Relationship Fitness

P21 E1: Men, Vulnerable from Birth

In our society, the notion of male vulnerability is often overlooked or dismissed. From a young age, boys are taught to suppress their emotions, to be strong and tough, and to avoid showing signs of weakness. This cultural conditioning has profound implications for men’s mental health and their ability to form meaningful relationships. In a recent episode of the “Relationship Workout for Men” podcast, host Vince Vasquez and psychotherapist Roni Maislish explored the concept of men being vulnerable from birth and the long-term impacts of childhood trauma on their emotional development.

The Hidden Trauma

While overt trauma such as physical abuse is more readily recognized, the subtle, insidious nature of complex trauma often goes unnoticed. Maislish explains that complex trauma, or C-PTSD, involves emotional neglect and emotional starvation. These hidden traumas occur when a child’s emotional needs are not met, leading to feelings of being unseen, misunderstood, and unsupported. This type of trauma can be just as damaging as physical abuse, if not more so, because it is often difficult to identify and address.

The Impact of Childhood Trauma

The effects of complex trauma extend far beyond childhood. Men who experience emotional neglect often carry these wounds into adulthood, affecting their relationships, self-esteem, and overall mental health. Maislish points out that many men who suffer from depression, anxiety, and addiction in their forties or fifties are only then beginning to recognize the roots of their struggles in their childhood experiences.

These early experiences shape men’s ability to connect with others and with themselves. When boys are taught to suppress their emotions and avoid vulnerability, they grow up disconnected from their true selves. This disconnection leads to shallow relationships and a reliance on addictive behaviors to cope with the resulting emotional void.

The Role of Vulnerability in Healing

Maislish emphasizes the importance of vulnerability in the healing process. To address the deep-seated issues stemming from complex trauma, men must learn to reconnect with their emotions and express their inner worlds. This requires creating safe spaces where men can explore and articulate their feelings without fear of judgment or ridicule.

Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness; it is a pathway to authenticity and strength. By embracing vulnerability, men can foster deeper connections with their partners, children, and communities. This shift towards emotional openness and honesty can transform relationships and enhance overall well-being.

The Societal Context

The challenges men face in expressing vulnerability are not solely individual; they are deeply embedded in societal norms and expectations. Maislish highlights that our society is sick, with most parents, teachers, and counselors lacking the emotional tools to support boys in developing healthy emotional lives. This societal disease perpetuates the cycle of emotional suppression and disconnection.

Breaking this cycle requires a collective effort to change the way we view and teach emotional expression. It involves educating parents, teachers, and mental health professionals to recognize and nurture boys’ emotional needs. By fostering a culture that values vulnerability and emotional honesty, we can help future generations of men develop healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Steps Towards Restoration

The journey towards healing and restoration involves several key steps:

  1. Self-Reflection: Men must take the time to reflect on their childhood experiences and recognize the subtle traumas that may have shaped their emotional lives. This introspection is the first step towards understanding and healing.
  2. Creating Safe Spaces: It’s crucial to establish environments where men feel safe to express their emotions. This could be through therapy, support groups, or open conversations with trusted friends and family members.
  3. Embracing Vulnerability: Men need to learn that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. By being open about their feelings, they can build deeper, more meaningful relationships.
  4. Education and Advocacy: Society must shift its perspective on male vulnerability. This involves educating parents, teachers, and mental health professionals to support boys in developing emotional intelligence.
  5. Ongoing Support: Healing from complex trauma is an ongoing process. Men need continuous support and encouragement to maintain their emotional well-being and continue their journey towards wholeness.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

The exploration of male vulnerability and the impact of childhood trauma is crucial for understanding the challenges many men face in their emotional lives. By recognizing and addressing these issues, we can help men reconnect with their true selves and build healthier, more fulfilling relationships. As Vince Vasquez and Roni Maislish highlight, the journey towards healing starts with embracing vulnerability and creating supportive environments that nurture emotional growth. It’s time for society to value and support men’s emotional well-being, starting from birth.


Listen to the Episode

Roni Maislish is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, working for 20 years on the psychological roots of emotional eating, food addiction and obesity. For more information about Roni’s therapeutic’s sessions, supervision, workshops and training program, contact him on Linkedin.

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