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Healthy Masculinity Creates a Safe Space

Positive Masculinity Contributor - Dominique Lewis

Content Writer for Positive Masculinity, Technical Writer in the medical device industry







After centuries of living the same history as our ancestors, the time for change is due. Damaging traits have been passed down from our greater ancestors to fathers, sons and grandsons; these need to be changed sooner rather than later. Following traditional norms has led us down a toxic path of aggressive behavior and emotional repression that is damaging to all. The non-masculine suffer due to inferior roles and unattainable expectations, while the masculine suffer due to emotional suppression and the overwhelming pressures of society. The time has come to turn the tables on traditional and toxic masculinity for the better.



-How the Non-masculine Suffer


Despite the security that traditional masculine traits can bring to a family, when traditional traits become toxic, the population can suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally. In some instances, the non-masculine suffer so much as a result of toxic masculine abuse that they lose their freedom of expression and sense of self.

In the introduction to Positive Masculinity Now, a brief biography of a man named Drew Griffin is shared. He describes how he grew up not displaying the masculine traits that most males around him did. He claimed, “I finally quit high school in the eleventh grade because I was so tired of being abused, bullied, and picked on by students, teachers, principals, and counselors for not being masculine enough and just being different”. This is a common circumstance of how non-masculine men are victimized and treated as inferior for not meeting the unhealthy, flawed standards of masculinity that toxic masculine roles claim they need to possess.




Toxic masculinity also affects non-masculine women who feel just as hopeless as Griffin in the attempt to attain validation from toxic masculine individuals. These masculine people use their powerful roles in business and family to demean others in lower level positions. In conjunction with limiting leadership roles for women and other non-masculine individuals, toxic masculine roles decrease or eliminate the influence and voice of women and non-masculine individuals. These toxic masculine traits restrict others from higher leadership roles and cause people to feel as if they are not valued or capable of expressing their talents and personality. This impact can be limiting and extremely harmful.


- How the Masculine Suffer


A common factor that leads to masculine individuals suffering as a result of toxic masculinity is dissociation: a mental process of disconnecting from one's thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. Several psychological organizations and articles reveal how traditional and toxic masculine traits cause the masculine population to lose their sense of humanity and suffer mentally as a result of repressed emotions.


Licensed therapist, Jor-El Caraballo claims, “Toxic masculinity keeps men in emotional prison”. As masculine individuals conceal emotions that can be healthily expressed to others, they are left with no outlet for their emotions which can result in self-harm, anger, or other unhealthy ways of releasing emotions in isolation. This dissociation is a serious effect of following the path of toxic masculinity and can be extremely damaging to the mental health of the masculine population.





The American Psychological Association also notes the dangers of adhering to these exaggerated masculine traits claiming, “Men and boys forced to cling to these traits often experience adverse effects and may face problems, such as: depression, body image issues, poor social function, substance abuse, and stress”. Each of these negative outcomes sprout from the root of toxic traits that mask emotions instead of embracing and expressing them. The lack of expression can cause masculine individuals to feel trapped, unaccepted, and isolated. This state of being leads to feeling disconnected from the present reality.



- Solution: Achieving Healthy Masculinity


Traditional and toxic masculinity are shown to limit the whole population. Conversely, healthy and positive masculinity is capable of liberating the masculine and non masculine communities and bringing them together.

There are plenty of practical steps that could be taken toward accomplishing healthy masculinity. It’s not simple to combat toxic and unhealthy forms of masculinity, but it is possible. By taking small steps toward applying healthy masculine habits, a positive change in the masculine population is attainable, but it starts on the individual level. The Newport Institute performed a case study on a few new, healthy masculine habits that led to positive change. Here are some of the steps taken toward healthy masculinity:

  1. Recognizing/acknowledging the issue of repressed emotion or even depression and seeking professional help or group therapy.

  2. Finding a common interest community and/or a therapist

  3. Journaling how you feel and expressing your feelings to a trusted friend

  4. Meditate to get to a place of greater self-awareness

  5. Make it a practice to lift up others (masculine and non-masculine)





These steps describe healthy masculine traits: vulnerability, open-mindedness, humble leadership, and self-awareness. Healthy masculinity acknowledges one’s emotions and gives opportunity to be vulnerable without judgment. Not all matters are meant to be shared with everyone, but making an effort to find the place and people to share one’s emotions and desires is vital to the mental health of the masculine population. This is a productive method to alleviate repressed emotions and restore valuable relationships as well as gather masculine individuals dealing with similar struggles. The breaking point of dissociation begins with being a part of a community so that those masculine individuals who became victims of feeling isolated in their struggle gain knowledge and power that they are not alone.

Positive masculinity advocates not only encourage, but have a passionate approach on teaching the masculine to unlearn negative, unhealthy traits while developing positive and progressive masculine habits. This will lead the men of our day and future to become more productive members of our society, which it needs to improve mental health and quality of life for generations to come.




Citations


McGregor, M. S. (2022). Positive Masculinity Now: A Heart-Led Guide For Growth Toward a Conscious, Emotionally Intelligent & Inclusive Masculinity [Review of Positive Masculinity Now: A Heart-Led Guide For Growth Toward a Conscious, Emotionally Intelligent & Inclusive Masculinity]. Kindle/Amazon.


Focus for Health. (2019, October 23). How Toxic Masculinity Harms Men and Society As A Whole - Focus for Health. Focus for Health. https://www.focusforhealth.org/how-toxic-masculinity-harms-men-and-society-as-a-whole/


“5 Ways Young Men Can Cultivate Healthy Masculinity.” Newport Institute, Newport Institute, 4 Nov. 2021, https://www.newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/healthy-masculinity/.


Neilson, E. C., Singh, R. S., Harper, K. L., & Teng, E. J. (2020). Traditional masculinity ideology, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity, and treatment in service members and veterans: A systematic review. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 21(4). https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000257


V, Michael. “Educating the Topic of 'Toxic Masculinity'.” Times News Network, 1 May 2022, https://timesnewsnetwork.com/news/world/uk/educating-the-topic-of-toxic-masculinity/.