Category Archives: men

Why Health Care Reform Represents our Downfall

We aren’t bad are we? We don’t have a core wrought with evil or vengeance…do we? You and I have been listening to stories of infidelity (Jesse James/Tiger Woods), audacities of the Highest order (Catholic Church), and vitriol spewed from men and women who are supposed to represent us and our interests (Health Care Debate). I watched in disgust as a man with Parkinsons Disease was belittled for all to see because he supports President Obama and the health care bill. 

Are we all strung out on life? Have we been beaten down by so many that we have lost our way? What are our real or true complaints? Do we have any? Sure we do. But…no matter how upset we are, should we really be tearing down others for our own gain?

Common sense says we should not. But common we are not…and sense is running low these days. It baffles the mind how we are, collectively, getting by. All of our costs are escalating…services and products are declining in quality…the nuclear family has gone up in smoke like its’ name…

Normal? Abnormal? That is for you to decide. That is for you to evaluate…and you alone. Personally, I am sad that we are becoming a wishy-washy people and country. When our party is in power we know it all…when we are not, we do all in our power to extinguish the other. We rejoice the downfall of our celebrities and casual hero. We say, “better him than me” when a colleague loses their job.

Are You Living a "Life" You Can Be Proud Of?

Either patriotism has given way to narcissism or something even graver has settled in our living rooms.

Apathy…

Apathy for all that is good, that matters, and that rejuvenates our souls on a daily basis. The Discovery Channel‘s new documentary entitled “Life” shows in great splendor the core drive for survival. Sometimes I wish we could all watch our actions in slow-motion. Maybe we, too, would see the ills of our ways and treat one another with kindness and concern.

Do You Care?

Living a Normal life and being the Normal You requires a rich participation in the wonders of the world. Making a difference for others and thinking before we tear down. Something tells me that the very men who despicably undercut one mans’ spirit have experienced the kindness of others when it wasn’t asked for themselves. Do we really want to be known as the home of the free when we can’t even call ourselves brave?

Expect more from those around you….Demand more of yourself.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Dumb Men, Family, men, religion, sex, women

How to Help Your Man When He is Depressed

Sometimes our greatest fears are realized. Sometimes that pit in our stomach actually means a great deal. Yes, we are men. Yes, we can be and are often strong, but many times we are one degree from emotional combustion.

Normal men struggle with confidence more often they will ever let on. We, men, wonder what you wonder about us. We burn out, feel left out, and sometimes when we are vulnerable we lash out. These are things we are not proud of nor do we want to be sponsors of for the next generation.

Men become depressed at rates that are still unknown and baffling to the health care community and the providers educated to treat them. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to better understand male depression, its origin, and proper methods for therapeutic inclusion and treatment. Too often men and their families are unaware of the signs and symptoms of depression. Men shrug off their blue feelings as just another struggle they have to endure alone. They struggle to access the health care community and at best only talk to their primary care physician who either dispels such “nonsense” or over prescribes outdated and temporary solutions. 

I will admit that I am quite tired of the temporary solution-based approach that America has taken with just about every social problem. Makes me wish I owned stock in Band-Aids. The issue of male depression reaches far and wide impacting millions of men and their families.

The solution(s) will not be fast acting, maximum strength, over-the-counter goodies. The solutions will have to start at home. They will have to be identified and approached by the very person who has seen this man at his best and worst.

The signs are there even if communication about them is a bit archaic. We are and have been in a funk, as a country, for a good long while. Many men and women have lost their jobs, homes, and self respect. That’s right self respect…meaning that too many folks have not responded to their adverse situation in the manner they thought they would. They, like the peanut in this ad, are wondering why they can’t get up off the curb and start anew.

And, it is during these times when men need their partners the most. This undoubtedly puts women in a very difficult position because the language used, verbally and non-verbally, greatly impacts the man early on. When tragic news hits or you see a series of little defeats mounting for your man you have to treat him in the first 72 hours. This is, of course, not an official number but it gets the point across that to be effective in helping your partner you need to move swiftly and deftly in the early hours.

