Pride and Anger in Men

Ever been told to “man up” or be a “real man?”

It is pretty common for any man in our society to have their masculinity called into question, and new psychological research has explored this prevalent issue of “precarious manhood.” The idea of being a manly man is a potentially very fragile concept that many men struggle to maintain and often worry that they will lose.

Dr. Nathan Heflick elaborated on this issue in Psychology Today, outlining how men respond to doubts about their masculinity but also how both men and women view psychological disorders or emotions as being more characteristic of masculinity or femininity.

For instance, Dr. Heflick cited a University of Wisconsin, Madison study which had male and female participants rank how likely men and women were to experience certain emotions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, participants saw men as being more likely to experience anger or pride and women more likely to experience emotions like sadness, love, or fear.

Based on this, Heflick predicted that, if men are not expected to feel sadness or anxiety, then this creates significant hesitation in their likelihood to seek professional help for conditions like depression.

He may indeed be correct! A 2016 study by Dr. Kenneth Michniewicz found that men and women consistently ranked specific mental illnesses as being feminine or masculine. Unsurprisingly, these track closely to the previous study that focused on emotions.

Dr. Michniewicz’s participants pointed to anti-social personality disorder or alcoholism as “male” conditions, whereas anxiety or depression were “feminine.” Following up on these results, the study authors also discovered that men suffering from “feminine” mental illnesses were much less likely to seek professional help.

Unfortunately, this has rippling negative effects on the rest of society. Based on a 2011 study by Dr. Joseph Vandello and Dr. Jennifer Bosson, manhood is often viewed as a precarious position that must be earned and maintained, describing it as “hard fought and easily lost.”

Bosson and Vandello found that men who perceive that their masculinity is threatened are likely to act out in “macho” ways. If they perceive their masculinity as precarious, such as by facing issues of depression, there is an increased risk of violent action. Similarly, such men could become more tolerant of harassment towards seemingly feminine men and may engage in risk-taking behaviors such as gambling.

This is not to say that men are somehow at fault. Instead, there is research, such as that by Dr. John Gottman, has found that men are simply raised to think about emotions differently than women. Dr. Gottman explains that girls are often raised to focus on relationship building, while boys are inundating with the need to compete and win.

If men are simply instructed to be more open to emotional connection and to develop emotional intelligence, this could help reverse such a damaging trend.

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to learn more about how to detect signs of aggression in the men, or women, that you might meet.

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