The Cure For The Epidemic Of Loneliness In Men
I recently watched an interview with Andre 3000 (Founder of the musical group OutKast) and Rick Rubin (Record Producer and Co-Founder of Def Jam Recordings) about isolation and feelings of loneliness for men. Each of these men are multi-millionaires who have dealt with depression and loneliness and the time has come for men to continue this discussion.
There is a misconception that celebrities are somehow different from other human beings. We place them on pedestals and idolize them yet the truth is, they are no different than any other human being. They feel the same feelings and emotions and experience things like loneliness, depression and anxiety just like any other human being.
What their stories should teach us is money, fame and material possessions will not guarantee happiness. Happiness is an inside job and it can never be found by looking at things outside of ourselves. It is only when we become willing to look into our deepest thoughts, feelings and beliefs that we can truly find happiness. With that being said, the question we must ask ourselves is why are so many men lonely and unhappy? Why do men commit suicide more frequently than women? Why are more men addicted to illegal drugs and alcohol than women? Why do men commit more acts of violence than women?
Are men the real problem? I believe the answer is no. Men are not the problem. Men being trapped in an antiquated paradigm of masculinity is the real problem.
After more than twenty years of research I have concluded that the primary reason many men are lonely and unhappy is because they are trapped in an antiquated paradigm of masculinity.
Let me explain what I mean.
My definition of a paradigm is “a rigid way of believing, thinking and behaving.” Therefore, men believe a certain way which causes them to think a certain way which ultimately causes them to act a certain way. One of the antiquated beliefs men hold on to is “men are not supposed to feel.” We are conditioned to believe feelings are for women and from a very early age we begin suppressing, repressing and denying how we feel. As boys we are taught that big boys don’t cry and to suck it up whenever we feel sad or hurt. It is this repression of our emotions and feelings that causes us to begin shutting down our feelings which ultimately leads to emotional disconnection from others.
Vulnerability and sensitivity are seen as signs of weakness, and therefore we avoid them at all cost. This is the primary cause of loneliness, an unwillingness to say “I need help”. (which by the way are the three most difficult words for any man to say.)
Immediately after my divorce I slipped into a deep state of depression. Because of my fear of vulnerability and a deep feeling of shame I was unable to say I need help. Eventually the pain became too great and I had two options.
1. Get help. 2 Die.
Fortunately, I chose number one and I gained the courage to go to therapy. It was a decision that changed and saved my life. As a result of going to therapy I learned how my very traumatic childhood was still impacting my life as an adult. It was my unhealed childhood wounds that created a deep sense of toxic shame in me and it was the reason why it was so difficult for me to say I need help. It was the deep feelings of shame that caused me to isolate myself from others and it was the isolation that drove my depression.
By gaining the courage to seek support I was able to heal the internalized shame I had been carrying around and it allowed me to release that shame and create authentic connections with others. This is what every man craves yet very few men have access to, authentic connection with others. As men, we sometimes pretend to be something we are not and we hide behind superficial masks which covers up how we feel and who we are. By removing these masks, we get in touch with who we really are and it allows us to emotionally, psychologically and spiritually connect with others.
Herein lies the key to curing loneliness, CONNECTION! Men are hungry for connection but unfortunately very few men are willing to learn how to connect.
Therefore, if we want to get rid of loneliness we must teach men that it is okay to feel and express their emotions. We must create safe spaces where men can speak openly and honestly about how they feel without fear of rejection or criticism. We must encourage men to get out of their heads and into their hearts and speak their truth without judgement. In other words, it’s time for a new conversation with men which creates a new paradigm of masculinity that empowers men to be genuinely happy with their lives. In doing so we can eliminate loneliness and encourage connection.
Ultimately this is what men crave and need.