My brother was 5 when he got hurt while playing cricket. Blood started oozing out of his wound and he was crying. My granny tried shushing him while cleaning his wound,” You are a strong boy, Abhi! And boys don’t cry! C’mon show me who is gonna be a strong man?” Yes, harmless stereotype. Probably, Granny didn’t even know the kind of impact this plays on his upbringing. Or should I say, she didn’t know any better?
How Men have been conditioned in behaviour towards toxic masculinity?
Our culture and traditions have made us fixate on the flawed idea of strength and bravery. Now, that we know the flaws, what is stopping us from changing them? Let us dive into the depth of it.
The reason is toxic masculinity. It is widely prevalent all over the globe and equally active in our country. It not only affects women but also men, which we will be talking about here. At the same time, it would be foolish to blame anyone. It is simply the rearing up of generations and normalizing stereotypes. Instead of blaming, we must learn to focus on educating.
Toxic masculinity in our society makes men shy away from their mental health issues. These problems are seen as weak and silly, often ridiculing the people especially men who speak about their mental health ailment. They are asked to “Man Up!”
If we think about childhood, I am sure every man out there has heard at least one of these.
- Boys don’t cry!
- Man up!
- Don’t be such a girl!
- What kind of a man wears pink!
- Be a man!
- You run like a girl!
There it is! We have successfully imprinted meaningless stereotypes on children. When such feelings are dismissed and terms that repeatedly define gender norms, is heard regularly, a child teaches himself to avoid their real feelings and stops expressing them altogether. This leads to bottled up sadness or strong emotions. Such behavior results into a dysfunctional emotional body and subsequently, depression. He grows up to teach the same stereotypes to his children, knowing no better. This is the vicious cycle of toxic masculinity.
These are some of the most commonly noticed symptoms of clinical depression in men,
- Eating disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lack of concentration
- Increased irritability
- Prolonged fatigue
- Feeling sad inside but displaying rage to appear masculine
- Unable to perform daily chores
- Growing disinterest at work and in family
- Self-medication/ Drug abuse
- Recurring suicidal thoughts
Men raised in an environment where traditional masculinity is promoted. They are reared up in a way where they develop complicated feelings towards their own emotions. Often, they try to shut them off or avoid them altogether. This is the crucial reason why men are more likely to use external methods to cope with the internal turmoil caused by depression. The most common way to overcome depression or any signs of it is over-working. They try self-medications by turning to substances such as drugs and alcohol, often endangering them to substance abuse. However they do this to avoid dealing with depression and anxiety.
“People tend to repress from their conscious mind what they think are shameful thoughts”.Dr. Sigmund Freud, who is also widely renowned as the Father of Psychoanalysis.
People often bury what they are ashamed of. In this case, men tend to bury their feelings in the deepest corner, because they believe that is weak to be sad.
In 2003, a Harvard Professor of Psychiatry, EJ Khantzian, MD2 associated regular repression of emotions to self-medication as way of achieving psychological stability.
Lastly, many men express their turmoil or pain induced by depression by directing anger at those around them, like their partners or children. These are external coping methods. None of them actually help men cope with their struggles. It only makes others’ lives miserable including the patient.
Coming to how we can bring in some change!
Stop trivializing men’s mental health. If your closed one confides about their struggle to you, do not call them insane or ask them to be a man. Empathize with them, ask them to seek help rather encourage them to get professional help. Be a part of the society that sees the change in how men’s emotions are perceived. If your son cries, console them. If your partner sheds a tear, lend your shoulder. If your father is stressed and breaks down, sit down and talk to him. Make them feel that their feelings are genuinely acknowledged.
Let them know that no matter what you will always be there for them. Try to shatter stereotypical thoughts and be a person who cares about feelings and emotions. Be that person who knows that a real man is brave enough to show their real emotions and that is what true masculinity is. There you go, you are ready to make the world a better place!
- Reviewing the Assumptions About Men’s Mental Health: An Exploration of the Gender Binary- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5734543/
- Sage Journals- https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/003591572201501603