I was recently talking to a colleague about the issues that men, and women for that matter, face in our society. Things such as depression, suicide, alienation and isolation. He specifically challenged me on the idea that much of this can be explained through understanding the root cause; patriarchy.

I pointed out that psychological disorders and distress have a basis in cultural ideas and ideologies. We need to acknowledge that a person’s experience is not simply the result of his/her biochemistry but is closely linked to their place in their culture and community. Albert Ellis, a prominent psychologist and founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, was clear that most peoples emotional disturbances had their origins in irrational beliefs and self-talk.

The three Major Musts

Ellis suggests that there are ‘Three Major Musts’ that are at the root of our emotional distress.

  1. I must do well and win the approval of others or else I am no good.
  2. Other people must do “the right thing” or else they are no good and deserve to be punished.
  3. Life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience.

When these beliefs are:

  • Inflexible
  • place unrealistic expectations on oneself
  • create an over-concern with others’ opinion of oneself
  • rest on self-worth that is measured by achievement and popularity
  • and is non-self-accepting

Then we experience emotional distress.

Where did these beliefs come from?

Many of these beliefs come directly from our socialisation. And in our culture, we are socialised with patriarchal premises.

So how does patriarchy relate to emotional and psychological distress?

Because patriarchy fundamentally predisposes us to be narcissistic, and this feature of patriarchy has been emphasised by the ideology of radical individualism that has become embedded in our culture over the last forty to fifty years.

And that makes us susceptible to not dealing well with stress. It makes us defensive and reactive. It narrows our ability to empathise. So unless I am up there in my social rank, with others doing what I want, and my life is a bowl of cherries, I have no resilience to cope with what I think is failure.

So what do we need to do about it?

  1. We need to raise our awareness. We need to understand the relationship between patriarchal values and our beliefs.
  2. We need to become cognitively, emotionally and behavioural more flexible.
  3. And we need to focus on values that will promote resilience.

WHY be at the conference

If you are really interested in well-being and want to make a difference then you need to join us.

Want to experience a place to have conversations like this? Then join us at the Santa Monica Conference on masculinity that will inspire change, a Making Good Men Great Conference.

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