The Real Cause of the Trump Phenomenon and How to Survive It

A photo by Jeremy Thomas. unsplash.com/photos/jh2KTqHLMjEEven before the Republican Presidential primary, pundits where confused about the emerging Trump phenomena. In an article published in the January 4, 2016 issue of The Atlantic Magazine there was an article title “The 8 Causes of Trumpism.” The article noted, “Both Trump and a broader phenomenon—call it Trumpism—are stronger and deeper than most veteran political analysts realized or were willing to acknowledge. They are neither immediate nor transitory phenomena. The disdain for the status quo, for authority figures of both parties and other institutions, and the anger at inexorable changes in society, are real, enduring, and especially deep on the Republican side.”

There is a recognition that our world is becoming increasingly complex and our leaders are unable to understand and adequately deal with the major changes we face in the world including terrorism, large numbers of people leaving home due to economic and social stresses, environmental degradation and famine in many parts of the world, and the impact of industrial civilization on the stability of the planet.

Further, there is a feeling that change is occurring so rapidly that we all feel like we are on a run-away train that is heading for disaster. The futurist, Alvin Toffer (who died in June, 2016 at the age of 87), warned us about what was coming our way in the international best-seller Future Shock. In the book Toffler notes that he coined the term “future shock” in 1965 to describe “the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”

He recognized that future shock may be the core illness of our time. “Unless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in his personal affairs we well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.” It’s clear that we have not dealt with the speed of change in our lives and that the rate of change has increased dramatically since 1970. [Read more…]

7 Surprising Reasons Stress is Good for You

Good StressMost of us could claim to be experts on stress. We know the feelings of being rushed and overwhelmed, of running around trying to get more and more done with less and less time. But some of us are more expert than others. I’ve written two books on stress and the harm it does to our lives: MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools and Stress Relief for Men. I taught people how to recognize the damage stress did to our body, mind, and spirit and how to combat stress. But like many experts on stress I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  

Recently I’ve learned that there are different kinds of stress and not all stress is bad. In fact, stress can be good for us and rather than avoiding stress, reducing stress, or combating stress, we might learn how to use stress more effectively.  In my books I described the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky, who did some of the early research on stress in the 1970s that many professionals, like myself, have used as foundational material in our own studies. Sapolsky’s work was the subject of the National Geographic documentary Killer Stress.   The film focused on groundbreaking research that revealed surprising facts about the impact of stress on our bodies. It showed how it can shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies, and even unravel our chromosomes.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. is another expert on stress. For years she counseled and taught people about the dangers of stress. “I told people that stress makes you sick, that it increases your risk of everything from the common cold to heart disease, depression, and addiction, and that it kills brain cells, damages your DNA, and makes you age faster.” In a TED talk that has garnered more than 10 million viewers she told people why she had changed her mind about stress and offered the latest research she found that lead to her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

Here are some of the upsides of stress that we are now coming to recognize: [Read more…]

From Here to Eternity: Stopping Male Stress and the Epidemic of Suicides

I have a personal, as well as professional, interest in male depression and suicide.  It began with my father who was born in Jacksonville, Florida December 17, 1906.  He was one of eight children whose parents had been born in Eastern Europe and had come to the United States in the late 1800s.  From what I heard growing up, he was emotionally sensitive, artistic and talented.  He wrote stories, poetry, and put on little plays for the family.

Unlike most of his brothers and sisters who either went into business or married business men, when he was 18 my father went to New York to become an actor.  At first things looked bright.  New York in the 1920s was full of glitter and glitz, a great place to be for a young man seeking fame and fortune.  But that ended in 1929 with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

It was in New York that he met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship.  Economically things were difficult, but they were together and ready to weather the storm.  When all money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show—readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry, or short stories.  The price of admission was a can of food.

But as the economic situation worsened so did his mood.  He would snap at my mother.  Small things irritated him.  How she cooked, cleaned their apartment, or made the bed became points of discord.  Recalling the times, my mother told me, “He was always on edge.  I couldn’t seem to do anything right.  No matter how much I tried to support him and let him know I cared, he still got mad at me.”

