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Natural Awakenings Central-Eastern Connecticut

The Inner Health of Men

May 31, 2024 ● By Jody Grose

Courtney Ayers /

Men’s health has recently become a subject written about in magazines, blogs and books. However, when doing a Google search on men’s health and fitness, almost all results focus on physical health, such as ED, loss of testosterone, prostate health and overall cardiac issues. It leaves the inner/emotional lives of men rarely discussed. On the other hand, men behaving poorly is written about and discussed regularly, while many women have expressed the lament, “Why won’t my man open up to me?” The cultural mandate is that men should be strong, problem solvers, providers and preferably non-emotional.

There are many reasons for this dynamic, yet the challenge is for both men and women to willingly seek understanding and acceptance while exploring such complex and ingrained cultural, historical and relational patterns.

The emotional health of men is far more complex than the physical. However, men’s mental or emotional health is still very much taboo. Many spiritual, religious and new age doctrines speak of unity, or seeking wholeness. Without access to emotions and the ability to express them in healthy ways, there cannot be wholeness.

For most men, their souls have been deeply wounded. While the patriarchy has had some benefits for men, there has also been a tremendous cost. Our competitive, hierarchical, shame-based culture has fostered a pattern whereby men experience significant isolation and distrust of others and a profound cut-off from their inner world. To live without societal acceptance to feel and express the range of human emotions, except anger (which to a point is acceptable), many men swallow their feelings. It leaves many to live in their heads, disconnected from their bodies where emotions are held. Given the cultural mandate that men should be strong and stoic, the last place men will turn to when faced with the challenges of the human condition—loss, relationship issues and more—is to other men, leading to the isolation that many feel.

It is well documented that trauma and unexpressed emotions manifest both in physical and emotional maladies.

After survival needs, perhaps the most fundamental need—possibly more so than sex—that drives much of men’s behaviors is that of belonging and to not be shamed. Provided a safe and inviting environment where trust is established, men can begin to let down their shields and express the emotions that have long been stored within their bodies. These pent-up emotions diminish one’s overall energy, creativity and vibrancy, as well as ones physical and emotional well-being. The primary withheld emotion in men is grief. The cultural mandate for men is, “Big boys don’t cry, suck it up, swallow your feelings,” because having feelings is unmanly.

So how do men metabolize their grief? We eat to metabolize the nutrients which provide the necessary energy for life. This is also true with our emotions. When men gain the courage and support to express their grief, a noticeable aliveness follows. Grief is honoring the love you had for what was lost, whether that be a loved one, a phase in life or a cherished possession. There is a sweet tenderness in the presence of authentic grief, because there is also love.

As previously stated, unpacking the inner world for men is complex. There are not seven steps to wholeness as many self-help authors would suggest. It requires courage and risk for men to seek support. That’s why it’s called “men work.” When men begin to talk honestly with others about the challenges they face, the stigma of men’s mental health will begin to be normalized. Seeking a therapist or mentor, or attending a men’s gathering or workshop for men, begins to provide men with the breakthrough experience that they are not alone. It helps them realize that what they’ve kept secret may be what they have most in common with other men. The call here is to shift the conversation from “toxic masculinity” to one that is guided by curiosity about what it takes to create healthy masculinity. Men need this, their relationships need this, the planet needs this.

Emotional health of men must take front stage with men’s physical health. For one without the other leaves men isolated, leading to lives of quiet desperation.

Jody Grose is the founder of Return to the Fire. It provides healing and growth opportunities for men and women, including weekend workshops in New Milford, Connecticut; individual sessions; and wilderness canoe trips for men and father-and-son teams. Connect at 203-731-7755, [email protected] and