Health, Neurodiversity, recent, Social Science

In Defense of Male Stoicism

I dealt with the most stereotypically feminine of mental illnesses in the most stereotypically masculine way. After acknowledging that I was anorexic, and deciding that I had no wish to be, I put my head down and tried to recover with the minimum of fuss. I told almost nobody about my condition, and almost never discussed it with the people I had told. I had two sessions with a therapist—almost missing the first after getting myself lost and terrifying pedestrians by running up to them, wild-eyed, to ask for directions to the mental health center—and then abandoned them out of embarrassment and reticence. I did not want to talk, and I did not cry, and I had no wish to hold anyone’s hand or be hugged.

As a means of recovery, I would not recommend this. I was fortunate enough to have a family who supported me as I recovered, and someone less privileged would need additional support. Had I been more open to professional help, meanwhile, I might have made a quicker and more comprehensive recovery, and if someone feels as if it might be good for them I have no reservations about advising people to seek it.

Yet that was not who I was. Recovering on my own was not a path I took because of stigma, or prejudice, or any conscious urge towards being masculine. I had spent my teenage years admiring Richey Edwards, Emo Philips and Oscar Wilde. The last thing I had sought to be was macho. The embarrassment that came from discussing my emotions was a deeply rooted aspect of my personality, and to some extent, it has endured. I write, in large part, because it has always been a more attractive means of conveying my thoughts and feelings than speech.

Male stoicism has been characterized as an enabler of mental illness and a contributor to suicide. Endless articles and innumerable campaigns have been devoted to helping men cryending the phrase “man up” and, above all, getting men to talk. This is valuable, at least in theory. Men commit suicide at higher rates than women but are less likely to talk to anyone if they endure stress, depression or loneliness. Many of them feel this would be somehow pathetic. This is a problem, and it deserves refutation. No one should feel weak for admitting to being in pain, and if that sounds platitudinous I would add that other coping strategies like drugs, alcohol and suicide will end up causing far worse problems than this admission.

Yet I feel that certain points have been avoided. One is that the gender gap in suicide is complex. Women attempt to commit suicide more than men but the male preference for more violent means of doing so, like firearms and hanging, has meant that more of them succeed. Men are likelier to be autistic and autistic people, tragically, have a higher risk of suicide.

We should also bear in mind, solving problems that exacerbate stress, depression and loneliness is a more difficult, less marketable and yet more essential task than dealing with problems when they arise. Problem debtfamily breakdowninequitable family courtsloose drug regulations and a decline in cultural capital all contribute to mental problems and suicide and there is no point in treating the outcomes without addressing the causes. Of course, we can do both. But we must do both.

Beyond this, I worry that the admirable work of addressing the shame men feel when they talk or cry, or seek professional help might lead to shaming men who have no wish to talk or cry or seek professional help. Our culture is biased towards the assumption that our attitudes are the products of our environments, and that character traits we have deemed harmful have been implanted into us by harmful influences. In the past, it was often assumed that any weakness on the part of men was an unnatural betrayal of our real selves. In our time, I fear that we risk doing the opposite. You don’t want to cry? What is wrong with you?

There can, as I have written, be a hint of opportunism in modern writing on male mental health. Male reticence, for some, is just another aspect of “toxic masculinity,” along with aggression, sexual predation, competitiveness, irreverent jocularity and anything else that strikes progressives as especially obnoxious. I would be the last person to suggest that some harmful instincts are not disproportionately present among men. Were this not true, our prison demographics would be very different. Still, I think that some progressives package harmful traits along with healthier traits and then pathologize the lot.

“Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny?” wrote the author Tim Winton. “Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance?” What is inherently wrong with racing, or gaming, or even fighting in controlled, consensual situations? Competitive and even aggressive instincts can be useful and satisfying if channelled properly.

A thousand “How The Patriarchy Harms Men and Boys, Too” articles have blossomed across the internet. There is no subtlety here. “From birth,” claims one article in Bustle, “Men are discouraged from showing emotion.” As if there are moms and dads who try to silence their baby boys as they scream in the maternity wards.

Mental health is more complex than “repression” versus “expression.” First, there are differences in how we experience feelings. Depressive rumination is more common among women than among men which can make them more vulnerable to stress and depression. I would not recommend “Stop Thinking About It” as a mental health campaign slogan but it complicates the picture. Rational coping as well as emotional suppression is more common among men than among women and can be a productive response to the struggles of life. Psychological needs vary depending on the person and the situation—certainly not just between the sexes—and there is no single, simple model of how one should cope with hardship and pain. We can all agree that no one should feel shame for talking, crying or seeking professional help, but we should not pathologize aversion to doing so under unwieldy banners like “toxic masculinity.”

