Counselling for men
It's easy enough for someone to say, "you should go and see a counsellor." I don't know about you, but I was never very good at talking to "counsellors". The idea of counselling as a whole, didn't sit very well with me. In one way it felt like a failing in me. What on earth was I supposed to talk about? And why couldn't I keep it together when others mostly seemed to be able to? We're all struggling and we're all trying to get through. Why single me out? I felt stupid and uncomfortable and, to be honest, a bit resentful about even having to go in the first place.
But I did go, and gradually, I found I was able to open up. Interestingly, it was not so much about opening up to the counsellor, as being able to open up to myself. To be able to look inside a little and realise that although I was juggling everything and keeping everything going, it was hard work and it was affecting how I was being with people. I felt lost sometimes and I felt worthless sometimes. There were times when I was trying so hard to be a good dad and feeling like I was failing, that I would get so knotted up about feeling like I wasn't doing it well, that we all ended up missing out on the fun we could have been having. I was so preoccupied with not being the kind of dad, my stepdad had been to me (which was mainly unkind and cut off) that I was almost as cut off from my own kids out of worrying about being a 'bad' dad.
I wasn't brought up to ring my friends if I was having a bad day, or to talk things out with my work colleagues. Are you kidding? Try to talk seriously, when all I was probably going to hear was banter? Not a chance. And anyway, how was I supposed to know which bits I should talk about when actually, quite a lot of it felt difficult? And what if I started looking at some of this stuff, and I ended up dropping all the other plates it felt like I was spinning? I didn't feel like I had the time for a meltdown - and the idea frightened me a little.
But despite all these concerns, there were actually some things that I couldn't do, or just couldn't seem to get past. For me at the time, it really helped to hear that it was perfectly normal to feel what I was feeling, considering the life experiences I'd been through, and the pressure I often put myself under.
I began to see that I wasn't as happy as I'd been telling myself I was, and that things weren't working as well as I wanted to believe they were, just because the bills were paid and food was on the table. It wasn't because I was a failure. I was paying the bills, and I was looking after my family and doing all the responsible things that I felt were important. It was because of how I was feeling. I didn't know why I was feeling funny, but I did know that something had to change.
What is counselling for men?
Well, firstly, I guess we could look at what is counselling? There are many ways to describe it. One way to put it, is that throughout life, we are encouraged to develop beliefs about who we are and what we're capable of. Inevitably, moments bubble up when the discomfort of maintaining these beliefs can become unbearable.
Person-centred theory says that we are not only this version of ourselves which is made up of our thoughts and beliefs about who we are, but that we are also simply who we are, regardless of what we think about ourselves. It's really natural and usual to have these two versions of ourselves. Everyone does. But it can start to get a bit more complicated when who we think we are starts to have less and less in common with who we actually are.
When we're in times of stress, illness, loss and vulnerability, this difference can show up more and we can find ourselves in a space of uncertainty, doubt and discomfort. These feelings and emotions can have symptoms, like irrational behaviour, short-temperedness or even increased alcohol usage. Unchecked, these symptoms can sometimes lead on to more pronounced symptoms, like self-harming behaviours and suicidal thoughts.
Although people often come for counselling before this point, all these things, at least to some degree, can be seen as symptoms of inner discomfort and although some of these feelings can be really disconcerting, most of them can be eased with a healthy therapeutic relationship with a counsellor.
Before I even started studying, I was beginning to see more and more about what is sometimes termed a male suicide epidemic. Research suggests that suicide is the biggest cause of death for men aged between 15 and 40 years old. It is thought that a considerable factor in this issue is to do with men not being as comfortable with talking about what's going on for them.
So I took myself off to university as a mature student, and did some post graduate study and research, and as a result I now know a bit more about the academic side of counselling. I know how counselling and talking therapies can help men's mental wellbeing. But what I know better, is how the stresses of life feel, and how life can sometimes feel for men who are just trying to get through life, and finding themselves struggling a bit.
This is why I offer a counselling service which is specifically for men, because I get it. This is is what counselling for men is all about.
If some of this speaks to you and you'd like to know more, please contact me and we can take it from there...
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