There were increasingly heated arguments and fights.  He would accuse her of being interested in other men and “sleeping around.”  She would proclaim her innocence and feel hurt.  They would make up, make love, and everything would seem all right.  And they would be all right, until the next time.  There was always a next time. 

My mother was always able to find work as a secretary.  She had excellent skills and even in bad times people needed her talents and experience.  However, there weren’t a lot of people looking for my father’s skills and talents.  Not feeling comfortable at home, my father spent more and more time away.  “He’s here, then he’s gone,” my mother would say.  “Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until early the next morning.”

His brothers tried to convince them to come home to Florida and sell insurance like they were doing.  My father laughed.  “I’d rather die first.”   It was a prophetic outburst.  He nearly did die.  Most of what I know about his life I learned from my mother and the journals that he kept in the last three years before he tried to kill himself.

Kay Redfield Jamison, an expert on mood disorders, uses an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the difference ways men and women react to the stresses of life that can lead to depression and suicide.  “Young male elephants go out and they are quite solitary,” she observed. “The only times males get together is during the breeding period in an adversarial role. They’re not talking about anything, they’re competing.

“Conversely, the female elephants are drawn together and are constantly communicating with each other.  Female elephants have a system set up if one is in distress,” she continues, “and they are more likely to be there to serve and help one another.  Like male elephants in an adversarial role, human men have an ‘irritability’ that is ‘part and parcel’ of depression,” she says.  “It’s one of the diagnostic criteria for depression and mania, more common than not,” she explained. “Emotions get so ratcheted up, it’s often we see men with short-tempered fuses. It makes depression difficult for others to be around.”

This was certainly true of my father.  He had a long history of irritability, anger, and depression, and male stress but it was the crashing economy that sent him over the edge.  Here were the last journal entries before he tried to kill himself:

“June 4th: 

               Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

 “August 15th:

              Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

“November 8th:

              A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

             I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

Suicide is Predominantly a Male Response to Stress

Although suicide impacts women as well as men, it is predominantly a male response to overwhelming stress.  In my book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In I reported on a major research study that concluded “Women seek help—men die.” The study found that 75% of those who sought professional help at a suicide prevention program were female. Conversely 75% of those who committed suicide in the same year were male.

These findings are corroborated by men’s health expert, Will Courtenay, Ph.D. in his book, Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys (April, 2011, Routledge). Courtenay reports the following suicide and death rates (per 100,000 U.S. population) from the National Center for Disease Control, for males and females in various age groups:

We see that the suicide rate for young men is more than 4 times the rate for young women and the suicide rate for after retirement is 6 to 17 times the rate for women of the same age. Clearly men are at great risk and as populations age throughout the world, more men are likely to give up hope and kill themselves.

Age Group

Male Rate

Female Rate

Male/Female Ratio

15-19

10.9

2.7

4.0

20-24

21.4

4.0

5.4

25-29

19.5

4.7

4.2

30-34

18.3

5.2

3.5

35-44

23.9

6.8

3.5

45-54

25.8

8.8

2.9

55-64

21.4

7.0

3.8

65-74

21.5

3.4

6.3

75-84

27.3

3.9

7.0

85+

38.6

2.2

17.5

 

The Mancession

But many men are now losing their jobs before retirement.  A recent editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that depression rates in men are likely to increase due to the socioeconomic changes going on in the world. The study’s principle author Boadie Dunlop, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta writes, “Compared to women, many men attach a great importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families. Failure to fulfill the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.  As depression increases, so too will suicide.

Getting Help and Support

The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has designated September 10, 2012, World Suicide Prevention Day.  On their site you can get good information on what people are doing all over the world to prevent suicide and you can learn what you can do to support their activities.  In support of these activities I’m offering  my new book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, which details my own experiences helping people deal with depression in their lives.  For everyone who orders a book by September 10, 2012, I will donate 50% of the profits to IASP.  For everyone who orders anytime during the month of September, I’ll donate 30% of the profits to IASP.

