The TV show, A MILLION LITTLE THINGS is a “do not miss experience” IF you want to learn something — actually ANYTHING about the psychology of men…. And that is making an assumption that regardless if you are a man or woman reading this, that you actually believe there is a “psychology of men” that is different from the “psychology of women.” Let me dive right in and say there is indeed a big difference.
There are also great similarities between women and men…but those similarities are not the immediate issue. At a time of somewhat major conflict in the way women and men see and experience and interpret the world, a TV drama about how men relate — what they share and do NOT share with one another strikes me as particularly useful to all of us.
Aside from the program being a particularly well-written and well-acted drama, the writers and actors manage to drive home, quite painfully, the reality that men who appear to be close friends do not truly and openly talk to one another about their lives — their work, relationships, and particularly what they FEEL and how they experience LIFE. It is equally important that they do not talk to the women in their lives. Is simply not talking a major problem? Yes, it is. As a psychologist, I see it on a day to day basis — the struggle for men to just “name what they feel” — to pick a word that actually FITS what’s going on in their hearts, heads, bodies. Consequently there is a build up of unexpressed feelings/thoughts/resentments/and true positive and pleasurable experiences — creating a sometimes combustible and painful “holding on” that causes both physical and emotional symptoms. What’s unexpressed often gets “acted out” in a less than effective way in both personal and work relationships.
The potential and horrific outcome of not TALKING is typically destructive and without giving too much of the story line away….the initial few minutes of the first episode portray a suicide. NO ONE in a close circle of friends KNEW what was going on with their friend. Hopefully you don’t need to say this is a shared experience….however, for many it actually is. The feeling is sometimes “if only I had known how troubled or ____(fill in the blank) my friend/family member was…So what keeps us from KNOWING?
At the most basic level most of us — both men and women — don’t grow up learning to feel , name, allow and express feelings….and consequently sharing with someone else can seem overwhelming, exposed, and quite impossible. And the less we share, the less connected and more isolated we feel. And that is the opposite of what works! TALKING works.
First try to talk to someone you “might” feel safe with, and if that needs to be a therapist, do it. In therapy you can learn how to talk to the people you need to talk to. It’s important to note that men get a “double dose” of not FEELING, not talking or sharing feelings…. and the pressure of holding unexpressed feelings inside can certainly build throughout life…regardless of a life well lived.
It’s perhaps important to note that this drama about good men with painful feelings opens at a time of the “me too movement”…a time when we are hopefully encouraging women to speak to the men in their lives, to friends and family and colleagues…about their personal history of abuse. This is a painful example of how hard it is to SPEAK about pain and abuse and challenging feelings in general.
So is it possible to connect the dots between men with pent up feelings, sometimes suicidal, and women all over the country, the world, experiencing abuse at the hands of men? Let’s try.
Unexpressed feelings get “acted out”…meaning? I either hurt others or hurt myself. And that “hurt” can take multiple forms. Suicide is obviously the act portrayed in A MILLION LITTLE THINGS. That’s clearly hurt directed inward. The opposite is to do harm to others, and that much of the time, is harm directed at women — physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and for those in powerful system positions, baseless discrimination in pay, promotion, and control of the system in general. I know that’s hard to digest. I know some of you likely or at least possibly disagree. But it’s perhaps time to face it’s REAL. And regardless of your political beliefs, these differences and conflicts are being expressed in our politics, our government and the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice.
The base line here: we need to TALK ABOUT FEELINGS AND DIFFERENCES. THAT is different from arguing, blaming, not listening to the ideas of those we disagree with. Once we talk about thoughts and feelings the possibility of true connection surfaces.
If following this train of thought is challenging, and you want to vehemently disagree, let me know. You can always connect with me on my website. And it’s just possible that if you read some of my blogs, perhaps even one of my books, you can find something that connects with your belief system…or just makes even a little bit of sense.
Regardless of what each of us thinks and feels, there are mountains to climb before we truly “get” and know what to do with the differences, the unexpressed feelings…but it’s worth the effort if you want to be a less stressed, more centered, happier person. And I believe each of us deserves to feel better. So feel free to be in touch….