Masculinity and Anxiety

What does it mean to be a man in our society?

Traditionally, there has been a set of attributes, behaviours and roles that have established the masculinity ideal.  These include traits such as strength and an ability to cope as well as the capacity to be the breadwinner and protector. However, recent cultural and political shifts have made this ideal more difficult to achieve. For example, globalisation and recession have dealt men a number of blows. Furthermore, as gender roles have equalised, men's roles within the family have also undergone change. So, the traditional routes to manhood are perhaps becoming obsolete. A new set of masculinity traits has emerged as a result of these changes that call on men to be more emotionally available.  Little wonder then that some are experiencing confusions and contradictions within themselves about how to be men. David Schwartz identifies these as forming a crises of masculinity whereby the difficulty of trying to live up to the ideal is causing men to suffer from ever increasing levels of anxiety.

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Moving On: Understanding our fears

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.   [Marie Curie]

I have always been interested in why we resist change. I am intrigued as to why we stay in situations that no longer work for us, in jobs or relationships that no longer bring us pleasure?  It seems to me that contemplating change brings us face to face with that which we fear. This can manifest in behaviours and actions that undermine our stated intention to change. Alternatively, we may imagine bleak scenarios for ourselves which encourage us to keep going as we are. We work hard to repress our fears and build a series of defences to protect us. For example, we tell ourselves that we stay in that job because we can’t let our colleagues down or we remain with partners we’ve outgrown because they won’t manage without us.  We may shift around a little, move departments or find a partner who is similar to the last, but overall, the status quo remains.

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