It is obvious, even from childhood, that boys are more competitive. The culture encourages males to be independent, stoical and to guard their emotions perhaps to the point where they lose touch with their own emotional life and discount that life in others. Later in life that trend has been expressed to me as "women have friends and men have hobbies." It is also true that in traditional marriages it is usually the woman who organises the social life, holidays, birthdays and other celebrations. It seems that men are somehow retarded women as the softer skills of life are increasingly superseding the more basic physical and defensive gifts of the male. That is something that will not easily change.
|Men need to hear the emotional content behind the words|
One of the things men can do for each other is to ask open-ended questions that draw out some background so that a meaningful exchange happens. Often the response to some expression of struggle is to say "sorry about that" and then move on to another topic leaving the other person more isolated than before. What we need to do as men is to extend our range of caring skills whilst being thoroughly masculine. That would mean being ready to listen, finding open-ended phrases that draw out a longer conversation. Men also need to deploy a masculine style of compassion by using short phrases to show they have understood without necessarily showing emotion themselves.
|The rugged individual hero is eventually isolated and alone|
At the heart of the male challenge to modern life is isolation and as a gender we need to work more at communication as men. Men are probably directed by life to be self-contained but not independent. The current culture idolises independence and male role models seem to be stoical, unemotional and invulnerable. Those myths are undermining male mental health in western culture and need to be debunked. At the same time we need to consciously educate boys to listen to others more effectively to future-proof them from isolation and depression.
Beneath the isolation of male western culture is an even deeper hunger that needs to be fed if men are to be more healthy. The hunger for meaning that gives purpose and direction is the bond that is missing.What can we do about that?