Masculinity and mental health pt.2

So one he is through the door and is sitting comfortably in an uncomfortable way. The therapist will help him find a way to talk about himself. Some men approach therapy with the idea of needing to be fixed as if in someway there brain is broken. That is exactly how some men feel when they struggle with there emotions or have been unable to process and experience or trauma; they feel broken!

They feel broken because they feel let down by their emotions and they want to fix that or remove feeling emotional at all. The therapist at this stage not only needs to contain the mans shame at being in therapy in the place but giving them a gentle introduction into what emotions are, how they work, the affects they have and how he is using them. Often most men find this a relief. It is as though they have finally been given permission to acknowledge they are not ok.

Masculinity and mental health

Since I began working clinically i have noticed that men are becoming more aware of being able to access therapy. So why is it so hard for some men to access therapy. For anyone to start seeking help they first need to acknowledge that something isn’t going right for them.

For some men the thought of acknowledging that there is something wrong is an incredibly shameful experience. To admit that you cannot handle every aspect of your emotions and life. This can be considered to some people as a sign of weakness and frailty.

For the majority of men it is not only their feelings of needing to be ok and ‘honestly i’m fine!’ attitude but it is also the attitude that their family has towards masculinity that over time gets engrained with the individual. Ie; a twenty something is noticing that they have been feeling down after a breakup, he is having trouble processing what happened in the relationship but his father has told him not be weak and to get back out there. For someone like this young man there is a need for reassurance that seeking help does not make you weak but that there is a great strength is knowing that you are not ok and then getting help.

Small talk pt.3

Secondary small talk basically is a tool to determine whether your colleague/peer is your kind of person. Secondary small talk often involves generalised conversation with small elements of the self. I shall illustrate this through a small dialogue between Liz and Kate. Kate has just started a new job and is working along side Liz on project. This is the second day they are working together.

Kate: Hi Liz, thanks for all your help yesterday.

Liz: No worries. You will get the hang of it.

Kate: Yeah hope so. Its meant to be lovely weather on Saturday.

Liz: I could really do with some sun. You got any plans.

Kate: Not really, might go for a picnic with the kids and hubby.

Kate’s last sentence was a way of letting Liz know something personal about herself but in safe and generalised way. In the hope that Liz will be also offer some personal information. Liz now knows that Kate has children. If Liz wants to engage in further small talk she might ask Kate how old her kids. If she does the conversation will transition from small talk to a conversation that will let them know a bit more about each other. Thus building on a relationship.

Small talk pt.2

When you first begin to form a relationship with someone at school or work or at your local gym, small talk is the communication tool you will use to begin relating to them. Small talk acts as a sensor and actually does a lot more than people consciously realise.

Through engaging in small talk you are able to determine how interested another person is in you. If someone gives you continuous eye contact and a friendly smile you are likely to expand on your initial small talk. You started talking about the weather, now you may ask how their weekend was. This is what I like to call secondary small talk.

Small Talk pt.1

Firstly there is an awareness that they are part of the same environment as their peers. Secondly they begin to comment on this environment before they begin to comment on themselves. Why is this? It is safer to talk about something they have in common with other people than to talk about themselves.

This is why small talk is so important. Small talk acts as a bridge between talking about something that you know the other person will be able to relate too. Ie: What a miserable day, I can believe all this rain. For sure you know the other person is aware of the weather.


Communication can be difficult. Some people are good at taking about work as there is already an existing framework to the communication. There is a safeness and familiarity to it. This framework gets set for us from a very early age.

We start at pre-school which is often a pre-verbal time. As one goes through their schooling they learn to communicate their experience at school. Talking about which teachers they like and dislike, who they don’t like in their class. These are very important developments in communication.

being there and not there

A common aspect of depression that most people are familiar with is the struggle of going out and being able to interact with your surroundings.

What is less commonly known is that there are many people who are in a depression who are able to go out, to go to work and to socialise. Just because they are able to do those things it doesn’t mean that they are not in a depression anymore. Many depressed people live very functional lives however it is the level of enjoyment within their lives that the depression limits.

For example a depressed person may go to a party and say and do all of the ‘right things’ but actually deep down they feel unable to fully engage with their experience.