Stoicism is a good thing that, like all good things, becomes damaging in excess. Even in the relatively comfortable West our lives are hard. We have bills to pay, and jobs to keep, relationships to maintain, and children to raise. Many people live with illness, grief, or the pain of separation or dreams gone to ruin. Some people are just sad in a deep, persistent way. At times we have to grit our teeth amid stress and suffering or else our lives will fall apart and damage those we love. Some people have more responsibility to bear than others and must endure with balled fists while biting their tongues. We must help people find the means to express themselves and encourage them to appreciate that mental problems demand attention just as surely as physical problems demand care. Yet we must seek a balance in doing so; an unstable and imperfect balance, yes, but only as unstable and imperfect as human beings, who might know what mental illness is but will never reach a state of unblemished mental health.

 

Ben Sixsmith is an English writer living in Poland. Visit his website here and follow him on Twitter @BDSixsmith

54 Comments

  1. Andrew says

    Yes, stoicism and resilience are under valued traits. I believe in expressing my emotions and having healthy relationships with people I love, but I also value the fact that when confronted with adversity I will be able to endure and overcome it. I’m pretty sure it’s a highly successful evolutionary adaptation – and I’m not sure how healthy it is for people to ‘ruminate’ on grievances or on things that have gone wrong. Just seems to make things worse. I had to cycle 500k in a week recently (having never done more than about 100k in a week), and the last thing that would have helped would be focusing on the pain and getting all emotional about how difficult it was. Push on.

    • Indeed, succumbing to that idea we can ensure all are happy most of the time is the nonsense of the modern mind.
      Depression can be treated, but in the end, depression that is so severe that it causes suicide is likely something can improve over time via natural selection. That we put too many resources on those who are mentally ill or physically ill just add support for negative nature.

  2. For me, I have realized that the attraction of stoicism proceeds partly from a suspicion of “intimacy”. For some people, being in an intimate relationship proceeds from a desire to have a partner whose emotional state mimics one’s own. When one person is upset, they want their partner to be upset also, and vice versa. In practice, this means that the more emotionally volatile partner becomes dominant. So stoicism becomes a practice of helping maintain emotional autonomy, and avoiding the trap of codependency. But obviously can come at the cost of emotional withdrawal.

  3. Johnte says

    ‘this means that the more emotionally volatile partner becomes dominant. So stoicism becomes a practice of helping maintain emotional autonomy’ – interesting thought, great comment

  4. johno says

    Stoicism is the nature of the beast.

    Like it or not, humans are born with a good deal of information already programmed into the brain. There are exceptions, that the current PC crowd bends over backwards for at the expense of the rest of us, but generally speaking, the human mind has some gender based characteristics that emerge regardless of environment or education.

    Women tend to be better at nonverbal communication than men. They pick up on subtle cues quicker, and are more attuned to emotional states than men. Why? My wife offered a possible explanation: the majority of women, like female primates, spend part of their lives dealing with humans that can’t communicate verbally very well: children. Being attuned to emotion, and being able to judge state by nonverbal cues comes in handy, when the subject hasn’t fully developed intellectually. (some never do, but that’s another matter) This also explains why women tend to dominate as elementary school educators… where the students aren’t fully developed.

    Men tend to not only develop stronger physically, but tend to be willing to use that strength actively. Looking at our primate cousins, that’s the role they take on: the heavy lifting and protecting the tribe. Stoicism follows this as a way to mask weakness to a potential adversary, with the male instinct driving them to meet an adversary with conflict, but common sense saying that actual conflict should be avoided if at all possible. Bluster and stoicism is a way to forestall actual conflict, looking stronger than you actually are, to discourage a conflict from escalating. Driven by a basic instinct, not an intellectual process.

    Even the mating ritual holds constant across species: women tend to emphasize appearance because they feel good when they do… and it’s instinct driving that. Men go for shows of strength, primarily because they know it feels ‘right’. Again, the underlying driving force is instinct, if you examine it closely enough.

    The thriving industries of fashion and expensive cars are just an extension of that primate instinct.

    Male stoicism is neither good nor bad. It just is.

