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Common Challenges Men Face

One of the most challenging things when talking about gender is that we can only do this by making generalizations. There are always exceptions to generalizations. So, when talking about common challenges men face, it is best to say “many, but not all men."

Also, these are just five of the common challenges that I have seen and/or studied through my experience with the psychology of men & masculinity. There are more challenges than these, I am sure.

Role Strain.

Men’s role expectations at home and out in the community, at times feel at complete odds. Men are expected to continue to be rational, tough, and aggressive (or at least assertive) in the workplace and larger community. However, men receive negative feedback at home for these values/roles. Men in today’s mainstream American culture must make a huge transition in how they behave and think about those around them when they come home…. They are being asked to be emotionally available at home, but downplay emotions in the work world. This is a tough transition to make on a daily basis.

Difficulties with Identifying Emotions.

Some theory and social research (e.g., J. Levant) state that men have been socialized/taught from a very young age to de-emphasize emotion. Many men become so good at this by the time they are adults that the process of denying emotions becomes subconscious or unconscious. Men experience emotion, but they are not often aware that they are experiencing them (because they have learned to ignore them).

Restricted Range of Emotional Expression.

Because of the struggles with identifying emotions, it is also difficult to express them. The result of this is that men often are not able to say what they are feeling. Even if they are able to identify their emotions, expressing them can be difficult. Due to concerns about being judged for having “unmanly” emotions. “Men don’t cry” “Men aren’t sad”, etc.

Anger Issues.

Although society frowns on anger management issues, it often seems that anger or irritations are the emotions/behaviors that men are given some flexibility in expressing. It’s not often acceptable for men to express sadness, joy, and affection (except towards one’s female partner or daughter). It is more expected that men will be angry, and therefore anger is accepted to a degree. A typical process is: (a) men experience emotion, (b) ignore their emotional experience, (c) emotions are either ignored successfully or continue to grow until they become unmanageable, and (d) emotions become expressed in extreme ways (e.g. anger, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violence).

Feelings of Extreme Isolation.

Possibly due to the other four challenges, many men feel isolated. When identifying and expressing emotion are difficult, feeling and being emotionally connected to others can become difficult. It’s often difficult for men to reach out for support for fear of being judged as “unmanly”.

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