Working together we can make a difference.  If you’d like to be part of our campaign to save the lives of a million men, and to learn how to stop male stress you can learn more HERE.

What has been your experience with male suicide?  What resources do you have to share?  Together we heal.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/helzerman/1234587061/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Men and Stress – Is Your Job Driving You Over the Edge?

We know that depression is on the rise all over the world and men are 4 to 18 times (depending on age) more likely to commit suicide than are women.  People report that job stresses are a major factor that can lead to depression and increased suicide risk.  We know that men and stress can be a lethal mix.  What are the professions that put you at highest risk?  According to a recent report from Business Insider, based on statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health the top ten jobs where you’re most likely to kill yourself are:

#10  Real Estate Sales

Real estate agents are 1.38 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#9  Potters and “hand-molders”

Hand molders are 1.39 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#8  Urban planners

Urban planners are 1.43 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#7  Supervisors of heavy construction equipment

Supervisors of heavy construction equipment are 1.46 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#6  Chiropractors

Chiropractors are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#5  Finance workers

Finance workers are 1.51 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#4  Veterinarians

Veterinarians are 1.54 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#3  Dentists

Dentists are 1.67 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#2  Physicians

Physicians are 1.87 times more likely to commit suicide average.

#1 Marine Engineers

Marine engineers are 1.89 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

Other high risk professions include:  Pharmacists, Farm Managers, and Lawyers.  What do all these “high suicide” professions have in common?  I’d suggest that most of them involve people who must deal with other people’s problems in situations where they don’t get a lot of positive feedback and appreciation.  When’s the last time you thanked your dentist or gave him a hug after he finished drilling and filling?

Of course, being employed can be stressful, but being unemployed can be even more stressful.  According to an article in The Washington Independent, “The unemployed commit suicide at a rate two or three times the national average, researchers estimate. And in many cases, the longer the spell of unemployment, the higher the likelihood of suicide.”

So, if you’re employed, what are the things that are the most stressful and make you feel depressed?  If you’re unemployed, what makes you feel the worst about yourself?

Maybe by sharing our experiences, we can help each other get through these difficult times.

For more information suicide prevention and men’s health, look for my new book MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools.

Another post that you may find value in is 3 Little Known Stressors that are Killing Men and the Women Who Love Them.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/badjonni/403366211/lightbox/

Boomer Men, Stress, Depression, Anger and Suicide

In a recent interview with Brent Green, author of Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future, he and I provide an in-depth, up-to-date look at the work I’ve been doing to help men, and the women to love them, to live well throughout our lives.  Specifically we get into detail about baby boomer men and stress, male depression, male anger, and suicide.

You’ll learn about what motivated me to write my recent book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, and why I’ve committed myself to helping save the lives of a million males over the next three years. This is a unique opportunity to join me in exploring some of the most important issues we face in our lives today.

Click here to listen:  Boomer Men and Stress

Enjoy the interview and thanks to WeEarth Global Radio Network.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499/sizes/z/in/photostream/

 

 

Men and Stress: Saving Your Sanity and the Only Brain You’ll Ever Have

Although we have known for some time that stress can cause damage to the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, and other parts of the body, we have recently learned that stress can actually damage the brain.  J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., is Director of Mental Health Research at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and is editor of Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation and Stress Disorder.  In Bremner’s book Does Stress Damage the Brain? he explains, “Research in only the past decade or so has shown that extreme stress has effects on the brain that last throughout the lifespan.”

As a result many of those emotional distresses that we have, in the past, viewed as purely psychological, may be the result of physical damage to the brain.  “A group of psychiatric disorders related to stress, what I call trauma-spectrum disorders,” says Bremner, “could share in common a basis in brain abnormalities that are caused by stress.”

Bremner continues saying that “Trauma-spectrum disorders are those that are known to be linked to stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorders, adjustment disorder, depression, and anxiety.”  I would include the Irritable Male Syndrome as another one of these trauma-spectrum disorders.