  5. I have ofetn suspected that stoicism is adaptive and in general a benefit to men but I am unaware of any research into this. It is certainly true that asking for help when necessary shoul dbe encouraged but the criticism of men as being toxically masculine when they exhibit stoicism and blaming men’s behaviour for the higher suicide rate and lower life expectancy is I believe quite wrong. It assume sthat men have the same support available to them as women and they clearly don’t, strangers are far more suspicous of men an dmuch more reluctant to help. The formal rules for social security etc all explicitly favour women and treat men as the lowest priority. God help a man subject to domestic violence, if he asks for help he is more likely to be treated as a perpetrator than helped.

    Mens stoicism is therefore and adaption to men’s disposability. I am unaware of any research but I worry that encouraging boys to abandon theoir ‘tocxic masculinity’ risks putting them at more risk.

    • Reluctant reactionary says

      Well said AJ but your use of the word “risk” is also important. The ability to quickly assess and deal with risk without overthinking it is the most important adaptive trait in the male of most species and yes it includes a certain disposability. In the stoic philosophic sense (which the author is not directly talking about, see below) this means abandoning one’s self to “fate” albiet being well prepared to struggle until that fate overtakes you. The feminist reaction to this is also misrepresent “boys will be boys” as not just an inability to be in touch with ones feelings but also as a put down for good risk taking and sacrificial behaviour. As the author states an excess of a good thing is damaging but there are very few feminists in the proverbial house fire

  6. James says

    Interesting point of view albeit kind of neurotic. Nothing wrong or dangerous or potentially disastrous about being a man. Actually it’s probably more risky and problematic being a a beta male. Best of luck though. It’s a big, bad, scary, beautiful world.

  7. Fantastic article, Ben. Stiff upper lip, is an under-appreciated male quality these days. Hope this brings it back.

  8. I think the author is not familiar at all with the philosophy of stoicism. It does practice emotionlessness, nor definitely suppressing mental health issues. I’d appreciate not confusing this beautiful philosophy with “toxic masculinity” term (which I saw intertwined in the article)

    • McFly says

      Yes. Or, perhaps the author should have been clear at the outset that he was talking about stoicism in the… what would you call it? …Attitudinal sense, maybe? He’s talking about outward appearances and projections rather than an underlying ethos shaped by purposeful mental conditioning.

      Stoicism as a philosophical/ethical framework is NOT what he’s talking about.

      • No, and it wasn’t meant to be. I hoped that was obvious but if not, my fault.

        The concept of “toxic masculinity” is only raised in order to be criticised though so I’m not sure what the problem is there.

        • Dellingdog says

          That was clear to me (and probably to most readers). Thanks for an honest and insightful article!

          • ga gamba says

            @Dellingdog, absolutely. If one knows what Stoicism is, then one wouldn’t be confused.

            I suspect Lina was having a go at the author. But perhaps I’m wrong and s/he will respond by substantiating the assertion.

      • Farris says

        Wouldn’t stoicism in the attitudinal sense (good phraseology) be the antithesis of social justice or Leftist politics where most anything is a reason for outrage or offense?

    • ga gamba says

      I’d appreciate not confusing this beautiful philosophy with “toxic masculinity” term (which I saw intertwined in the article)

      Your comment would better serve your reader if provided a few examples of where you saw this intertwined. Why don’t you give it a crack.

    • João says

      Stoicism & emotionlessness? Stoicism doesn’t encourage the absence of emotion, but rather that the individual has control over them as opposed to the later running your reactions to the circumstances of life.

  9. ccscientist says

    Calls for men to “cry” or express themselves are disingenuous. Because women are prone to anxiety, expressions of weakness by their man make them upset and they let them know they don’t like it. Men feel internal pressure to be respected, to be a man among men, and you do that by projecting competence, not by crying. A group of guys jostles by debating sports or Tesla or politics, not by sharing their feelings. When you have known a guy for a long time, he might let it slip that he is worried about something. Women bond by sharing worries and fears and expressing sympathy for each other. Totally different. While women claim they want men to “open up” what they really value is a man who empathizes with their upsetness without becoming upset themselves and who does not require her to comfort him. Stoic, but a good listener.

    I would also point out that many of the mental health issues in men result from career and/or love life failure. Failure for men threatens their entire reason for existence. Successful men have a low rate of divorce and a much lower rate of mental illness and suicide.

    For many men, if there is a problem, even problems like anxiety or depression, it can in fact work to focus on finding a solution and working at it. The benefits of mental health professionals are perhaps not as obvious as the author posits.

    • Farris says

      @ccscientist

      Excellent post, making my original moot.

