I’m a depth-oriented talk therapist with a significant specialty in Somatic Experiencing. Somatic Experiencing (SE) accesses the body senses and the nervous system to promote healing across a broad spectrum of issues and symptoms. I integrate SE into all my work and also use it as a stand-alone approach to healing. SE doesn’t have to require a lot of talk. It’s a great way to work with men. And all people with bodies.
Men need a lot more support than they are getting.
All men, like all people, are different. While it is not possible to say what is true for every man, there are a few things we know about what men, in general, are dealing with in terms of coping with their lives and emotions.
- Many men have been trained not to feel and not to express what they do feel. Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for decades, but men are still being asked to bottle their feelings up. Sometimes men don’t know how they feel, because they have cut off to their emotions and their bodies as a form of self-containment. Sometimes, men bury their feelings in the body, leading to elevated states of anxiety, depression, anger, and irritability. Certainly, it can be an isolating way to live. Men are living in a straight jacket in a culture that continues to narrowly define what it means to be a “real man” and what is acceptable for men to do and feel
- Men experience losses, many losses, and they tend to do it alone. Women typically build both deeper and broader social network support systems than men. When a woman experiences a loss, she can go to her friends for support. Many men often have much less in the way of social supports. A man’s primary support and confident is his spouse. This is one reason men fare worse than women in a divorce (not of his choosing) or when widowed. He simply doesn’t have anyone to turn to when she is gone. On top of that, as a man experiences job losses, career setbacks, health issues, aging, and changes in potency and vitality, it is less likely he will reach out for help. Even professional help. At the same time, powerful feelings of grief, anger, and overwhelm will still be present.
- A man’s health is at risk when he’s not dealing with his feelings. Men are at significant risk for heart attack, acid reflux, ulcers, anxiety, and depression when they are dealing with high levels of unattended to or unrecognized emotion. All of these conditions have an impact on overall health. Some of them can be fatal.
- In an effort not to feel pain and sadness, men are at risk for addiction. Men and women will sometimes self-medicate rather than feel their feelings. Already suppressing their feelings, men are perhaps at greater risk. We all know about the issues of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. There’s a high price to pay in health, treasure, and loss of relationship. Numbing out our feelings doesn’t stop there, however. When we reach out for too much of anything, we’re in the business of not feeling our stuff: overworking, over-exercising, too much porn, too much TV, too much sports, too much of anything can serve the purpose of numbing us out.
- Men experience high levels of unaddressed trauma over the course of their lives. Little boys and little girls are being sexually exploited and abused. They’re getting beaten and neglected. Both boys and girls may keep this a secret at the time. Men are less likely to seek help, even as adults. Even from their spouses. At the same time, the shame persists and the body remembers. These powerful experiences are impacting men’s general health, undermining positive relationships, damaging the sense of self, contributing to high states of anxiety, depression, and irritability. A man will often feel there is no one to talk to about this and not point in “dredging it all up.” Coming in touch with those overwhelming emotions and the sense of co-occurring powerlessness is just too much to take.
- Childhood trauma is only part of it. Men and women are experiencing traumas of all kinds throughout their lives. These include those capital T traumas you may immediately think of, such as war, natural disasters, assaults, and car accidents. It also includes significant traumas such as surgeries, falls, and attachment issues with caretakers. Or the loss of a child.
- Gay men are at even higher risk. All the things that impact heterosexual men and their states of well-being, impact gay men, as well, only more so. Even higher levels of trauma and depression are experienced in this population, overall.
- Men struggle with heartbreak in relationship. In their isolation, men will struggle with the loss of relationship and have no one to turn to. Again and again men tell to me they go to their MDs with reports of insomnia, grief, and appetite loss following painful breakups, only to be offered anti-depressants. Our society agrees with men—“It’s better for you not to feel and if you are, and you’re feeling sad or mad, then there’s something wrong with you.”
- Better access to emotions. Somatic work puts men in touch with their bodies and therefore in touch with their feelings in a titrated and safe way. Learning to track the subtle sensations and responses of the body help men identify and feel a broader range of emotions. Somatic work is a great tool for dealing with strong feelings and experiences without being overwhelmed by them.
- Increased emotional resiliency. Somatic work helps men tolerate stronger emotional states and develop greater levels of internal resiliency. Men no longer have to tough it out or fear their powerful feelings will be their undoing. As a result, a man will develop more access to his happiness and bliss as he makes more room for his sadness and overwhelm
- Healing old childhood traumas. Somatic Experiencing is, first and foremost, a trauma-healing modality. As a result, it is the ideal tool for treating and healing all manner of traumas and losses. Drawing on the body senses to work with incomplete fight, flight, or freeze responses within the body, SE allows experience stored within the body to be processed and released. Very often we hear that SE goes where talk therapy fails to get. Perhaps, more accurately, SE is a therapy can be the primary work you do or the therapeutic piece that builds on all the good personal work you’ve already done. Additionally, unlike some trauma therapies, SE is non-re-traumatizing. It is a gentle, rhythmic way of working with experience and healing.
- Working with powerful, overwhelming states of being, such as anxiety and rage. Powerful experiences, such as social anxiety, rage, and fear are ideal for working through utilizing Somatic Experiencing. In a structured, bit-by-bit way of working, small pieces of emotion and experience can be dealt with at a time, allowing for integration and client-led pacing in all the work. Somatic Experiencing can help men build a positive and appropriate container for their feelings, facilitate sharing powerful emotions in a productive way, and lead to happier and more fulfilled relationships and lives overall.
Somatic. It’s a big word that means “body.” You have one. We can use it to create a happier more connected life for you.
It’s possible to use your awareness of the sensations in your body to promote well-being and a deeper sense of self-knowledge. You don’t have to be alone with your feelings any more. If you’d like to chat about how Somatic Experiencing and/or talk therapy can create a positive change in your life, give me a call. I’d be happy to talk to you. And your nervous system.