In his book ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’, Terence Real claims that people who have been given the male label (who I refer to as “the Male Labelled”) are conditioned to confront and assert, instead of connecting and relating to others. As a result, many people who are Male Labelled become isolated with less options to resolve emotional distress.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I often encounter men who feel desperate because they have never shared their fears. Left alone to try and work things out, their fears have grown monstrously out of proportion, and sometimes things have felt so overwhelming, that they have considered suicide.
When they finally share their fears, when they finally connect to someone else, they are given the opportunity to gain a new perspective. Their problems become more manageable, and they are able to identify strategies and solutions that were available to them all along.
Get high on connection
Still not convinced about the benefits of connection? How about a bit of science to convince you:
Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in the brain, and more is produced when we are introduced to new experiences. This new experience can be a deeper connection with people you already know or even a surface connection with a new person. In whatever form, we should be getting more of it (The Rewarding Nature of Social Interactions, Krach et al).
Drugged up, lonely rats
Here is some more science:
Far far away, in a university in Vancouver (Simon Fraser University, to be precise), Professor Alexander built a cage for some rats to play in. He installed balls and tunnels and food, and he offered them two water bottles; one with water and the other laced with drugs. The rats often chose the plain water, and it was only when they were placed in isolation did Alexander notice that the rats started to choose the drugged water. And when the rats were returned to the cage where they could play and eat with each other, their interest in the drug disappeared. Some have argued that connection is so powerful that it can act as an antidote to addiction.
How can we get this thing called ‘connection’?
Nobody has a continuous, consistent level of connection with someone else. The quality of the connection can be easily influenced by how open the other person is to connecting with you. So don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t flow as easily as you hoped.
You may also find it hard to connect with others if you are enduring stress. If you are distracted by the prospect of losing your job or dealing with a two-year-old child who is screaming blue murder, be kind to yourself and don’t hope for too much all at once.
Our styles of connection have a lot to do with how we were raised. For example, if our caregivers (usually our parents) were emotionally distant, we might think that being emotionally distant is a desirable way of being in our adult relationships.
Always do what you’ve always done, always get what you’ve always got
But we can unlearn as much as we learn. How is that aloof, distant manner working out for you so far?; feeling a little lonely on that island? Why not try a different approach. Everything new feels a bit awkward at first, but with practice, it might feel a bit easier. And besides, if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got (Henry Ford).
Never too late
If we have never experienced a healthy connection with someone else, it is not too late to learn how. A decent therapist can show you what it is like to make a connection with someone.
I hope you found this useful.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Psychotherapist, (Licensed Professional Counselor), Northern New Jersey
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