Are You Ready to Respond?

Think of it like a legal defense. We have all seen “Law & Order” or the new smash hit which I love “The Good Wife.” We watch as the lawyers and officers strategically plan the response and subsequent actions…all of which have to be done early on if they are to get ahead of the charge etc.

So, in that vein let us look at some things to look out for when you think your husband/man is depressed:

  1. First and foremost know how YOU typically respond to him when he is down.
  2. Prepare yourself for statements that are nonsensical and reactionary because he too knows your typical response style.
  3. Think about how YOU would feel given his stressors and situation.
  4. Take YOURSELF out of the discussion–this is not the time to talk about your needs/wants.
  5. Use physical touch to caress and reassure him–difficult because you may feel inclined to “mother” him.
  6. Remember that, like you, he may not want solutions early on.
  7. Let him know that you love him, believe in him, and will stand by him.
  8. Do NOT say, “Life isn’t easy” or “You’ll find something” or “That’s just the way life is.” Statements like these minimize his current fears and distance you from the solution. The message you are sending is…”I will wait till you figure it out alone and in the meantime buck up, you’re a man.”
  9. Stay connected and engaged. Do not fall the way of so many women who yield to giving him “space.” Men may say they want that, but only for a short time and most often because it is safer. They do not trust their feelings with you.
  10. And last but certainly not least…continue to love and support him…encourage him when his spirits are increasing and support him if and when mental health intervention is needed.

It takes a team effort to assist anyone who is down on their luck. Knocking them down even further because they are vulnerable sounds horrific, but practiced more than your neighbors would admit.

You can be your own best friend if you approach your man in thoughtful ways. These are tough times for everyone not named Palin, Jordan, Lebron, Gosselin, or Steve Jobs…let us all use a little compassion as we support the ones we love.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Fathers, finances, Good Men, head of household, Males, Marriage, men, Relationships, sex, women, Work

What Lane is Your Relationship in?

Relationships are comprised of a series of destinations, pit-stops..with a dash of road rage and a hint of irony. Life can move so fast that we are susceptible to potholes in the name of love. We unknowingly hurt one another with our words, our individual decisions, and half-hearted “I love you’s.” Relationships are not easy and sometimes they warrant a check under the hood. A look at the coordinates on the GPS device.

One might wonder…”Why?” The answer is quite simple…which is that before you know it both of you will be racing down the highway of life without a clue where to go or how to get there. And, that doesn’t take into account our individual comfort levels. Some of us might like the Sunday afternoon drive while others enjoy the bumpy NASCAR ride while others still yet like the ole’ cruise control approach.

So I will ask you this…do you know what speed your relationship travels at…where your relationship is going and whether or not your co-pilot in life agrees? These questions sound mundane, but they can really be quite scary.

What if your partner disagrees? What if they really don’t like the direction and/or speed? What then? Fixable? Worth it? What about other couples….how do they deal with all of these questions?

I know people who sputter down the road so cautiously that their family and friends are nauseated. You know the ones…the couple that never wants to officially commit yet they have lived together for years. They never want to go further than two steps and one checking account withdrawal from gettin outta dodge.

Then there are other couples that are traveling so fast down the road that you wonder how they can honestly enjoy the journey. These folks met, got engaged, married, had 2.5 kids, got the house, moved up in their careers, AND got their 2.5 kids on the waiting list of grade-A preschool everybody wants in at…and all within a 3 year time period! Whew! Exhausting to even think about it…

Now of course these couples represent the outer edges of society…which leaves the rest of us. Many Normal couples go through ebbs and flows often changing directions and itineraries at a moments notice. There are couples who change seats, drive for a little while until their partner is ready and then re-assume previous roles and directives. Flexible you might say.

The challenge for all of these couples remains the same…can you honestly and with great humility check the particulars of your relationship? Can you evaluate what is and is not working well while traversing through life? You can, but many of you won’t. Harsh? No. Honest? Yes! Status quo and even contentment can be descriptors for a well-oiled machine or they can be indicators of apathy…a relationship that is on life support with no end in site because neither person believes it is worth it to change it up.

