Confronting Faulty Thinking


Many men fail to identify and correct errors in their thinking. Because they don't allow others to examine their thinking or comment on their behavior, they often make the same mistakes over and over again. Isolation gives wings to insanity. Without new information and the ability to test reality, problems abound.

Men often find it difficult to describe with words their emotional reactions when their partners disappoint them or when they experience unfairness. The slightest hint of shame triggers some men to become abusive to hide their inadequacies and vulnerability. Some men are abusive to present themselves as strong and threatening rather than inadequate and weak. Strong and threatening are characteristics associated with manhood in our culture.

That's the problem. Often, in a vain effort to manage their image, men make things up, not only to avoid reality, but to carry on while remaining socially isolated. Here's an example: Recently, I talked to a young man about his inability to find and maintain employment.

“I’m a gangster,” he offered.

While he did have a criminal background, my intuition told me this man’s unemployment stemmed primarily from a learning disorder and a marijuana habit. His “gangster” label provided him with a socially acceptable way to mitigate a harsh reality. I also suspected the title unconsciously gratified him. He could avoid his unemployment problem without a severe threat to his identity. If he didn't look for work, or marginally performed and lost his job, he could blame it on being a gangster.

It’s important to see your complicity in the problems you experience. You can't change anything you cant see. Denial serves as a shock absorber, an important buffer between you and reality. Reality’s full force can flummox your ability to cope and leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

A gangster with no gun. A dope dealer with no dope. A pimp with no hoes. We all delude ourselves, perhaps not to this degree, but to varying degrees. It's important to understand how we do it in order to give ourselves the best possible chance to change. “I'll do it later,” “They don't like me,” and “I'm better under pressure,” are a few of the ways in which our thinking traps us in behavior patterns that block our objectives and diminish our self-esteem.

To avoid adding insight to injury, one has to take responsibility by also changing their behavior. It takes effort to lean into uncomfortable, unknown places and try something new. There's no secret to it. There's nothing deep about it. You are totally free to change both thinking and behavior. It has to be different before it can be better.



“Endings are beginnings.” I hear people say that sometimes in an effort to provide comfort. As helpful as they can try to be you still have to go through the discomfort of letting go and all the painful feelings that ensue.

One reason endings can be so unpleasant is that you may have never wanted the relationship to end. You may have even found yourself blindsided by a partner who, unbeknownst to you, decided to disconnect. 

Even when you decide to end a sick relationship, the pain can be unbearable. You may even toss a grenade into your relationship to create a diversion to avoid your feelings and to flee. You are not the first person to start an argument or blame your partner, in order to leave a failing relationship.  

Why? I'm suspicious that you may be ambivalent and not recognize it, or recognize it and not know how to deal with it. It's hard to admit, “I love you, but I'm leaving.” Anger developed to help us hide primary feelings like disappointment, shame, and guilt. Anger can be used as a means of image control, according to Dr. Raymond Novaco who posits that anger used in that way may serve to display strength and resolve rather than sadness and vulnerability. Anger and bitterness can disguise love, fear, and sadness. Anger is a fine intoxicant. Loss can be one of the most painful experiences of your life.  

Feelings, no matter how strong, will not kill you. In fact, as Nietzsche said, “if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger.” The strength you gain from facing endings and the feelings they evoke can make future relationships more satisfying.  

There is a way out. By embracing your humanity, you can allow yourself to experience your feelings—the good, the bad, and the painful. In that way, you can not only survive the loss but also gain inner strength as a result. By adopting a humble approach, rather than dodging uncomfortable emotions, you can learn how to improve your connection to yourself and others.  

Relationships are not permanent. Your job is to love wholeheartedly. That's impossible to do if you are afraid or misdirected by your feelings.