Trauma-spectrum Disorders and Gender:  Why Women Cry and Men Run Away 

One of Dr. Bremner’s experiments helps us understand the difference between the way men and women experience these disorders.  He gathered a group of former depression patients.  With their permission, he gave them a beverage that was spiked with an amino acid that blocks the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel upbeat and happy.

Using the new brain scan techniques he took pictures of the subject’s brains to see if he could pinpoint the areas that were associated with depression. If we knew the areas of the brain associated with depression, he reasoned then we could come up with better medications and treatment approaches.  In looking at the color brain scans he was able to show that a loss of serotonin affects all three major areas of the brain.

What I found even more fascinating were the gender specific differences in the way men and women reacted to the potion that blocked the effects of the serotonin.  Typical of the males was John, a middle-aged businessman who had fully recovered from a bout of depression, thanks to a combination of psychotherapy and Prozac. Within minutes of drinking the brew, however, “He wanted to escape to a bar across the street,” recalls Bremner. “He didn’t express sadness … he didn’t really express anything. He just wanted to go to Larry’s Lounge.”  Contrast John’s response with that of female subjects like Sue, a mother of two in her mid-thirties. After taking the cocktail, “She began to cry and express her sadness over the loss of her father two years ago,” recalls Bremmer. “She was overwhelmed by her emotions.”

So we see a very real contrast in the ways men and women respond to a loss of the brain chemicals that keep our emotions in a healthy balance.  Men tend to withdraw and go for the alcohol to prevent us from feeling our pain.  Women tend to share their emotions with others.  I have found that chronic irritability is one of the principal ways men withdraw, rather than dealing directly with our feelings.

 Men and Stress:  What’s a Man to Do?

Men and stress can be a killer combination.  We can make decisions that help eliminate or decrease the stress response in life by once again paying attention to the physical, emotional, and chemical components of our health. Physical stressors include accidents, physical inactivity, and changes in temperature. Chemical stressors include sugar, high fat foods, cigarettes, alcohol, and toxic work or environment. Emotional stressors include fear, anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

When we get out of balance with our lives, many of us overload on all aspects of our stress capacity, stopping our regular exercise regimen, eating poorly, and navigating family get-togethers or loneliness. Come up with a plan for how you can circumvent illness by planning ahead.

Make sure you are able to identify when your stress levels are high, and have some ways of interrupting the process. An increased heart rate, sweat, tense muscles, irritability, moodiness and dilated pupils are clear signs of fight or flight and an increased stress response.

When you notice these signs stop what you’re doing and check in with yourself for at least five minutes. Check in and see if HALT is a problem.  These letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  These are some of the more common ways that stress manifests.  Ways to re-set the system are going for a brisk walk, taking a few deep breaths, visualizing yourself somewhere refreshing, relaxing tight muscles, and shifting your perception to a different space. This does not have to be a long task. Just check in and re-set every hour until you get the hang of it and feel some shift in your overall tension pattern.

You can practice using the energy healing tools I describe in my book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing ToolsLearn about Earthing, Heart Coherence, Attachment Love, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (Also known as EFT or Tapping).  These simple tools combat stress in men and the women who love them.  You can get your brain back in balance and allow you to more effectively deal with the ups and downs of life without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out.

Please share your story or experience.

Together we heal.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalshotgun/454380458/


Male Menopause and Energy Medicine: Healing the Stresses of Mid-Life Men

When my book Male Menopause was first published in 1997, most people had never heard of “male menopause,” also known by the more scientific term “andropause.” But I knew the impact on family members who loved these men. Common symptoms of male menopause, including erectile dysfunction, loss of sexual desire, irritability, weight gain, and low energy, impact the men as well as their families. More men and women are recognizing that male menopause is real. It affects all men as they move through their forties (though it can start as early as thirty or as late as fifty-five). We can now do a lot to prevent and treat the problems associated with this major change of life.

While many in the mainstream medical community still question whether men go through a hormonally based change of life, increasing numbers of health care professionals are convinced as they study the research.