Am I describing you? Go ahead…check and see if you are alone in the room…no one is looking over your shoulder….so be honest. Are you apathetic to the current state of your relationship and its growth in the future? Are you emotionally hurtful? Are you limiting the potential of the relationship though manipulative means?

These are important questions even if you are not sabotaging your relationship. Never forget that relationships veer off course not because of the big potholes, but more often from the little ones. Those day-to-day interactions that point to confusion not coherence. Remember the days when doing the little things for our partner was fun? When we actually thought about what they wanted…even needed to thrive.

Tempted to Veer Off Course?

We did all of those things because we wanted our partner to feel loved…to feel special and unique and cared for even when we weren’t around. But, sometimes we forget our collective purpose and even direction. We forget why we chose each other and worse yet we forget that love takes effort…conscious effort.

If we don’t make a point of planning our collective road-trip we run the risk of glancing over into other more desirable lanes. Chevy Chase might have discovered Christie Brinkley in the movie “Vacation” while driving with his family cross country, but we all know who he ended up with in the end.

Images Appearing More Realistic in Your Mirror?

Don’t set a trap for your relationship out of pure fear. Ask the tough questions that will yield growth over time. I, personally, have had great results when I queried my partner on the mutual direction and satisfaction of our relationship and you can too.

If you scoff at this then maybe you already know the destination your relationship is headed for. A wise business man once told me that you never go into a deal unless you are prepared to lose or leave the deal.

Your relationship and its success depend on continued calibration and assessment. No successful relationship ever endured with an approach that celebrated ignorance.

We are all human and it IS Normal to have a change of heart, a change of direction and/or purpose. That doesn’t mean that our relationships have to suffer or end. Don’t be the couple that holds each other down out of fear.

Give each other a chance to drive the relationship and who knows…you might actually find your relationship accelerating in new and exciting ways.

Afraid to Ask for Directions?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Divorce, Family, Marriage, men, Relationships, sex, women, Work

Competing Sexes

Looking to Beat the Next Guy?

HBO has done it again! They have secretly become a documentary juggernaut. Their latest prize pits NBA Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in an epic depiction of two men possessed with competition. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the layers these two icons peeled back during their reign…racism, big versus small town, East coast-West coast, and dollar for dollar they delivered.

I will admit, as a sports fan, that my competitive juices were flowin even if from the couch flanked by my two cats and a lukewarm cup o’ joe.

I suddenly thought about my youth and how my seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years were staked out by competitive outlets. I had a sport for every season, a grade or project every term, a girl I wanted to look buff for, and distant educational and career goals to tide me over. Life was competitive ALL the time!

Now…well it seems that for many of us competition is relagated to survival…not for mere advantage or gamesmanship, but for our financial security and lifestyle. Where did it all go? Is this Normal? Is it Abnormal? Am I losing a step?

I mean I can turn on the tube and see competition for viewership and marketshare. Shoot, I can even read about competition between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Democrats and Republicans, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Oprah vs. The World, Mac vs. Windows, and last but certainly not least Conan vs. Jay. Competition is right at our fingertips…and as I painstakingly reach for it I can’t help but wonder what we would all be without competition?

Looking for Your Competitive Advantage in Life?

Would we be lost? Would we be a species that never got out of the Stone Age? Competition has a place…we need to feed our species, advance our species, and procreate our species…and competition remains the single most important ingredient. It inspires us during times wrought with disallusionment and pain. Competition helps us gauge our progress, modify our approach, and reach for new heights. And, for each gender competition can be deeply personal…

Males are given the edict that to compete is to demonstrate your prowess amongst all in your path from dusk to dawn. Some have deemed this male character the Alpha Male….the Silverback. So, as men age they look for arenas to compete in, to win…and many do so with very little regard for their opponents.We have all read of the hostile takeovers, the businesses now running lean and most have a man at the helm. Most of us have been personally impacted by the corporate competition…I mean greed…

Females, on the other hand, have been wronged for centuries. Females have been given the message that the competitive landscape is for men only…thus relegating women to compete for these men. Let’s not forget that, though, times have changed significantly, the overwhelming message has been for women to compete in non-threatening areas and for menial purposes.

