Men, today, in most parts of the world, live in a rapidly changing social and cultural setting. The days when the roles of men and women were clearly defined–when men were the sole bread-winners, were the heads of their families and were privileged from birth with power and status in relation to their women partners–those days, to a great extent, now belong to the past. The change has taken place, and continues to take place, within a brief moment of history, within a few generations. Certainly it has accelerated since World War Two when there was an urgent national need to have women enter the work force. As a consequence, many people find themselves frequently trying to keep up with the pace of change.
Men, in particular, have found themselves in need of playing catch up in numerous areas of their lives, even in the most personal. Men, today, are often asked things by their partners that are hard for them to answer:
“Why don’t you talk to me more?”
“I never know what you’re feeling”
“Why don’t you spend more time with the kids?”
These are not questions men have historically been obliged or expected to answer. And, now, suddenly, they often feel they are on the spot to come up with an answer–and it better be a bloody good one, too! And so, blokes will one day find themselves doing what they never before imagined: talking to a counsellor. Part of the conversation that ensues will be a discussion on what might be the importance of emotional awareness, not only for the client’s relationship, which at the moment is having difficulties, but also for the client himself. This is an important moment for a man. If he has sought out counselling solely to placate his partner, he will likely be disappointed by the outcome. Becoming more emotionally intelligent is not like repairing the deck or moving up the organizational ladder. It requires different skills and sensitivities. What is similar is that all those aspirations require genuine, sustained motivation, that is to say, a desire that comes from inside oneself as opposed to a desire to please or impress others. That wish for one’s own sake to become more emotionally aware is crucial for men in our current day to meet the relational and social expectations that confront them. Men, all men, can fulfill that wish with the proper support and the desire to change.