  • Marc R. Blackman, MD, former chief of endocrinology and metabolism at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says, “The male menopause is a real phenomenon, and it does similar things to men as menopause does to women, although less commonly and to a lesser extent.”
  • Ronald Klatz, MD, DO, president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine says, “One of the best-kept secrets is that men go through a male form of menopause called andropause.”
  • Robert S. Tan, MD, fellow of the American Geriatrics Society and pioneer researcher, says, “The andropause is the time in a man’s life when the hormones naturally decline. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines the andropause as “a change of life for males that may be expressed in terms of career change, divorce, or reordering of life. It is associated with a decline in androgen levels that occur in men during their late forties or early fifties.”
  • Theresa Crenshaw, MD, expert on male and female hormones and author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust, says, “In the case of male menopause, we are still in the Dark Ages. Men have fewer guideposts to help them today than women had a generation ago. Only recently have we begun to understand the biochemistry of these events, tilting the scales toward a physiological explanation.”
  • Author Gail Sheehy says, “If menopause is the silent passage, male menopause is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.”

My colleague, Malcolm Carruthers, MD, one of the world’s experts on the male change of life captures the essence of what men go through: “Andropause is a critical health concern for men and the women who love them. It’s often insidious onset can be at any time from the age of thirty onward, though typically it is in the fifties. One of the reasons it’s often missed is that it is usually more gradual in onset than the menopause in the female, although it is more severe in its long-term consequences. It is a crisis of vitality just as much as virility, even though it’s most obvious sign is loss both of interest in sex and of erectile power.”

Energy Medicine at Mid-life

In my recent book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, I describe four simple tools you can learn to use to relieve stress during the male mid-life:

  • Attachment Love
  • Heart Coherence
  • Earthing
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or Tapping)

For more complete details on these tools please read the Four Energy Healing Secrets Your Doctor Hopes You’ll Never Learn.

In the meantime, here’s a simple Attachment Love Technique.   Close your eyes and take a number of deep breaths. Slowly let them out. Remind yourself that you are dependent on your partner and your partner is dependent on you to meet your needs for safety, security, and love. Recall a memory in which you felt deep love and affection for your partner. Imagine that you enclose them in your arms and whisper in their ear, “I love you deeply, and I am here for you.” Now recall a time when your partner reached out to you when you needed them. Imagine your partner enclosing you in their arms and whispering in your ear, “I love you deeply, and I am here for you.”

Let yourself feel the warmth and gratitude of feeling cared for and loved. If you don’t have a partner, imagine a partner you might like to have and feel yourself being held and holding a partner. Or think of a time in your life when you felt love for someone else. It could be an old lover or friend or even a child. Imagine holding them, seeing them, and feeling them. Or think of a time when you were loved, cared for, and protected. Let yourself be filled with the light of unconditional love.

Another energy healing tool that I often use is the HeartMath quick coherence technique. Close your eyes and take a number of deep breathes and let yourself relax. Focus your attention on the area around your heart. Breathe deeply but normally and feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Remember a time when you felt strong and sure of yourself, a time when your partner or someone important in your life let you know what a good man you were. Hold that thought as you continue to imagine your breath coming in and out of your heart area.

I’m always amazed that shifting my internal energy from a state of anger, agitation, hurt, or shame to one of joy, peace, and self-acceptance can turn things around when they seem out of control. Midlife, like adolescence, is a difficult time for most of us. Using these energy healing tools can make our midlife passage smoother and more joyful.

If you found this post to be of value let me recommend Male Menopause and How It Impacts the Family.  You can also sign up to receive my comprehensive eBook on Male Menopause.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/haroldoferrary/

Jekyll and Hyde, Irritable Males, and Attachment Love: What Men, and the Women Who Love Them, Need to Know


Before I wrote my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome, I thought I might call it The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, since men often seem to change rapidly from “Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean.”  The book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 and has become a mainstay of stage and screen throughout the world.  It seems to speak to something in the human psyche, particularly the male mind.  The story is about Dr. Henry Jekyll who is pursuing his life-long quest to separate the two natures of man to get at the essence of good and evil.

