We are continuing to look at shame and its ability to paralyze a man. Once again, I became interested in writing a series on this topic after reading an article titled, “Turning Shame to Gold: Men Feeling Shame, Men Healing Shame”, by Dr. John Guarnaschelli. I think it is important to write on this topic because I feel it is a common problem for men, particularly passive men. The material may seem kind of dark and hopeless at times, but I think it can help us better understand how men think and the battles he may go through.
As a man feels more and more trapped by his past, he begins to lose faith in the people he comes in contact with. He feels isolated and is afraid to emotionally go to any places with confidence or that might feel unsafe. Dr. Guarnaschelli describes this as, “he feels like a ‘fog’, and ‘lives in a fog.” I think that is a good picture. He has a lack of clear vision. Every decision is clouded and all seem to have some amount of risk associated with them. It may seem that as pressure may intensify to make a decision that the fog cloud becomes thicker and visibility is decreased that much more. He may even lose sight of his identity. He may lose confidence in his ability to make decisions that are solely his alone.
Dr. Guarnaschelli describes this as “increasingly inhibiting, weakening, or invalidating the aspects of himself that are unacceptable. From one point of view, he reacts ‘depressively’ to protect himself from further insult. From another, he has learned to feel ‘depressively’ toward his own qualities. Either way, he displays who or what he is less and less, and finally perhaps not at all.” In essence, the fog consumes a man’s energy, needs, and desires. It becomes a defensive scheme to protect any intimate emotions from not only being in the game but sitting on the sideline. Dr. Guarnaschelli states that, “Shame always shouts or whispers, ‘Be careful.’, ‘Stop!’, or ‘Don’t!”
So, how does shame become such a paralyzing force on a man’s emotions. Men are raised from a kid in a system that shuns them expressing their emotions. They are to smile whether they are happy or not and trained to eschew emotional feelings that might not be considered masculine. Peer pressure with boys is a brutal place where strength, competitiveness, physical size, and shaking off pain are held as “musts” or you will be shamed. As a man moves into adulthood, Dr. Guarnaschelli explains that “similar expectations that he be unfailingly strong, practical, and productive so he can ‘keep his job and make the grade’ routinely which stifles his emotional sensitivity, creative fantasy, and vulnerability. Self-denying cruelty has become the heart of his experience, the road to ‘being a man’.” The blueprint has existed for a long time where men are developed to be soldier-like employees dedicating themselves to supporting their families by being dedicated to jobs by being “yes” men. They are worker ants that do not show their feelings or emotions because of the fear of being labeled less than a man.
When clouds get tired of being so high
They live on the ground instead of the sky
Gray foggy days just never seem right
Turning all that’s clear into unknown and white
Stuffing my senses, obscuring my view
Clinging like stick and tasting like dew
When brought indoors, it fills concert halls
Dance floors and theaters and round crystal balls
But the fog that I fear, the kind I most dread
Sits not on the ground but inside my head