Saturday, 4 July 2015

Spilling the beans

Therapist-cum-life-coach Tori Ufondu only works with men - because they're often reluctant to open up about themselves and it's more challenging to break down their inhibitions. She finds working with women less rewarding because "sessions with women feel more like talking to my girlfriends".

Interesting that she still finds men more tight-lipped and defensive, when there's a general impression that men are getting more open and happy to talk about what's going on inside. Personally I find the men I come across just as unforthcoming as ever and not at all good at spilling the personal stuff.

Tori finds that once she's helped a guy to open up, he reveals all sorts of hang-ups he's never been fully aware of, let alone shared with other guys (or women).

Like difficulties getting on with workmates, or being a slave to other people's expectations, or fear of failure, or sexual frustration, or not recognising his partner's changing identity. Big issues that are seriously affecting his life.

Clearly men's inability to share what's troubling them is doing harm. Seventy eight per cent of all UK suicides are male. A lot of those men must have been bottling up distressing thoughts and feelings that other people could have helped with.

I'm not brilliant at pouring out the personal stuff myself. I'm much more open than when I was young but it still doesn't come naturally. I still have to drive away those masculine inhibitions about "keeping it all to yourself" that were drummed into me as a boy.

But as my regulars know, over the years I've identified all sorts of personal quirks and phobias and anxieties and prejudices I used to be oblivious of, and my self-awareness has expanded dramatically.

I'm sure some of you will promptly tell me that my self-awareness is far from complete and remind me of numerous negative traits that annoy the hell out of you and are shamefully misanthropic. But I'm getting there.

However embarrassing or agonising it may be to spill the beans, letting it all fester and coagulate inside is asking for trouble.


CheerfulMonk said...

"I'm sure some of you will promptly tell me that my self-awareness is far from complete and remind me of numerous negative traits that annoy the hell out of you and are shamefully misanthropic."

You're not talking about me. I enjoy your posts.

Bijoux said...

I was going to comment on how odd it was that a therapist would say that talking to women is like talking to her girlfriends, but then I saw that it said she was a 'life coach.' Does that even require any training?

Dave Martin said...

I think those of us brought up by parents who were of the old-fashioned type that believe a man should be strong and unemotional find it hard to open up and go against the values that became ingrained in us.
It can be done to some degree, but it takes a real effort and any success is often quite limited.
With the changes in social attitudes over the past couple of decades - particularly with the divide between genders becoming increasingly blurred - it may be that over time we do see an improvement in the ability of males to be open and vulnerable, and I suspect they will be all the happier for it.

Ursula said...

One hundred recommends to Bijoux's comment.

Bijoux, in response to your question whether a "life coach' requires any training: Yes, he/she does - on paper. One of my sisters "trained" and has since fucked up a number of lives. Privately, as it were.


Nick said...

Jean: Gee, that's nice of you! Glad my more dreary posts don't send you rushing for the exit.

Bijoux: Yes, although I described her as a therapist, because that's what her work seems to amount to judging by the article, she calls herself a life coach. As far as I know, anyone can set themself up as a life coach (ditto a therapist), but I might be wrong.

Nick said...

Dave: You're right, it's very difficult to go against habits and attitudes instilled into us from an early age, and that includes men keeping the personal shutters down. But people do tell me they know younger men who have no such guardedness and are happy to talk about anything.

Ursula: One of your sisters has fucked up a number of lives? In what way exactly?

Rummuser said...

Interesting! When I am next over there, I should seek an appointment! What do you think?

Nick said...

Ramana: Why not? She might uncover a few hang-ups you were totally unaware of!

tammy j said...

i ditto monk's comment.
i find you entertaining and smart and perceptive and endearing!
i liked the post recently where you admitted how you felt around celebrity and other brilliant types. as a more current example along the lines of this topic! i thought that was refreshing and brave.

the marine... my brother... is of the 'keep it bottled up inside' type. just as our dad was. of necessity in those days i guess.

but it's making the marine's grief of losing his wife a bit harder i think.
his antidote for everything is to keep busy.
he loves to read. but not self help therapy type stuff! he's into science and politics and history and philosophy and select novels.

but to TALK feelings type of things with him.... no way! and it's my loss. because he's so dear to me. and it's one of the things that brings people closer i think.
although he does bring out the 'stiff upper lip' in me too! which has served me well.

Wisewebwoman said...

I know far too many women who are sedated pharmaceutically and are terrified of therapy of any kind in case their nicely built fragile existences come crashing down around their ears.

As to life coaches: I hear you Ursula, I knew several in Toronto who were my clients and who coached many of their unsuspecting customers into bankruptcy.


Z said...

I don't think my husband could have truly opened up to anyone. He didn't have the vocabulary he'd have needed to express whatever it was that he felt.

Nick said...

Z: That's sad. But I guess that's half the problem, that you need to learn an emotional language before you can actually express your emotions. Otherwise all a guy can say is "I'm feeling a bit weird", which doesn't get you very far.

Nick said...

www: I think a lot of people who've never had therapy are scared of what they might discover about themselves, which as you say might undermine a carefully constructed bogus identity.

After what you and Ursula said, I'm glad I've never been tempted to employ a life coach....

Nick said...

Tammy: It's weird, isn't it, how some men seem absolutely terrified of revealing what's going on inside, as if this might lead to some kind of psychic meltdown - or they'll turn into a woman! As you say, that sort of intimate sharing is what brings people closer. Without it, it feels like talking to a stranger because there's that important dimension lacking.

Secret Agent Woman said...

A life coach isn't a therapist and doesn't have the training of a psychologist or an LCSW. Anyone can up and call themselves a life coach.

I hope she knows the actual stats on suicide. While it is true that men commit suicide at a much higher rate than women, women actually attempt suicide more often. Men just tend to use lethal methods (like shooting or hanging themselves vs taking an overdose).

I'm a little put off by the idea of someone only wanting to work with one gender. Particularly when she says she feels that way because working with female clients is like talking with her girlfriends. That's a problem in her if she's not able to talk with women professionally. I sure don't talk with my female patients like they are my girlfriends. And also, I have had make and female patients who have trouble opening up and male and female patients who are very self-revealing.

Nick said...

Agent: I can always rely on you for a thoughtful and illuminating response! True that women *attempt* suicide more often (maybe as a cry for help rather than a serious desire to end it all?).

Interesting that you think there's a big difference between talking to women professionally and as girlfriends. I would have thought so too. Also interesting that you don't find self-revelation is the preserve of one gender or the other.

kylie said...

i would have used "come" rather than "cum"

Nick said...

Kylie: Come again?