet eerily followed to the letter have not served us within the fabric of the male collective ‒ we are supposed to be smarter, faster, stronger, more powerful, better fixers, and "leaders of men." As a therapist, my main focus is to provide guidance, peace, non-judgment, and understanding to the issues facing men.
It is not fair to say that women do not have the same issues and thoughts ‒ they certainly do – it's just that the perspective of the lens with which men view things can have a slightly different hue.
If we dare admit that we have thoughts of insecurity, never being enough, somehow not on the level with our partner, it is a feeding ground for problems and uncertainty.
These rules exist and have an impact on relationships and important communication everywhere.
I am using this forum to bring forth and share my own experiences as a male.
Boys learn these behaviors and "rules" early on from their fathers who learn them from their fathers ‒ I certainly learned my sense of the rules from my father – an insecure and barely functioning alcoholic where I heard things like "it was good enough for them." It served to solidify my grandfather's role in the family tree experience. I watched and mirrored the actions of "male behavior" – I heard how my father would talk to and treat my mother (she being a severely wounded and distressed woman who lived her own life marred with guilt and shame) ‒ this imprinted itself upon my psyche. I learned that it was not okay to cry, feel hurt, talk about anything or show any sense of vulnerability. Imprinted in my being was a set of rules for male behavior that became evident for me to experience ‒ here are some examples:
My father needed space to spend time fishing with his friends.
He had to experience his nights out to enjoy drinking with his buddies.
He had to have his weekends of "male bonding" with his buddies while his wife stayed home and looked after the children.
It was all right with him to play golf on the way to their vacation. His wife and kids wouldn't mind watching from the clubhouse or taking two cars.
Getting hopelessly drunk and coming home whenever he wanted was acceptable.
Being deprived of the above due to his wife's objections would affect his sense of masculinity.
In retrospect, it had been reduced and abandoned long before.
These examples show the level of influence by the aspect of communication. Sentences like "you'd better not tell your mother" or "it's nothing to do with you, you are too young" became ingrained in my psyche.
In addition, he showed me the behavioral patterns of addiction – patterns that I would mirror all too well in my years of acting out as an addict leading to the widening of the gaps in my relationships.
The following thoughts and ideas come from my research, my work with clients, and my life's journey as a man based on my healing evolution and experiences.
The definition of communication in Webster's Dictionary is "an exchange of information between persons." If only it were that simple.
There are many ways to communicate – verbally/audibly, non-verbally/silently, passively, aggressively, doubtfully, positively, negatively – the list is long.
There are two aspects to communication: the sender and the receiver ‒ both are significant and distinctly different. Further aspects to consider are:
and the how.
The "what" is the information to be shared.
My research has shown that men tend to edit or judge the information to share or have the receiver hear it in a suitable way that "works" and is "successful."
An example of the "sender" might be as follows:
Man: "I would like to let you know that I can't make our dinner date tonight because I will be late."
(He will be late because his buddy is flying in from out of town and needs a ride home. Telling her of his being late ‒ that is true ‒ it's just missing some vital information).
His friend's feelings take priority ‒ he doesn't want his friend to think he is under his wife's thumb.
An example of the "receiver" might be as follows:
Woman: "But I made reservations that took a week to get."
She feels a trigger within herself become active because of her prior experiences and the feelings it invokes.
Man: "I can't help it ‒ I shouldn't be more than half an hour late." (He makes up the 30 minutes attempting to minimize the degree of lateness, knowing it will take much longer to pick up his friend and drive him home).
Woman: She has a strong sense of timing and knows it is never 30 minutes ‒ further elevating her level of stress as well as her feelings of being worthy enough for her partner to follow through with his commitment.
It illustrates an example of minimized and edited information ‒ a disaster for both individuals.
The "what" is the information to be shared with his partner ‒ knowing what he needs to communicate ‒ a common experience in his relationship.
The "where" occurs by the telephone and is the safest option.
If things start to go wrong, he can always facilitate a fight ‒ either of them can terminate the call.
The "why" is that he believes he is obligated to say something to his partner ‒ doing so might mean she won't be "so" mad or unhappy.
An inner disturbance manifests because he is not in alignment with his inner self, thus creating anxiety for him.
The "when" is at the last minute though he has known about his decision to pick up his buddy ‒ feeling it is critical not to allow her too much time to think about it and have her thoughts about her experience with him ‒ it is too late to change it or cancel.
And finally, the "how" ‒ the single most significant aspect of communication in my experience ‒ awareness of our actions and thoughts from the perspective of the "how" help in seeing our thoughts translate into ‒ facilitating change and healing of our inner patterning, the full embrace of the "how" is the main element.
Honesty, truth, empathy, and compassion are seen simply by recognizing the "how."
1. Cancelling plans with his wife is not uncommon for him. His powerlessness over the story makes changing his behaviors seem impossible to face.
2. He does not consider how she would feel about the change of plans before he decides to alter his plans with her. Her sense of importance disappears down the rabbit hole as she experiences feelings of hurt and the loss of her value.
3. He is more concerned with how his friend sees him and is willing to allow his wife to suffer. That is better than feeling like he is "under her thumb and has to do as she says or else"…
4. Leaving out the information as to the "why" suits him and allows him to conclude that he will be there, just a "small bit late." He would be a "lot late" or miss it entirely. Then he would be a powerless victim felt by the wounded inner child that lives inside him (we all have inner children with wounds to some degree). This viewpoint has virtually no idea about reality or truth – it is a made-up construct that suits the moment, based upon the level of hurt and the size of the wound of the inner child.
