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Leading a Satisfying Life as a Man

Many men lack satisfaction and a feeling of ease and success in work and relationships. However, these men tend to rule out therapy. I believe this initial instinct, unfortunately, has some reasonable basis. Much therapy today simplistically tries to get everyone to get along by being 'nice'. The 'sensitivity' that some therapists encourage is really just tip-toeing around strong feeling. But this is really insensitivity to one's own sensation and perception and feeling.

But in my work, I encourage strong, true feeling, not artificial niceness. I especially encourage it for men, who I believe have a very difficult time being themselves in today's society. Not all, but some 'anger problems' stem from the frustrations that come from trying to make an impossible and unnatural role work. The rest of this page describes, very briefly, some ideas about obstacles men find to satisfaction. The rest of the website describes more broadly how I work with clients to help develop the foundations of satisfaction. This is not a 'zero-sum' proposition. Men do not thrive at the cost of women--women are both benefited and excited by men who are doing well.

The Primary Asymmetry

It used to be taken for granted that mature men, in general, had ways of behaving and experiencing that were different, in general, from mature women. This was based on everyday observation. This belief was not meant to limit any naturally arising behavior from anyone. However most modern societies have had male privilege which has limited the options of women. Part of the way in which women were limited was through gender roles, rigid codes of conduct that were enforced harshly. These gender roles limited everyone but women in particular. When feminism rightfully opposed male privilege, perhaps the baby got thrown out with the bath water. Gendered behavior was said to be imposed by society, just as were gender roles, and both were said to be wrong.

But gendered behavior, like anything naturally occurring, cannot be abolished. It can only be suppressed and distorted. What perhaps happened instead is that another, all-inclusive gender role has been promoted that is unnaturally organized around uniformity as a stand in for equality. In this role, women had to be more like men and men had to be more like women, whatever their nature. Because gender is largely a product of maturity, this new genderless gender-role tends to perpetuate a style of life that, while it is generally responsible and commendably aspirational, is unsatisfying and immature in that it avoids adult prerogatives. Any role expected of a person limits them. Many men were set into opposition to their own nature.

The Crucible

This pressure for men to repress naturally-occurring behavior that might cause disapproval, in some families joined together with parenting that left boys with the belief that they must please their parents. This could be because the parents directly insisted on being pleased, or the parents were simply unhappy, which always leaves children with the feeling that they must make the parent happy.

This type of socialization and family life together help develop a pattern that thwarts pleasure, thwarts confidence, thwarts natural behavior, thwarts physical co-ordination (because the nervous system has such a load of hesitation), thwarts relationships, thwarts sexuality and leads to exhaustion. We can call this the 'Nice Guy' pattern.

The 'Nice Guy' Pattern

(Adapted Liberally from Robert Glover Ph. D)

The phrase 'nice guy' describes the intentions of a man with this pattern completely, but it describes the results of that man very incompletely. Nice guys often seethe with rage and resentment, and quite commonly put others off. That is because the nice guy image is unreal. It is impossible to live up to, and others find they cannot really relax around nice guys.

The core characteristic of a nice guy is having covert contracts This is adopting a (inevitably self-restricting) guide to behavior and expecting to be rewarded and given credit, but without discussion or negotiation with others. Covert contracts operate large unconsciously. The main three for nice guys are 1) If I am a good guy, then everyone will love me and like me (and people I desire will desire me). 2) If I meet other people’s needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask. 3) If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life. Because most nice guys believe they have kept their side of the contract, they often feel helpless and resentful when other people don’t keep their side of the contract. Moreover nice guys try to negotiate unnegotiable experiences. Attraction, love and respect arise involuntarily. They can be simulated (but it is human nature to truly hate to do so). But they cannot be authentically willed. Therefore, attraction, love, and respect cannot be earned and cannot be negotiated. If one tried to negotiate them overtly, the futility would display itself, but because of covert contracting, the futility can be denied. Further characteristics of a nice guy are:

Work with a 'nice guy' pattern is more than coaching to become 'more manly' in a role. That is just more performing and based still on the idea of pleasing. Rather, what is helpful is work to allow more natural and satisfying behavior to emerge. Like all basic conditioning, the nice guy pattern has roots in the autonomic nervous system and cannot be changed by ideas or self-knowledge alone, but only over time by practicing something different. Recovery from a nice-guy pattern inevitably leads to a consideration of masculinity, but that is too involved a discussion to fit the scope of this page.

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