Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Richard J. Loebl - Who’s in Charge – Understanding Men Today

This is the first in a series of posts by Richard J. Loebl at the blog on men and where we are today in terms of our emotions, our relationships, and our behavior.

He's using a modified parts model here, focusing on just the inner child, inner teen, the critic, and the adult - this is fairly common in briefer forms of parts work. I don't like his diagram because it misrepresents the complexity of the relationships between parts, but it'll do.

What he calls the inner teenager here is more likely a manager part, or several manager parts, each with its own ways of protecting the inner child. The adult part is more likely the Self, or some variation on a mature, compassionate, non-reactive core identity. But I am picking nits - it's just that this is my area, and I prefer to see the model used correctly.

Who’s in Charge – Understanding Men Today

September 20th, 2010

By Richard J. Loebl, LSCW, PA, Men’s Issues Topic Expert Contributor

Click here to contact Richard and/or see his Profile

**This is the first in a series of articles about men today – how we function emotionally, behaviorally, and in relationships**

Like most men today, I learned how to be a man from the fathers, grandfathers, brothers and uncles in my life. Like other baby boomers, I also learned about “ideal” manhood from the heroes of my time – John Wayne, James Bond, and others. In my early teens my values and beliefs were influenced by leaders who were larger than life, such as President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In my late teens it was Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and others who shaped my beliefs and image. Then it took years of psychotherapy and personal development to find the real me – the real man inside.

I’ve worked with hundreds of men in various types of counseling, men’s groups, and personal growth workshops for over 30 years now. These men have taught me what I know about men today. They taught me how a man feels emotion, how they communicate, and how they deal with the demands of life. They also taught me how a man thinks about love, relationships, work, and play. These men have shared their struggles, their fears and frustrations, their self-doubt, and their victories, large and small.

As a result of these experiences, I developed a self-help model that helps men, and the women in their life, understand their feelings and patterns of behavior. It helps to answer questions such as: Why do men get so angry at times? Why do they procrastinate and avoid responsibility? Why do they refuse to ask for directions?

The Who’s In Charge? model describes our internal parts. For example, when I buy a large container of ice cream and bring it home, part of me wants to eat all of it the first night. Sometimes I do eat too much, and a different part is critical. Another part takes over when I plan smaller portions to enjoy the next few nights.

The internal parts in this model include an Inner Child, innocent, vulnerable, often dependent. My work with men helped me identify a unique part of this model, the Teenager, who wants independence and empowerment, but is often lost, angry or both. The Inner Critic is judgmental, blaming, and demanding. Fortunately, all of us have an Adult part – loving, responsible, and competent.

These parts often reveal themselves in relationships. In my men’s group, the guys often talk about their marital problems. Bob, age 43, says his marriage is like a roller coaster. He loves his wife and enjoys her company. Then she makes “demands” he finds unfair, or she complains about something (money, the chores he didn’t do). Bob says he reacts very quickly with intense anger. First he defends himself in an angry, defiant manner, and then he distances by avoiding her, shutting down, and not talking. The group members tell Bob that he sounds like a victim when he tells his story. They are understanding about his feelings of hurt and anger, and suggest that he take a less reactive position with her. They want him to stand up to her, but in a loving and responsible manner, and to take responsibility for his part in the relationship dance.

During this group session, Bob could see how his anger and avoidance covered up his feelings of shame and fear – that he’s not good enough for her, and she could leave. I asked him one of my Who’s In Charge? questions. I said “Bob, when you’re feeling this way – so hurt and full of shame – and you quickly resort to anger and blame, how old are you?” He thought for a moment and said “Mid-teens. Like 13 or 14”. I asked him what was going on when he was that age, and he told the group about how the kids at school picked on him, and he was afraid to tell his parents. His mother was critical, and his father, who was an alcoholic, but very successful in business, was verbally and physically abusive. Bob, at 14, acted out by avoiding the kids at school, by watching TV instead of doing homework, and he either kicked holes in the walls or sulked in his bedroom.

Bob was able to recognize the lost, angry Teen who reacts today when he feels blamed or attacked by his wife. He could connect with the Child inside who feels so hurt and ashamed – and how the Teen protects the Child by getting angry and defensive. Then his Critic takes over, either blaming his wife, or blaming himself for his immature behavior. The men in the group helped him to enable the Adult by being compassionate with himself, with his wife and her feelings and needs, and encouraging him to talk to her about his fears and what he needs from her emotionally.

In the past, we learned how to be men from our fathers and from idealized heroes, past and present. Today we have another choice – to learn from other men who have walked the path of personal growth and discovery. In future blog entries, I will share more stories about these courageous men of integrity.

©Copyright 2010 by By Richard J. Loebl, LSCW, PA. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to The following article was solely written and edited by the author named above. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the following article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment to this blog entry. Click here to contact Richard and/or see his Profile

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