Refused help by his peers and superiors, he begins experiments on himself with his formula. He meets with success, and shocking results.  The evil nature of Dr. Jekyll surfaces as a separate identity: Edward Hyde. Hyde begins murdering the members of the Board of Governors who previously refused assistance to Jekyll’s cause. Throughout the story Jekyll fights in vain to keep his darker half under control.

We often see this kind of transformation in how men are in their love relations.  In a blog post “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now,” Helena Madsen reports a woman’s experience with the man in her life:

“I had a revelation today. During my son’s graduation ceremony at his high school, my husband came up to me and squatted down to share a story with me. Without thinking I ran my hand over his hair and down his arm. I’m still in love with this guy. He can be very nice. He can be very sweet. I married him because of this. This is why I find his behavior so baffling. I’ve known this guy just shy of 25 years. That is a long time. The meanness, the temper tantrums, the spitefulness is all new. I’ve never seen this in him before. Living with someone for 25 years means this isn’t behavior that has been hidden away. It is brand spanking new. It is why I’ve been blindsided with it. I so didn’t see this coming. It also makes the whole idea of divorce so messy. If he was always nasty this would be a no-brainer. I would up and leave in a heartbeat. But he swings hot and cold. One day he is super nice to me; takes good care of me and even gives me hugs. The next day he is slamming doors and telling me he wants out. I am so very confused.”

In The Irritable Male Syndrome:  Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Aggression and Depression, I describe a number of key symptoms of IMS, including hypersensitivity.

The women who live with these men say things like the following:

  • I feel like I have to walk on eggshells when I’m around him.
  • I never know when I’m going to say something that will set him off.
  • He’s like a time bomb ready to explode but I never know when.
  • Nothing I do pleases him.

The men don’t often recognize their own hypersensitivity.  Rather, their perception is that they are fine but everyone else is going out of their way to irritate them.  The guys say things like:

  • Quit bothering me.
  • Leave me alone.
  • No, nothing’s wrong.  I’m fine. 
  • Or they don’t say anything.  They increasingly withdraw into a numbing silence.

One concept I have found helpful is the notion that many of us are “emotionally sunburned,” but our partners don’t know it.  We might think of a man who is extremely sunburned and gets a loving hug from his wife.  He cries out in anger and pain.  He assumes she knows he’s sunburned so if she “grabs” him she must be trying to hurt him.  She has no idea he is sunburned and can’t understand why he reacts angrily to her loving touch.  You can see how this can lead a couple down a road of escalating confusion.

Why Do Men Suddenly Become Hypersensitive and Irritable?  Could It Be We Don’t Feel Attached?

Here’s a letter I received recently:  “Last month a man came home from work with my husband’s face but he did not act at all like the man I married.  I’ve known this man for 30 years, married 22 of them and have never met this guy before.  Angry, nasty, and cruel are just a few words to describe him.  He used to be the most upbeat, happy person I knew.  Now he’s gone from Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean.  In spite of how he treats me I still love my husband and want to save our marriage.  Please, can you help me?

Both the man and the woman are baffled.  What’s going on here?  The answer may lie in ways in which we feel a loss of connection with our partner.  We all struggle with vulnerable feelings in love whether we want to admit it or not. It’s inevitable that we will hurt each other with careless words or selfish actions. While these occasions sting, the pain is often fleeting and we get over it quickly.

But according to Dr. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, “Countless studies on infant and adult attachment suggest that our close encounters with loved ones are where most of us attain and learn to hold on to our emotional balance.”  We are all sensitive to being rejected or abandoned by a loved one.  And almost all of us have at least one hypersensitivity – a raw spot in our emotional skin- that is tender to the touch, easily rubbed, and deeply painful.  When this spot gets rubbed often enough, it can bleed all over our relationship.

