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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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Whiny Little Boy

The 'whiny little boy' is the pattern of complaining to your woman about your woman as if your woman was also your mother and supposed to take care of it for you. She can certainly not respond to this--there are too many paradoxes. In situation comedies, husbands are often depicted as permanently whiny boys.

If a man is emotionally dependent or dominated by his woman, complaining at times about the costs of this may have a role in increasing awareness of the costs of being dependent. In the absence of actually becoming more independent, however, steady whining just creates unnecessary friction and keeps the woman even more involved in the mothering role. Most attempts to break out of a nice-guy pattern usually start with becoming a 'whiny little boy.' This is an understandable grasping for something different, but not a foundation for change.

Most women have an innate tendency to mother anybody that acts like they need it. This is not a drive for power, it is the basic goodness of the feminine. Women will not try to mother an adult male. Most men, however, have trouble acting fully adult because widespread social pressure leads them to suppress the masculine. So they end up as super-responsible pre-pubescent boys. As super-responsible boys, they can fit into many work-roles but they have trouble relating to adult women sexually and as equals.

Women have widespread pressure to suppress some of the feminine but not the mothering. Mothering becomes a safe way to relate. Hence adult women tend to couple with responsible males, and without any decision to do, so end up mothering them. This is a dominant role, just as mothers naturally dominate children.

There is always great tension between a mother and a son reaching puberty. The boy has to push the mother away in order to develop innate masculine traits unimpeded. In doing this he often pushes away greater experience and knowledge and suffers an increase in bad results but this is healthy development in the long run. In pushing away from the mother what works is not 'whining' but spending time in the world and with adult men.

Generally, only a man (but certainly not every adult male) can teach a boy to be a man. A woman can teach a boy to be a good citizen, but everyone will teach others to be like themselves. A woman will attempt teach a post-pubescent boy, without realizing it, to be a 'little mother', but the boy will usually not make a good 'woman.' even if willing. In areas where fathers are mostly absent, street gangs fill in the role of father, because depraved as they are, they accommodate masculine goals.

Righteous Little Boy

Nice guys are intensely good willed. They expect this to be reciprocated, but through covert contracts as described above. Nice guys often find themselves accusing others of not following the standards and principles they have set for themselves. But what is in play is that others are not fulfilling covert contracts that they are unaware of and never agreed to. Nice guys commonly alternate these periods of righteousness with periods of naivety (the failure to recognize the ways in which others pursue their self-interest at the nice guys expense). Both are dysfunctional extremes.

An integrated man is at peace with his principles but recognizes and adapts easily to the selfishness and double standards common in society. A man's principles are their own reward. It is necessary to avoid idolizing any group (such as 'women') because disillusionment, shock, and demonization are sure to follow.

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