You see it has been the great spoof our species…men convincing women that their pursuits were more important to the greater good…that women had a place…just over there on the sidelines.

For many, these deficient approaches are not borne from intention or malice, but rather from generations trying to survive the way they knew how. It really is hard to pass definitive judgment when we, as a country, are continuing to breed competitive destruction…we have just found new and different ways to mask our approaches and intentions.

Feeling Competitive?

We all have a burning desire to stay on top, to pursue the unattainable…it is the American way. Just look at the current landscape…looking even closer at our educational system. We now have “Race to the Top” from the federal government, we have schools and districts that pay students for attendance and top grades…and why? Because competition, today, isn’t about aspirations or dreams…competition is about the almighty dollar. Adults are wooing kids for higher test scores, ratings, and marketshare. It is as if they are saying…“Here kitty kitty….here kitty kitty.”

All the while, children who are only concerned with competing in gym class are actually playing lead roles in the high-stakes game of adult competition. In fact, it is the children who hold the magic ticket and not the adults. Failing tests grades, reduced product usage, and even fewer website hits put us and our American dollar at risk.

It truly is sad that competition, while fantastic as a sport and motivator in times of despair, brings out the animal in all of us. We were once young people competing for a cause, for a purpose, for the betterment of generations past and present. Somewhere along the path to adulthood we lost our way, sold out to the highest bidder and forgot what makes this country so grand….The hope and belief that with a little elbow grease and commitment we can win at the game of life…together.

Let us all think about the role competition plays in our lives, the impact on those around us, and the messages we are downloading to the up-and-coming generation of children.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Boys, finances, Girls, head of household, Males, men, Mothers, sex, Sports, Success Stories, women, Work

Man-Up or Stand Up? The American Boy is in Trouble

Who Needs Lifting? Men or Boys?

I am a staunch supporter of males and the females in their lives. I believe that we can do better, as a gender, but must step up and be accounted for. Some of you who read this might wonder if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or took my politically correct vitamins in excess. Some passerby’s might wonder if I live in the basement of my mother’s home and spew comments in a an environment where anonymity is a given and gravatars act as i.d. badges.

Though this image might bring you joy it just isn’t true. I am a Normal, insecure, bold when I need to be, confident in waves, man who loves ESPN, the arts and yard work on any-ole-day U.S.A. And, yes sometimes I find it necessary to shed light on a social practice that isn’t helping males in their pursuit to be Normal…in an effort to reach personal greatness…and life satisfaction.

As a part of an online community, The Art of Manliness, I am often challenged to think, laugh, and cry at the experience of being male. The members are thoughtful and thought provoking which I applaud with all sincerity. Yesterday was a perfect example wrapped into a single thread. A member asked a question…he wanted to know how to Man-Up a 13 year old that he knew. He described this young boy as soft, squishy, an unmotivated sissy, and lazy. I, of course, commented and to his credit the author said he didn’t know of any other word to use other than Man-Up.

The Art of Manliness

I was also given a review on the term and its usage on the site which said:

“Within the context of this site (AoM), “manning up” simply refers to “growing up” and coming to grips with yourself as a man. It’s not so much about toughening up as it is about maturing beyond boyhood.” -Jamie

To Man Up? The Urban Dictionary actually has 25 definitions and there is an organization, by the same name, that strives to end violence against women. Many of us have seen the phrase in reference to sexual enhancement and performance. We have seen it used at Little League games to dissuade emotions associated with females from being aired. Many of us have heard the phrase as a call to action; a rising up from self-induced-pity to a place of formidable stature and strength.

The American Way?