When our need for attachment and connection is repeatedly neglected, ignored or dismissed, it results in two potential raw spots: feeling emotionally deprived or deserted/abandoned.  It may not be obvious to us, but when a man becomes irritable and angry or hostile and blaming or withdrawn and cold-hearted, it is often because he feels a disconnection from his partner.  He feels rejected or not cared for.  Of course, his hostile reaction often drives his partner farther away, which makes him even more fearful of loss.  It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game.  He blames her and she blames him.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So how do you identify your raw spot?  Here’s what psychotherapist Helena Madsen recommends:

Think about a time in your marriage when you got suddenly thrown off balance, when a small response or lack of response suddenly seemed to change your sense of safety or connection with your spouse, or when you got totally caught up in reacting in a way that you knew would spiral you into your usual dysfunctional pattern of relating. Maybe you are aware of a moment when you found yourself reacting very angrily or numbing out.

Let’s unpack the “Jekyll and Hyde, Irritable Male” sensitivity:

What was happening in the relationship?  What was the trigger that created a sense of emotional disconnection for you?  What was your general feeling in the split second before you reacted and got mad or numb?  What did your spouse specifically do or say that sparked this response?  As you think of a moment when your own raw spot is rubbed, what happens to your body?  You might feel spacey, detached, hot, breathless, tight in the chest, very small, empty, shaky, tearful, cold, on fire.

What does your brain decide about the meaning of all this?  What do you say to yourself when this happens?  What did you do then?  How do you move into action?

See if you can tie in all these elements together by filling in the blanks below:

In this incident, the trigger for my raw feeling was _________.  On the surface, I probably showed _____________.  But deep down, I just felt (pick one of the basic negative emotions, sadness, anger, shame, fear).  What I longed for was ___________.  The main message I got about our bond, about me or my love was _________________.

I’ve found in my own work that recognizing our need for emotional support does not mean we’re acting like children.  In fact, these needs for emotional support are important throughout our lives, not just when we are children.

I’d like to hear from you.  Have you noticed yourself or someone you love going from “nice” to “mean?”  Can you slow down and recognize the feelings of fear and how you react to them?  When we can share these universal emotions rather than blaming ourselves or our partners we can once again become friends and allies and sort things out together.

Photo Credit: maxREM Creative Commons

 

The Crisis Enters Year Five: Are We Ready to Address the Real Problem?

According to Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City, “The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five.  This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely ‘recovered’ from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.

“However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about ‘recovery.’ The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then the rate is 15%.  The latter rate counts also those who want full-time but can only find part-time work and those who want work but have given up looking. One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc.”

Men Are Hit Particularly Hard

We know that although both women and men are impacted by unemployment, men are particularly vulnerable to the demoralization, stress, and depression which often go with our feeling that we are not taking care of our families adequately.  According to Boadie W. Dunlop, M.D. Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “Men in the changing economy will face the same risks for depression that women faced in older economies: trapped in a family role from which they cannot escape because of an inability to find employment.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.

“The recent recession afflicting Western economies serves as a harbinger of the economic future for men, especially for those with lower levels of education,” says Dunlop. “Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard, because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries, such as construction and manufacturing, although of course working women have also been affected.”

Getting to the Core of the Problem

We all feel the burden of an economic system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%.  As the hype for next presidential election gets underway, we need to remember that both parties have increasingly become dominated by the rich, though Republicans seem more hell bent on insuring that the rich get richer.

Wolff points out, “Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens’ monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean (a) the government is not taxing corporations and the rich, and (b) the government is instead borrowing from them and paying them interest.  So the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.”

We need a new model for how we run our business life.  Up to now, the model driving our economies depended on perpetual growth, requiring ever more resources and investments. This model has inherent flaws. It leads to unjust societies, highly skewed and exploitative economies, and devastated ecosystems. The business model that defines corporate environmental responsibility in terms of size of investment, and defines corporate success as increased shareholder value and grandiose executive compensation, must be replaced. The new economy must be more effective and more collaborative.  It must become truly sustainable, introducing innovations that permit less investment, generate more revenues, and build the strengths of a community and builds up social capital – not debt.