      Why can’t men…? This question by women has been around for centuries.
      Many men will react by trying to accommodate this question. Fewer will simply ask well why can’t women…?
      There is nothing more feminine than the notion of “toxic masculinity”, it is a consistent age old reaction of women concerning men. The term is all that is new.

      • Andrew Reid says

        There is nothing more feminine than the notion of “toxic masculinity”, it is a consistent age old reaction of women concerning men. The term is all that is new.

        Great point.

        When I first encountered the wording “toxic masculinity”, this phrase did not sit well with me, though I could not exactly ‘put my finger on it’.

        Now viewing this phrase in context of perennial questions on male and female differences makes a lot of sense for me. It’s an old reaction women may have toward men, simply phrased under the guise of today’s zeitgeist.

        In this instance a male difference is treated with negative value with intent to deconstruct it. But, instead of seeking to negate ways in which one gender differs, why can the difference not be observed and celebrated as a form beauty? Or at least a healthy sense of curiosity or marvel in ‘otherness’ and the complementary value it introduces in a practical sense.

    • Really, really sad movies can make me cry. Funerals and even weddings can bring me to tears. I consider those appropriate occasions for male tears. And I say tears intentionally, not blubbering or wailing. I don’t think any less of a man who sheds quiet tears in the appropriate situations. I would posit that there are some positive (mental) health benefits for men not to hold it in.

      That said a man probably won’t revisit those moments or discuss it with others the way a woman would. In my experience woman over analyze their worries and anxieties and men do no good becoming sympathizers other than to acknowledge it and provide a stiff backbone to lean on. As ccscientist says a stoic, but good listener.

      Great article…

    • Avid Reader says

      @CCS you have described my life perfectly, and better than I could so thanks for the comment. At least in the Quillette forum one can point out differences between men and women and not get lynched.

    • E. Olson says

      CCS – excellent comment. Despite what women often say about encouraging men to “show their feminine side”, most will quickly dismiss any man as a potential mate if they start sharing their problems, crying, or going to pieces over some setback, tragedy, or worry. Men are valued by society for being problem solvers, which includes being expendable to save women, children, and the “greater good”. Sadly, the higher suicide success rate of men can probably also be seen as an effective and stoic solution to their perceived lack of usefulness, while suicide attempts by women are largely a cry for help that will usually be supplied by a man.

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  11. Bravo Mr Sixsmith. Such attitudes much under-rated in these emotionally flatulent times.

  12. stevengregg says

    The claim that our lives are hard in the West can only be made by somebody who has never lived outside it. Our lives are easy compared to most of the world, which is why so much of the world comes here to live.

    I don’t accept that becoming more emotional like women is a good idea. 25% of US women take meds for depression, anxiety, ADHD or another mental disorder. For men, 15%. Behaving like the crazy gender is inadvisable. It is far better to suck it up, act like a man, and press on to resolve our problems rather than wallow in our sorrow like the dysfunctional gender does.

    • Miles says

      @stevengregg
      Calling an entire gender “crazy” and “dysfunctional” points out one problem to resolve: splitting, otherwise known as “black and white thinking”, a very common trait of personality disorder. Maybe you should ask for help afrer all.

  13. Not understanding the definition of stoicism as “stereotypically masculine”. Women have always cared for children while ill, for example, how is that not stoical? How is it masculine?

    • When you consider the virtues of stoicism – wisdom, temperance, justice and courage – it becomes obvious why it is associated with masculinity.

      • Bubblecar says

        And yet masculinity in some cultures is often associated with hysterical emotion, aggression, contempt for reason, constant whining and so on.

        Islamic terrorists, for example, are upheld as paragons of masculinity within their cliques. And in the US, a petulant, boasting, lying buffoon like Trump is considered to be very “manly” by his followers.

  14. Stoic, as described here isn’t a skill, its the male personality. Its exactly the same as women who can multitask, and communicate better with a wider range of people and do emotional things. When women do it, its considered healthy, but when men do their thing, its toxic?

    Maybe this is really a political agenda designed to weaken the male behaviour?

    Why not accept that men and women are very different in their thinking as well as all the physical stuff? Maybe we should be celebrating this difference?

    It seems healthier than judging women for not being enough like men, and castigating men for not being enough like women.

    • Kyle says

      “Maybe this is really a political agenda designed to weaken male behavior?”