And, we have to wonder what is the impact on a generation of young boys without fathers, without male role models in schools, without heroes on the athletic field, governed by a society and educational system determined to squeeze the boy out of them, reprimanded when they become addicted to video games as a result, and told that success only comes to those who can effectively repress feelings and push on in the name of the American spirit.

I say with great confidence and sadness that our young boys are at a crossroads. Our boys are flailing in the wind with no direction, purpose, or sense of self.

Late yesterday afternoon as I was in the backyard I heard three young men talking and making a bit of noise. When I looked over to my neighbors house I noticed these three young men (approximately 18-21) crawling through an upstairs window. The house, you see, is in the midst of renovations and the owners are looking to rent the top unit out. I stopped them, at least the one young man who looked nervous, and asked them if they were with the work crew and found out they wanted a “peek inside.” Let’s just say they got my drift and headed out of my urban neighborhood.

You might say to yourself that this was a harmless act, but I am concerned at the lack of judgment. It concerns me that these young men were so apathetic to getting caught. I very easily could have called the cops and I would imagine a charge of breaking and entering could have been established. To them…nothing. They drove away quietly without verbal exchange.

Before we can ask young boys to Man-Up, we first need to establish what they are actually Manning-Up too. We need to provide a playground and environment that let’s them explore with guidance, tussle safely in the name of bonding, and believe what they feel inside. Just because we have generations of men, mine included, that were cast aside from the rational side of life doesn’t mean that we have to send them down the river as well.

If we, adult men, want a seat at the proverbial table of life then we have to set the example…together. We have to communicate our disgust for the medical system that limits access and respect during pregnancy. We have to communicate our needs with our medical and psychological doctors. We need to role model the great dualities of manhood…that we can grunt to our friends one minute, compose poetic stories the next, protect our children, cry with our children, love our spouse and most importantly ourselves all at a moments notice.

Apathy for ourselves is one thing…apathy for the next generation—shameful. Think about the language you use and the story it supports or erodes…young boys are waiting for us to Step Up…in the process we might just figure out what it actually means to Man-Up.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Boys, Dumb Men, Family, Fathers, Girls, Good Men, head of household, Males, men, Mothers, sex, Sports, women

Is Your Life a Waste of Time?

Oh the Oscars! Oh the Oscars! The award show for all award shows. The glitz, the glam, the awkward interviews about this designer and that designer. Blah, blah, blah. Right? A waste of time and money…right? Tradition? You and I might have different opinions about last night’s show, but there remains a reason why we all tuned in…

…we tuned in because each year one movie touches us. One movie reel spins a tapestry unique to you, your life and the trials and tribulations weaved throughout. We all celebrate those moments that whisk us away from ordinary, transpose our life for all to see, and reap the rewards of a like-minded character and storyline.

The beauty of the show is that when our “horse” wins we get a brief glimpse into their lives and approach. Some confirm our estimation of ignorance for the “common folk” and others remind us that good actors and movie magicians are thoughtful, well spoken humans who capture the day-to-day better than any bought-off politician aiming to win re-election. One such magician did just that…

Now he may have flown under the radar, but (Oscar for Best Original Score for “Up”) Michael Giacchino delivered the kind of acceptance speech that radiates long past the lights of Oscar night.

“Thank you, guys. When I was… I was nine and I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you”
Michael Giacchino

Mr. Giacchino’s speech got me thinking…Is he speaking of an epidemic? Could he be talking about the millions of children who are instructed not to be kids, but rather robots in classrooms? Could Mr. Giacchino be talking about the droves of women who are in marriages where tradition means one thing and support another? Or, maybe Mr. Giacchino was talking about all of the good, normal, and well-intentioned men who want to participate more in the lives of their children, but feel society’s mountain is just too steep to climb?

Thank You For Taking The Time

How many of us waste time…not because we are inept, but because we are scared to death to access life? How many people out there squash the dreams of others to keep our own dormant? Do you view life as a big waste of time? Do you look at the miracle of life and realize you are lead character or do you see life passing you by. Mr. Giacchino spoke poignantly to those children without support systems last night.

