Kieran Ryan from the Movember Foundation.
Kieran Ryan from the Movember Foundation.

Movember: beating the blues in men

vanessa.horstman

LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson

MOVEMBER, to me, is both disturbing and a great opportunity. Disturbing because I lived through the 1970s and their questionable lurid fluorescent polyester fashions. Seeing moustaches sprout on upper lips everywhere this month takes me right back there.

But these memorable moustaches are also a great reminder for us to pay attention to the way the men in our lives are feeling; but perhaps through a different perspective lens than women generally use.

Women are acculturated from childhood to use words to express how they're feeling. So a woman feeling down in the dumps will pick up the phone, start a conversation. Talking helps her feel better. But men don't always do this, and being aware of the different ways men and women communicate feelings could help you identify when a man in your life is struggling emotionally.

Many men are taught through our culture that talking about how you're feeling isn't acceptable. Subtle messages, like that movie hero image of the strong, silent man. According to the movie archetypes, it's a sign of strength to remain silent.

However it's culturally acceptable for men to express those feelings through doings: a man is allowed to express regard and affection for someone in practical ways - fix their car, mow the lawn, get helpful to make your loved ones' lives easier. Positive feelings are expressed in positive actions.

But how do you express negative feelings if words aren't an accessible tool, but action is? Anger, perhaps. Silence, maybe. Or isolating yourself from other people. And as you can imagine, for a woman accustomed to expressing feelings with words, this silence and anger can be mighty confusing. It seems like your man is angry because he's acting angry. But that might not be what's actually going on in his head.

In counselling we have a saying: under hostility you'll often find pain. So if your bloke's mood seems to be angry, he could actually be depressed. He just might not have the vocabulary to communicate it.

Fortunately the www.movember.com website offers many words to help you get past a man's habitual silence, enable him to connect in a way that helps those feelings get out and get sorted in a non-destructive way.

That's the gift of Movember: reminding us that men really do experience feelings but may not have the tools to let us know they're struggling. This website is the feeling toolbox for men.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor. www.olwenanderson.com.au