My emotional intimacy with men

jny published on
4 min, 709 words

Categories: Mental Health

Don't get me wrong, I have anxiety with just about everything, but it wasn't until I was in the treatment center that I started to see just how limited my connections with other men could be.

As messed up as it is to hear myself say it now, I was taught (by example) that men don't show their emotions. They never cry in front of others, and......well, it's basically toxic masculinity.

And then I was forced to be in a very small group, talking about very personal matters, and it just so happened that my group consisted entirely of men. It was so very hard to be able to speak what was in my head because while it wasn't religious, it felt like I was back in the church, back in a small group, back where people hid all their problems. And yes, the other men were there for their own reasons. But for some reason, like a psychological stamp on my brain, I still felt as though they were silently judging me.

It was not easy at first. The biggest breakthrough I had was that I -despite my fear- asked another resident if he would be my mentor, to which he responded enthusiastically. I then had to learn how to be open with him and open with the others in the group. I'm just intimidated by men. I guess it's because I don't feel masculine in comparison. I'm afraid of them seeing that I'm soft and fragile.

I said all this at the start of one of the first groups I went to, and thankfully, the group I was in was awesome because (with the help of the facilitating therapist) they all encouraged me and stated how much they were not judging as much as just hearing. After hearing that, it felt like I finally allowed myself to relax. I grew more and more comfortable with the members of my group, and also some of the ones outside of it.

I suppose the reason I listed it on the things I learned during treatment is that I didn't realize just how much I was missing out on. I was always been drawn to being friends with girls, I guess because they didn't have the same kind of persona. But to know that there's 50% of the population out there that I can also be vulnerable with, that I don't have to fear, it felt very different.

The title is a little misleading, because during treatment I grew in intimacy as a whole; but none needed the growing more than with men. Really it wasn't even "growth", it was trying to bring back to life something that had long been dead. It played a large role in my journey to the center of myself because it made it clear that I was not alone in that respect. That there are people -even the ones I was taught to believe did not- will listen to me and empathize.

So during treatment I was able to practice this several times a week, and after every time, I may have felt raw and naked, but I also felt like it was helping me define who I am. My authentic self is not one who is afraid of the opinions of those who hold onto what I do not take to be a virtue (i.e. toxic masculinity). I'm capable of having deep, meaningful relationships with men, and depending on the ones I know, it has the capacity to change my life drastically. And it also helped define for myself what I want to be; that I don't want my self-image to be based on poor opinions, just because I tend to think they're "better" at being a man/person/whatever it is that makes me fear them.

But it's still very much a work in progress. TBH, most of the time it feels like men don't want that kind of vulnerability, and the rest of the time is me snaring myself with anxiety into a freeze response. I have taken steps, and to me, that's what's important. Because life is a journey. For me, a journey to the center of self, and journeys are just steps in a determined direction.