5. He may have a sense of reality that says the needs of the man are more valuable than those of the woman ‒ a learned behavior, generally from our parents or adult role models who influenced our childhood experiences. There is more than enough evidence of this being true in our society – men make more money than women in the workplace. In general, women make 80 cents on the dollar. Heaven forbid if the woman is black, brown, or a minority that is NOT white. The percentages plummet in these areas. Subconsciously, "it's okay there – why not in my relationship."
6. Communication is not manly. There are countless role models that men attach themselves to in their lives – their fathers, sports figures, and the "strong, silent" type on television and film. The modeling of this notion of communication not being something a man ought to do leads to suffering and inner conflict within the relationship. Men strive to be wise, powerful, intelligent, and to know the right thing to do to "fix it." He feels that if he told her all the details, it would open the door for things to unfold differently.
7. Edited communications are better than no communications ‒ "She doesn't need to know all the facts" takes over the dialogue. It allows for success.
He is willing to feel whatever feelings of stress and anxiety come along – he is used to experiencing this and is in acceptance of its existence. Knowledge is power. If he has all the details and she has just a few, he feels more powerful and capable of navigating the morass of potential problems.
“Communicate. Even when it’s uncomfortable or uneasy. One of the best ways to heal is simply getting everything out and if you live bitterly, you live a lonely existence.” ‒ Terence Real
My scenario is common in relationships in our world as it is presently. How then do we make this scenario shift?
First, both parties must want the changes to occur. There has to be willingness and acceptance of the realities that exist and must be examined but never judged.
Second, for a change to occur, acknowledgment is essential. Our ability to recognize the consequences of our unhealthy communication plays a big part in creating new patterns and experiences in the relationship.
Third, the feelings associated with shame and guilt have no place in the "soup of change."
Therefore, we must do what we can to create a healthy and clean space because we need a place to keep our thoughts of shame and guilt until we have the means to release and let them go.
The fourth aspect is to nourish the sense of empathy for the other person in the relationship. It is thinking as a "we" rather than an "I."
In my own experience, I found it much easier to see things clearly when I observed the experiences from the "we" as opposed to the "I" (something I was most comfortable with for a long time).
The fifth aspect is the one ready to implement the changes. The choices that reflect our core beliefs hide behind past wounds and protective armors that stop us from shining or allowing positive feelings about ourselves and our choices. Healing means coming to terms with what our inner core values are. The moment of truth when we see them would be an example of the "Ah-Ha!" moment.
The sixth and final aspect is to realize that the opinions of others have nothing to do with who we are. The choices we can make from our inner wisdom allow for more confidence and power.
I propose the following as a healthy alternative:
1. The man plans with his wife to meet right after work at a time and place they previously agreed on. Meeting his wife rather than picking up his buddy would allow him to feel confident about his choice and ability to honor his plan that supports his personal core belief.
2. Before making the call to his wife, he plays out his options. He either gives his power away to the situation and feels unable to change or stop it or uses empathy and puts himself in his wife's shoes. He senses her feeling of loss and her sense of not being enough. His choice to honor his plans with her creates his sense of power and respect for himself.
3. He realizes that his relationship with his buddy could suffer if he does not pick him up. His decision, however, is aligned with his inner values and beliefs. He recognizes that if his relationship with his buddy changed due to his alignment with his inner core values, it would mean that his relationship with his buddy is unhealthy. He feels that showing up for his wife is aligned with his connection to his inner values and creates more value.
4. He feels a sense of joy and anticipation deep within himself. He knows he will enjoy a relaxing, easy, and deep feeling of fulfillment with his wife at their dinner.
5. His actions happen without fanfare or acknowledgment for what he gave up to meet with her. He has a team of friends or confidants with whom he can share his feelings. In other words, he would not need to tell her that "Joe came to town today and asked me for a ride home but I told him no"… This is a form of communication that often gets neglected and can create uncertainty and disconnects along the way.
6. With the feelings of connection shared by both, an energetic flow of endless possibilities is born, strengthening the relationship. This flow allows this behavioral choice to repeat, bringing a deep sense of trust and inner strength.
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. When they can give and receive without judgment”. –Brene Brown
In conclusion, I feel we need to bring a sense of equality and acceptance into the topic of communication within the relationship. We can all do our part in raising our collective awareness of how we choose to communicate our feelings and broadcast our energetic stream to the world. We can choose to be more mindful and aware of our children and model behaviors that reflect our sense of acceptance and equality in all areas. If we don't commit to doing what we can to heal the wreckage of our past that lies dormant and untended, something could stir it into our present moment and bring it back to its original trauma. We can instill a willingness to heal our inner wounds by recognizing the pain and suffering we have been carrying with us since childhood. Then we allow our inner child to become healed and whole, thus bringing their true purpose to our lives – joy, wonder, excitement, and fun. All of this is possible – the only ingredient needed is the willingness to begin the journey.
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Ian Whitelaw, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Ian’s healing transformational process and life experience and expertise has contributed to his powerful insights and intuitive abilities to support men towards creating strong, healthy and fulfilling relationships, healing and transforming old patterns and beliefs into new ways of thinking and feeling. Ian understands that earlier years of challenges can cause layers of hurt, fear, doubt and shame and is an expert in dealing with the wounds of the inner child by identifying the source to safely transcend and heal. Ian Whitelaw is passionate about specializing in men’s issues because of the challenges they face with conditioning and patterns that are detrimental to them and the health of their relationships.