Warning: this is a bit of a rant because #IHateBullying
I recently came across an article that spouted some nonsense about how men should Show No Weakness, especially to their wives and girlfriends.
And what the writer, we’ll call him Mr. Show-No-Weakness, meant by “weakness” is vulnerable feelings. Specifically, the kind of feelings a man has when his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the choices that man makes to manage those feelings.
“Real” Man Falls Off Pedestal
So, in his article, Mr. Show-No-Weakness calls out some influencer in the “make men strong again” movement who checked himself into a detox unit to get off an anti-anxiety medication that had gotten the best of him. He’d started taking the meds when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and suffered complications during the process of trying to heal.
After several months, the wife regained her health and he no longer needed the meds. But unfortunately, the physical symptoms of coming off the meds were very intense and he was unable to shake them on his own. So, he went inpatient to detox under medical supervision.
Additionally, since he’s quite popular and controversial, he naturally has a number of detractors. That being the case, the family decided to share the information themselves before some “troll” started a rumor that he was “on meth.” So, the man’s daughter shared his story with the public on her own popular YouTube channel.
And now you know the context in which the comments about how men should show no weakness were made.
To be honest, if you watch the video of the daughter sharing the family update, my rant might make more sense.
Vulnerability is Weakness
In his opinion, Mr. Show-No-Weakness believes women (specifically wives and girlfriends) should not be exposed to any “weakness” a man might have. He also believes that modern society has allowed men to be, and in fact has turned men into “weaklings” by allowing them to be vulnerable with their full range of feelings. And that if a man does reveal his “weaker” feelings that he is a “weak, whiny, child-man who can’t handle pressure and needs a hug from his mommy.”
He also believes that “no one wants to see a husband, father, mentor, hero, and powerful voice in the movement to ‘Make Men Strong Again’ looking like a ‘sad puppy.’”
It’s ok, he says, for men to share their questions, concerns, disappointments, and pain with other men, but not women. Because, according to Mr. Show-No-Weakness, women will unconsciously punish, shame, and lose confidence in a man if he reveals his weak, “man-child” feelings.
So, let’s get to unpacking.
Projection: How to Unsuccessfully Hide Your Big Secrets
To begin, Mr. Show-No-Weakness is doing something called “projection.” It’s a psychological phenomenon where you accuse someone else of doing the exact thing that YOU are actually doing.
In this case, Mr. Show-No-Weakness has projected his hatred and judgment of his own vulnerability onto women. He says women don’t (unconsciously) like men’s vulnerability, and will ultimately punish them for being “weak.”
Avoiding the Work
Conveniently, with the hatred and judgment of his vulnerability outside of himself and onto women, a man’s goal can simply be to avoid women’s hate and punishment of his vulnerability.
He doesn’t have to acknowledge and do the work of truly integrating his vulnerability into his identity as a strong, capable provider and protector. He just has to hide it from his wife.
Creating an Inevitable Problem
Well here’s what happens when you do that kind of mental gymnastics. The “man-child” part of the self stays separate from the protector and provider self.
The fantasy of being a “real” man, and an “alpha male” can be maintained. But the danger of being overtaken by that man-child under conditions of stress is nearly inevitable.
Because, reality check: no matter how good a provider and protector, a man’s vulnerability is never completely gone.
At best it is well integrated and the man not only feels his strength, capability, and power, he can also reach out to a spouse and supportive friends to maintain equilibrium under stress without feeling shame.
And at worst, a man isolates himself from those who love and care about him because of the unconscious self-hatred that he projects onto others. He expects the same judgment and shame from them for his vulnerability that he puts out into the world.
He will numb himself with substances and obsessions so as not to feel his conscious anxiety, which is simply a cloak for his unconscious self-hatred and shame.
So that’s the first part.
Just Be A Mask, Not A Full Human Being
Mr. Show-No-Weakness did not want the vulnerability of the man he admired to be revealed. So much so that his interpretation of the family’s choice to have the daughter do a “family status update” on her YouTube channel was that it was a mistake and a mark of shame for the man. (Perpetrated on him by his wife and daughter).
In fact, Mr. Show-No-Weakness was so disturbed by the revelation of vulnerability that he began his article by shaming the man. He made sure to tell other men how to be better at being a man than the man whose vulnerability was shared through his daughter’s YouTube channel.
In essence, Mr. Show-No-Weakness is saying, just be a mask. Your vulnerability embarrasses “our movement.” Your wife is too weak and needy to know the “man-child” inside you. And she and your daughter have shamed you for it by telling the world about your weakness.