He reminded us all of the children in our lives and the children hidden deep within our hearts. Can we dust off the child inside, rediscover our dreams, and live a life filled with purpose?

Effort in anything we do is fraught with emotion. Effort brings reflection whether we like it or not. Why put effort into one thing or person and not another? Our relationships with our children, friends, work colleagues, and partners are all impacted by the belief we have in ourselves to achieve and overcome.

The true miracle is through demonstration. When we demonstrate commitment to our own dreams a little bit of “movie magic” touches the lives around us. For some of us, we were given wonderful examples from the caregivers in our lives…for others…well…we were left to friends, neighbors, educators, and yes characters on the big and small screens.

As so poetically said by a passing homeless man in Pretty Woman…“What’s Your Dream?” Never give up the most important mortal you know…YOURSELF! We only get one shot at this thing…make yourself proud. Be the best with the skills and attributes that make you a miracle!

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Dear Dr. Rod from Confused in California

Too Many Differences?

It is often said that opposites attract in the game of love. Others, who don’t side with Paula Abdul’s hit song from the early 90’s, believe that a perfect love connection derives from identical hobbies, morals, and values. I recently received a letter from a reader asking for advice on this very topic. Below you will find her question and my response. If you have a question you would like answered just send them to drrod@thenormalmale.com.

Confused in California:

“Hi Dr. Rod- First of all, let me tell you how much I have been enjoying your blog!  I’m a single woman in my early thirties and I recently started dating someone who is the polar opposite of me concerning religion and politics.  However, he is a kind person, treats me very well and we have an amazing time when we are together.  I am worried that our differences of opinion may cause issues down the line.  My previous relationship was very abusive, so while I appreciate being treated well this time around,  I know that shared values are important to me.  What should I do?”

-Confused in California

Dr. Rod:
Dear Confused in California,
I applaud your efforts to address these issues early on in courtship. Too often we rush to ride the roller-coaster without thinking about lunch afterwards. We fall victim to lust, novelty, and the chance to be and act like someone new and different. You are not alone in your dilemma. So many of us compare and contrast suitors to those from our past, our family’s wishes, and our social and work environments. Not only do we wonder if we can handle the difference(s), but we also wonder if those around us can.

To establish a firm foundation in love requires us to ask very personal questions of ourselves. Why this person? Why now? Will it work? What can I contribute to ensure long term success with this person? What personal patterns do I need to be aware of? What do I need at the present moment and what can I give?

Your ability to answer these questions will allow for appropriate reflection into the positive and negative patterns you have enlisted in previous relationships. Maybe through your discovery process you find that this man represents others from the past that were also desirable during similar life phases. Maybe he represents a challenge. Maybe he stirs your need for active and engaging conversation.

He may or may not represent any or all of these elements. Your truth will come from communicating your wants and needs, your deal breakers, and areas for consideration. For some, religion and politics represent the most crucial elements in determining relationship viability. The challenge becomes when or when not to address these differences. Do you address them now for sake of prudent responsibility or do you wait? Do you wait to see the level of religious/political practice and commitment? Remember that hoping for change is just that…hoping. You do not want to find yourself loathing the very idiosyncrasies you once found adorable.

Ask yourself this…Are you looking for comfortable? Can you respect others opinions without fear that yours will not be heard and/or counted? If you can say yes, then maybe it is worth pursuing. But, if you find yourself chalking the field with fears based on his viewpoints then all your doing is setting yourself up for a familiar outcome.

I will close with this…

“Who are you protecting if you leave now?”

And…

“What are you in fear of?”

Answer those honestly and you will have a better read on your life, as it currently stands, and the direction you want to take on your personal journey. You may find that your confusion lies within yourself and not with this gentleman.

Best Wishes!
Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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This reply should not replace therapeutic consult by a local professional and is intended for entertainment purposes.

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Filed under Males, men, Relationships, religion, sex, women