I have one shelf amongst all of my bookcases where I keep my very favorite books. One is titled, The Transparent Self, written by Sidney Jourard. I heard Gerard speak many years ago at a convention of marriage and family therapists and his honesty and insight impressed me.
Before the men’s movement took off, Sidney Jourard had deep understanding of the epidemic isolation and dysfunction created by the stereotypical role modeled for men in this country. The isolation, fear of shame (resulting from not getting it right) and an overall lack of self-awareness has been killing us men, literally, for years. Heart disease, addiction, undiagnosed depression and suicide in men are all too frequent. And tragically our culture, and we men, are greatly unaware of what’s happening to us.
Jourard encourages people in general, but especially men to share themselves more openly with each other. But the skills to do this are not readily available. In my years as a marital therapist, wives often complained about their lack of connection with their husbands. To their husbands it often seems these women were speaking a foreign language. Not until a wife is “done,” do some men, in shock, realize there’s a problem.
My clinical response to this issue was to begin developing men’s groups in my practice. This taught men how to be more self-aware and how to share themselves with others, especially other men who themselves were stumbling into the woods of emotional awareness.
Men liked these groups. At times I had three running simultaneously. After a few months of hesitancy, participants discovered the good feelings that resulted from being understood and affirmed by others at a level that was deeply honest and revealing. They were being known for who they really were, and they liked it. These men began to share more openly and connect more effectively with their wives and children, and some with parents from whom they had been estranged.
We men have little opportunity to be real with each other. We are too often limited to a sports oriented, belching and workaholic stereotype expected by our culture. But given the chance, we have what it takes to share and relate at meaningful levels that bond us with friends and those we love.
The Transparent Self, Sidney Jourard
I Don’t Want to Talk about It, Terrence Real (for men)
How Do I Get through to You?, Terrence Real (for women)