Moving Toward a Sustainable “Blue” Economy

Gunter Pauli an inveterate entrepreneur whose scope of initiatives span business, culture, science, and education.  In his book, The Blue Economy:  10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, he says, “the current global crisis highlights the need for an framework of economic development that is based on fundamental innovation and that will generate desperately needed jobs while sustainably addressing the needs of the earth and all its citizens.”

 “This ‘blue’ approach,” says Pauli, “is not only viable, it has already begun to take root. Four years of research has identified a portfolio of 100 innovations including whole systems models that have the potential to generate as many as 100 million jobs worldwide over the next 10 years.”  This is the business framework that will drive the new Blue Economy. This is the framework that will seek out and define true sustainability for all living species on Earth.

What do you think?  Are we ready to move beyond capitalism towards a system of economic democracy?  I’d like to hear from you.

 

MenAlive Partner / Affiliate Program

My goal over the last 40 years has been to help men, and the women who love them, to live well throughout their lives.  Most of us know that men die sooner and live sicker than women, but I was surprised by the research from the University of Michigan showing that “if we could reduce men’s death rate to the same level as women’s we would do more good than curing cancer.”  Specifically it showed that we could save the lives of 330,000 men a year.  That seemed to me a worthy goal, so I made a commitment to do everything I could to Keep a Million Men Alive (KAMMA) over the next three years.

If you resonate with this goal, I’d like you to join me in the MenAlive Partnership Program.

If life were like a baseball game, we’re losing men at three places along the base paths.  Many of our young men don’t even make it to  first base.  Too many mid-life men fail to make the turn at second and end up alone in left field.  Many older men don’t make it around third and end up dead in the dugout.   Like a successful baseball game, my goal is to help men get around all three bases, make it home, and then help coach others.

My latest book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, has recently been published and brings together the work I have been doing for more than four decades.  I strongly believe that the information it contains can help keep men alive and well and I want to get the book to a million men and their families.  I also have put together my best e-books, white papers, and audio programs into a Diamond package to supplement the material in the book.

I can’t reach a million men by myself.  Here’s where you come in.  We all have our own social networks of friends, colleagues, and followers. If you would like to join me and become a KAMMA partner, I believe we can make a real difference in the world.  I’m not doing this to get rich.  I just want to help men and their families and make a living to keep my own family alive and well.  I assume you would like that as well.

Read my post about Why I’d Rather Partner with You on my Book than with a Big Publisher.

You may know about “affiliate” programs, like Amazon where you encourage people in your network to buy a product and you receive a subsidiary payment.  I’d rather have partners than affiliates, so my plan is to share revenues with you in a more equal way.  I’ll keep 1/3 for me.  1/3 will go to my marketing partner Ian Fitzpatrick to organize and run the program.  And 1/3 will go to you for all sales related to the project.  Sign up and you’ll receive resources and tools to assist you in your effort.

For now we’re selling the book for $19.95  (the cost to print it and have it shipped to me is $6), so the net profit on the book is basically $14.  Split three ways, we’d each get $4.67.  So for every 100 we get in the hands of a family who needs it, we would earn $467.  My complete set of support materials to supplement the book is $159, so we’d each get $53 per sale or $5300 for each 100 we sold.

I feel confident that the materials I’ve developed can help save lives.  But I know that other people have life-saving resources as well.  We’ll also be reaching out and finding other books and support materials that can make a significant contribution to keeping a million men alive.

If you know of ones that you feel are valuable, please tell us.  I believe this project is a win/win/win.  The biggest win is helping to save the lives of a million men and enhance the lives of their families.  I win by getting the satisfaction of helping others and bringing in a  steady income stream to support me and my family and you win in the same way.

So, if that makes sense to you, here’s how to sign up.  Ian can answer questions.  You can email him at Ian@MenAlive.com.  He will send you information to make it easy to let others know about what we’re doing.

Thanks for joining me in the KAMMA partnership.

Best wishes,

Jed