What no one tells you about depression. Pt.2

Feelings help us to notice things about ourselves. When you feel angry it is because something is not sitting right with you. When you feel excited it is usually because you are looking forward to something. But it you find yourself in a state where there is an absence of feeling it is impossible to know what your emotional state is.

Many people who are depressed do not know why they are depressed because they do not have many present feelings to help them make sense of things. This process is often very gradual. Therapy helps you to begin to feel again.

Fear pt2

You may feel very anxious in the run up to an event or family function. That anxiety can often be a manifestation of an initial fear that is felt. The fear could be directed toward something going wrong or something bad happening to yourself or someone else.


Humans usually feel fear in response to something that is going to happen. Ie: you might fee frightened the first time you have to drive on the motorway or you may fear in relation to a family member. Fear can be felt in varying degrees but most commonly is manifested through anxiety.

High Expectations

We all have ideas about ourselves. Most of the time these ideas are often magnified parts of ourselves. In one idea you might have all the good bits and in another all the bad bits. The idea that has all the good bits is usually you meeting all your high expectations and the bad idea of yourself is the one where you meet none of your expectations.

Sometimes expectations can be manageable and at other times they are so unrealistic. We are only human but in todays society it is looked down upon to not reach all of your expectations and then some.

Where do our own expectations come from?

Expectations are a cluster of ideas we have about ourselves and people close to us. You may expect your partner to be supportive if you are going through a difficult time. but where do these expectations come from and why do we have them.

Expectations develop over time and often change as we change. At times our expectations can come from our primary care takers whilst growing up. For example the expectation to get good grades or join the family business. Those examples are expectations that have like been adopted. As you go through life you might begin to shed those adopted expectations and create your own.

What no one tells you about trauma?

When most people hear the word trauma, the common response is to think of big events like an environmental disaster, a mugging or attack of some kind. Trauma often gets associated with something psychical that has happened.

What is less common is thinking of relationships as traumatic and that being with your partner has caused you some kind of trauma. It is not until the relationship has ended that a person can see how traumatic the relationship was. It is easier for people to think of relationships as damaging but harder to think that another person has caused you trauma without their being any level of physical abuse. I feel it is really important that people are able to acknowledge that an individual experience of another person can be traumatic.

Insomnia Pt.2

In the previous post I mentioned a few things that people engage in when they suffer from insomnia. But why? Why does an individual stay up till 3am watching tv just to avoid going to sleep.

In my opinion it is not the sleep that is the problem but the bit in between. Nobody falls asleep straight away when they lay in bed well some lucky people might but most of us don’t. There is a space before we fall asleep and many people who suffer from insomnia find this space unbearable. For some there is a feeling that particular thoughts keep circulating, some of these thoughts may create anxiety.

So what some people do is to fill that space with something in order not to think or feel anxious. Insomnia can be caused by many different things such as PTSD, stress at work or at home, depression etc.

Insomnia Pt.1

The basic definition of insomnia is the inability to sleep. This can vary, some individuals may not be able to sleep at all whilst others may not be able to sleep until 2 or 3am. This kind of partial insomnia seems very common.

It is not just the inability to sleep that makes up insomnia it is the inability to shut down and relax enough to sleep. Most people who suffer from insomnia to whatever degree will tell how tired they feel. However when it comes time to sleep there seems to be a restlessness that takes over. Whether it is working, engaging in social media or streaming Netflix show these are the things that ultimately stop you from trying to sleep.

Understanding boundaries Pt2.

As I said previously being able to say no is really important when trying to establish boundaries. Boundaries work to protect yourself from other people and is essentially a form of self care. It links to how you want to be treated by others, what you are willing to accept or not accept.

The difficulty with boundary setting is that it is up to the individual to continuously exert them. People will test your boundaries and push against them but it is up to the individual to maintain them.

Having good boundaries is key to having better balanced relationships which ultimately leads on to more fulfilment.

Understanding boundaries Pt1.

An individuals boundaries will change over time. A person will not not have the same set of boundaries for every relationship. The type of boundaries you have within yourself towards another person depends on the dynamic of that relationship. For example you can have very clear boundaries with a friend but with another friend you may find it difficult to assert yourself.

Having good boundaries does not mean you are selfish or cold. Being able to say no to someone is an act of setting a boundary. Saying no is really important as it shows that you are able to take your own opinions into consideration.