Men’s Preoccupation w Isolation

Portrait of an old Eskimo man, 1929

My experience, working with men and wives, children, addicts … has shown three areas that overlap in the lives of men.  Over the last fifteen years, every man I have seen in therapy for (1) depression has had some dynamic of (2) isolation playing out in their lives either externally or internally. The third area, (3) suicidal thinking, does not show up nearly as often, but will sometimes lurk out in the waters further off shore.  

Cover of "I Don't Want to Talk About It: ...

Regarding depression, I should mention it now, the best book I’ve read up to this point on male depression: by Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It. ‘Brings to your awareness the words, “hidden depression” / “covert depression”. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so that is all I will say about Terrence Real’s book.

Isolation is like a mistress.  A guy by the name of Tom Varney taught me a great deal about isolation, depression, and psychotherapy.  He is the man who told me “… Isolation is like a mistress …”.  

My experience has been that there is some kind of psychological (non-sexual) intimacy a man can have with isolation.  A man becomes comfortable with this mistress, isolation; and becomes drawn in, to spending more time with isolation (his mistress).  Here is a question for you, reader / blogger / fellow student-teacher-wilderman: is there a difference between a) on one hand, a man chooses isolation as a mistress (selfishness is a big part of this), and b) on the other hand the Desert Fathers (emerged during 1 and 2 A.D.)?  The latter category may speak for itself, perhaps, as they were forerunners of the monastic sojourners.

Here is something that really stood out, which implies the (potential) overlapping of the isolation, depression, suicidal thinking :

“Men commit suicide 4 times as often as women … The grisly total of American men choosing to end their lives yearly is about 24,000.  Loneliness … part of the American male experience for a long, long time. Think about what life was like for the average settler, rancher and cowboy, working long hours mainly by themselves.”

The third area that shows up in the heart and soul of a man is  suicidal thinking.    Safety tip on suicidal thinking:  Any doubts about a friend’s safety? Call … 911.  Boom.  If you are a man who is experiencing suicidal thinking, isolation is probably happening, on some level, and you might as well connect with someone worth connecting with (with the exception of a bartender / drug dealer): therapist, spouse, friend, pastor.

If you choose not to connect with someone, you should ask yourself “why”.  Like Terence Real says in his book “I don’t want to talk about it” … and thus, isolation.   Whether you connect with someone or not, I’d like to respectfully recommend that you jot down what is triggering this thinking.  The suicidal thoughts are coming from someplace, someone, some … thing, some reason.  So, Bust a Move!  Get with it!  If you don’t want to do it, then that is the red flag that says “Talk to Someone. Now. Not later, but right now.

Okay, wrapping up with some themes of the stories of many men:

  1. Isolation / loneliness … initially overwhelming;
  2. Gradual acclamation to isolation (frog in the kettle?);
  3. Isolation becomes “homesostasis”;
  4. Depression / shame / self condemnation connect with the isolation / loneliness … which intensifies the (false) belief: “That’s just the way life is, for me.”  A dangerous place to be.

I’m glad my blogs are never this long.  But, this is obviously a passionate area for me.  After all, we are talking about men, and their struggle to be … FULLY ALIVE, which can be be sabotaged by isolation, depression, and suicidal thinking.


1 Comment

  1. Hi wilder man!

    Thank you for your kind words that you left ob my blog. It is both humbling and encouraging. Being in touch with people halfway round the world over a blog post always makes me thankful for technology; and ease of communications! I usually credit images I use.. This one must have slipped by.

    From Wikipedia!

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