Only other men can know about this weakling, he asserts. (Side Note – this writer sells weekend experiences where you can share your weakness with him and other men for $2000)
Unconscious Weakness (old) vs. Weakness in Crisis (now)
Here’s the thing that actually irks me most about the article. In an attempt to beat his own vulnerability, Mr. Show-No-Weakness has done something pretty audacious. He’s compared the “weakness” and vulnerability of a man in a terrifying, current day crisis to the “weakness” that comes from wounds in childhood that a man carries with him unconsciously into adult life as if they are the same.
It’s like comparing car trouble that’s difficult to diagnose with being T-Boned at 50 mph. There’s simply no comparison.
You see, the “weakness” (aka: old wounds) a man develops in childhood and unconsciously carries into his marital relationship, expecting his wife to be his “mommy,” is NOTHING like the “weakness” a man might feel in the face of watching his wife suddenly begin to die before his eyes with a terminal illness.
The First Man
The first looks like a man who goes through life cycling up and down with recurrent bouts of depression and anxiety for no apparent reason.
Life is just hard for him inside, even though it doesn’t look all that hard from the outside. He needs a solution (comfort and solace) for something no one else can see.
And if he expects his wife to give it to him, she’s well within her rights to refuse. That’s what therapists are for.
The Second Man
The second is a man who has basically “conquered” life without much trouble and suddenly has to watch, helpless, as the most important person in his life begins to die painfully.
He’s going to “wear his heart on his sleeve,” sure. And he might take strong anti-anxiety medication to help him continue to function every day.
If that guy hides his feelings from his wife, it’s not only not helpful, it actually deprives her of the life-supporting empathy she needs in her process of trying to heal.
So, when that guy shares his feelings of being overwhelmed, he creates contact and connection with the people he loves. They are all in the battle and the pain together. And that is healing.
Unlike the first man, the second man is not expecting his wife to be his mommy. He is joining his wife in her fight. Through emotional resonance.
And to compare that with a man who, because of his old wounds, needs “a hug from his mommy” that he expects from his wife for his mystery problems is a slap in the face to empathetic, supportive men everywhere.
Don’t fall for the faulty logic, men.
Some Women WILL Shame a Man’s Vulnerability
Now, Mr. Show-No-Weakness is not totally off base when he says that women will unconsciously punish a man who “shows his weakness.” But he’s suggesting that ALL women will do so. Which is simply not true, and is based on a simplistic and cherry-picked understanding of psychology.
There are indeed women who will “pretend” they understand and empathize with the fears and vulnerability a man has. And who will, in fact, “punish” him later.
But the reality is that only certain women will do that.
And for the most part, it will be women who, as children, were not protected sufficiently from the dangers of the world by their own fathers. Or those who were overwhelmed or afraid of their own father’s aggression or out-of-control emotional life because they were not safe from it.
Those women WILL have an ax to grind (unconsciously) and they will punish their husbands for their father’s transgressions. (Especially if they have not done some work to recognize this as a tendency they have due to their past, and make a conscious choice not to do so).
The logic of the argument that all women will punish a man for his vulnerability assumes something as universal that is simply not universal.
It cannot be argued about women in general. But it does make perfect sense in regards to a woman who has the proverbial ax to grind with her own father.
So, beware when you marry!
Are you marrying a woman who wants YOU? Or are you marrying a woman who expects you to make up for all the ways her daddy failed her?
And make sure you aren’t getting married so you can prove your manliness by being a better daddy to your wife than her own father was.
Because Newsflash: Only children can expect to be protected from the uncertainty of the world.
Mature women (the kind you want to marry) know this to be true.
Women Are Not Children to Be “Protected” From the Harsh Realities of Life
Grown women are indeed generally smaller and weaker physically than men, as Mr. Show-No-Weakness asserts. However, they are not less capable of understanding the complexities of the human psyche, which he also implies.
Here’s why I say that. His argument that men should Show-No-Weakness is based, as I mentioned, on the idea that women will punish men and not trust in their ability to protect and provide if they show vulnerability.
But remember, the only women who will do that are the ones who were not sufficiently protected by their fathers as children.
The ones who were protected as children will have no trouble understanding that a strong man who protects and provides can also be a vulnerable man who feels overwhelmed at times. Like all humans.
She will KNOW that vulnerable does not mean weak or childlike.
And she will appreciate the courage her man shows in the face of fears, and understand when he reaches for solace when he becomes overwhelmed.
