You know what they say: “Time and tide wait for no man. " And, you know, they're right. Time's up, guys! Tide's gone out, and there's not enough water left to float your boat. For the past four months, I've been focusing my energies on addressing the single most critical time in a person's life - the midlife transition - from the point of view of that half of our population that has the greatest difficulty making that transition successfully and with a minimum of crisis and collateral damage. Many times, I've written that one of the core processes that take place during this transition directly affects guy's belief systems, assumptions, and expectations.
It's time to remind both you and me of the fact that the processes in question aren't temporary; they come into their own during the midlife transition (when the denial systems that prevent their going forward start to give way). Yet, as life processes, they continue on for the rest or your life, at the same time burrowing ever deeper toward the core of your personhood and also confronting new (but inadequate) belief systems, assumptions and expectations that come up along the way. Not only do you get flushed out of your hiding place during the midlife transitions, but every new one that you find or create gets targeted for demolition as well.
What's this all about? Let me explain: I've just had one of my own basic assumptions punctured. I had been going forward with the belief that, once faced with the facts about what goes on inside during the midlife transition, that most men would say, “Oh, wow! That makes sense! Here's a chance to save myself and those I love a lot of trouble and heartache. " Yeah. Right. I can just imagine those words coming from Joe Six-Pack and the ubiquitous Joe the Plumber. Not!
I failed to take Jed Diamond's warning to heart. In his e-Book, The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind and Spirit after 40, Jed listed what he calls “The Commandments That Move Me. " Here they are:
I can never be weak.
If I have a weak moment I must hide it from everyone, including myself.
I must never fail at anything.
To fail is to lose my sense of self. To fail my family is to lose my reason for living.
I must work to support my family whatever the cost to myself. To ever lose a job is to feel shame at the core of my being.
I cannot express emotions, particularly love, fear, or sadness. Anger is sometimes acceptable if directed at other men.
I must not cry, complain, or ask for help.
I must never be uncertain or ambivalent. If I'm not always sure of myself, I must act that way.
I must not be dependent or act like I need someone.
Disrespect is my greatest fear. I'm afraid I might kill or die rather than live a life where I felt disrespected.
I must ignore my own health. “Real men" are indestructible.
If I'm sick or injured I must “play hurt. " To slow down to take care of myself is unmanly and a source of shame.
To tell the truth, since I've moved quite some distance away from most of these ‘commandments’ for ‘real men, ’ I fear that I haven't taken them sufficiently seriously, particularly those last two. Even when confronted with the facts about what's going on deep inside, and even when instructed on the incredibly damaging effects mishandling this process can have on their careers, their families and their health and well-being, the culturally-imposed commandments prove stronger than fact, stronger than knowledge, stronger, even than reason. Too long, the male of our species has hidden its overwhelming emotionalism (an emotionalism that gives the lie to every supposed ‘fact’ put forward about ‘real men') behind this Great Wall of denial. As a result, today it's destroying careers, destroying families, destroying lives. While women, the putative ‘weaker sex’ have the strength and courage to confront and deal with their emotionalism, the opposite sex pretty much exists within a self-destructive cocoon of denial.
So, there we are, aren't we? All this sage advice, culled from numerous sources, falls on blind eyes and deaf ears, with the worst kind of escapism: ‘There are none so blind as those who will not see. ’ So now I take the next step along the road that leads to acceptance of life on life's terms, and recognize that the guys in my audience have had their chance. It's time to pull the plug on that no-win policy, I think.
Ladies, the guys had their chance to handle this themselves, and they've pretty much blown it, haven't they? I think those rare and courageous men who've ‘gotten’ what I've been writing and talking about over the last number of months will ‘get’ it, too. Governments aren't the only ones to drive failed policies to their ultimate, illogical, and often devastating conclusions. As a result, over the coming weeks, I'll be formulating a new approach aimed at helping you women to understand better the forces at work in your midlife man, to appreciate more fully the risks you face as you're forced to deal with your man's self-destructive defense mechanisms, and to develop practical, strategic approaches that will not only support his struggles with the midlife transition, but also safeguard you and your family from the consequences of possible mismanagement on his part.
Of course, guys, the tools you need to assist you in this transition will still be here for you, and I hope and pray that you'll have the courage to face what's going on, dump the cultural baggage, and step up to the task. No one should be left to deal with these things on his or her own. That's why, now that the tide has changed from him to her, it's high time that the women in this scenario get more of my attention. Guys: I'll be here should you decide to change your minds.
H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC
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