She will KNOW that simply because a man shows a full range of emotion to her, it doesn’t mean she and her children aren’t safe, or that he can’t protect and provide.
From the positive experience with her own father, she will know deeply within herself that a full range of feelings in a man has NO CORRELATION to his ability to protect and provide for his wife and family.
Ashamed of Unmet Needs
It is only a man who didn’t get enough acceptance of his weakness as a child from his own parents who will reject his “weakness” as an adult. And this man will have a deep “unconscious” need for “mommy” to accept and love him, which he will transfer onto his wife.
This man will experience, as I mentioned earlier, deep collapses into “weakness” in adulthood and expect his wife to tolerate these collapses without complaint.
He will be ashamed of his full range of feelings and say it is weak to share his vulnerability with his wife. And only HE will fall prey to the false premise that his full range of feelings means that he cannot protect and provide sufficiently.
That’s because he is constantly fighting against the seemingly endless unmet needs of an unconscious internal child that he is avoiding and doesn’t know what to do with.
That constant internal fight will make it impossible for him to become familiar with and settle into the give and take of adult support between two competent, loving, empathetic adults.
That man will proclaim from the mountaintops that only “weak” men reveal their feelings to their wives.
But that’s not everyone’s experience. And it doesn’t have to be yours.
Take Off the Mask to Promote Health in Your Family
Bottom line. You don’t have to wear a mask with your family.
Yes, you need to protect your children from as much fear and uncertainty as possible. That’s your job as a parent.
But you do not have to pretend you do not feel trepidation or fear in the face of some of life’s challenges.
Because that DOESN’T MEAN you can’t face challenges or protect and provide.
It means you are a real person.
That you can take your vulnerabilities in stride. And that you know that the “weak man-child” (your vulnerability) inside you has nothing to do with whether you will succeed or fail at protecting and providing.
When you do that, you teach your children REAL courage. You teach them that no part of their experience makes them weak or incapable. That they can have their fears and vulnerabilities and still “conquer.”
Vulnerability is the softness that allows us to enjoy life. Without it, every day becomes dull and boring, or full of constant anxiety that you quell with medications of various kinds, or “weed.”
Even if he’s got the support of other men outside his home, a man who isn’t authentic with a full range of feelings in his own home is going to be emotionally distant. (Mr. Show-No-Weakness says this is good).
This will result in a severely limited depth of emotional connection he can have with his children, and they will feel misunderstood by their father. Causing them to reject part of themselves, and the cycle of anxiety (cloaking self-hatred) continues.
Think carefully about the example you want to provide for your children.
A Mask Eventually Makes You Sick
As human beings we all need to be seen, felt, and understood. Especially by the most important people in our lives, not only as children but as adults.
The fantasy that, in marriage, men do not need to be understood by their spouses as whole human beings who have a complete range of feelings will create illness in that man. (Again, I’m not saying they should be able to expect constant coddling from their wives, I’m talking about the reasonable back and forth of support in adult two-way relationships.)
It will ultimately make him sick and weak in a way that all his bravado and “strength” will never be able to overcome in the long term. He will find himself intermittently overcome by injuries or an invisible force that sucks his strength, drive, and will from him again and again.
He will have to fight extremely hard against the need to be understood in his own home. Believing that need makes him weak. And the irony is, he will suffer. Alone. And for humans, isolation begets ill health.
Consider yourself warned.
The Role of Other Men in Witnessing Your “Weakness”
One last thing.
Yes, a man needs support from important men in his life. No doubt. Because support from other men is like none other. No woman can completely understand the experience of a man. And no woman can validate the vulnerability a man experiences in the same way another man can.
But make no mistake. The support from men will never bring you the same solace as the support from the woman who you protect and provide for.
That’s because NONE of those other men are relying on you to protect and provide for them. Their support comes at NO RISK. Your wife’s support during your times of vulnerability comes with GREAT FAITH because of the risk she takes by allowing you to be the one who supports her.
Never underestimate the value of your wife’s support at your “weakest” moments. So long as she doesn’t have a need to make you pay for her father’s failures, and you don’t need to be a better daddy to her than her own father or need her to be your better “mommy.” You’re golden.
P.S. There is help for the man with old wounds (the “weak” child inside) that he can’t seem to shake. Just because it is not appropriate for your wife to be expected to heal those wounds doesn’t mean there isn’t another avenue for healing. Because isolating this part of yourself doesn’t make it go away, it simply creates an abscess that will eventually burst.
So, if you’re interested in integrating that part of you rather than rejecting it.