      It is my observation and opinion that feminism has never been about advocating for women’s rights. What its real agenda is is to subvert our society and to advance Cultural Marxism. The reason that feminism attacks men so vehemently is because if the men in a society are feminized, criminalized, and marginalized and their value is minimized, then they are less able to protect said society. Men are the protectors of a society, not women. If the men are weakened the society becomes vulnerable to being subjugated. In the case of feminism, the society would be easier to be transformed into a Communist police state because men are more rational and would be the ones more likely to see through the subterfuge and resist.

  15. Farris says

    @Winston

    “Why not accept that men and women are very different in their thinking as well as all the physical stuff? Maybe we should be celebrating this difference?”

    Men and women different, that’s some radical stuff. Leftist deny differences between men and women while simultaneously maintaining that only men are toxic. I agree that strength lies in our differences. This one of many reasons that single parenting can be such a difficult chore. How mundane the world would be if we were all the same. Unfortunately the current climate is one of conformity.

  16. Richard Schwindt says

    This is one of the few articles on men and mental health that hasn’t made me want to bang my head against the wall, and I wish the author success. I have found, respected for who they are, men do fine in therapy (note: been a therapist 38 years.) People come to therapy because they have a problem they want addressed or solved. I usually spend time learning about my clients competence and interests, then present myself as someone who’s here to help him solve whatever he brought through the door. Some guys know how to build a house or fix a drain; I know how to help a guy when he has a mood disorder or problems in his marriage. If he is emotional; I provide him space to express his emotions, and then we move on. They’re emotions, we get them.
    These days I am recognizable as a male therapist – my beard is grey. Young men are not going into the professions that deliver therapy, and that is a coming problem for both men and women.
    ps I had an emotional breakdown years ago during a group training session; surrounded by a dozen therapists. Only one person reached out to support me; a retired police detective. We therapists don’t have a lock on supporting others when they are down.
    pps Many women are just as happy to discover the therapist has a respectful, pragmatic and problem-solving approach. Many value a male perspective.

    • Circuses and Bread 🇺🇸 says

      @Richard Schwindt

      Interesting observation that men are passing on therapy as a career field. But perhaps not all that surprising. In a western society that is choking on, oh what shall we call it? Toxic femininity. Men seem to be avoiding professions and social situations that are dominated by women. It’s almost like a soft version of MGTOW.

      Women face a lonely and childless future in the west when men decide that the best way to deal with pervasive misandry is to simply avoid women.

      • Richard Schwindt says

        At this point I believe that its roughly 10% or less men in graduate level social work and psychology. This is typically explained as men not wanting to work in a profession that deals with emotions, lack of status, or for therapist wages; reasons I don’t buy. Why were the numbers roughly equal 30 plus years ago when I started? I don’t like your explanation but fear you may be right. I know many great women therapists, but I think we need to really know why men are staying away. The men I see in counselling are just fine about sharing their feelings when they know they aren’t being judged. And many of the women I see have never had a thoughtful honest non-sexual relationship with a man. We don’t want to lose this option.

        • E. Olson says

          Interesting comments, which brings to mind the question of why a mentally healthy male would want to get an education in an area that is 90% female and where 90% of the female professors and students believe all societal problems are caused by patriarchy/misogyny and toxic masculinity?

  17. Cornfed says

    Venus and Mars. This is one of those topics that would seem silly to discuss over the last few millennia, but needs to be discussed today as a sort of novel idea in this age of feminist theory claptrap. Male stoicism is only questioned by those looking at it from a female perspective, and too narrow minded to consider that there is another gender with its own perspective, which they may not understand. It can be carried too far, of course. But has its advantages as well.

  18. Sydney says

    “I would not recommend ‘Stop Thinking About It’ as a mental health campaign slogan…”

    What a great comment. I laughed out loud at the dark humour of it. I’d love to see such a campaign plastered on subway walls and buses! Just imagine! And much healthier than psych drugs (antideps, antipsychotics, antianxiety drugs…) that cause suicide and homicide ideation.

    Great piece on an important topic. Indeed, ‘Stop thinking about it’ is in a way a basic tenet of Buddhism. For better or worse Buddhism serves Westerners very well as a tool for managing our emotional and psychological lives. It correctly posits that the overwhelming majority of us control our thoughts, and it’s our own thoughts that lead us directly into our unhappiness.

    Resources on Buddhism are limitless, but anyone will enjoy and learn from Venerable Robina Courtin, an Australian-born Buddhist nun who I dubbed, ‘Angry Buddhist Granny’ when I played her lectures for my sons.

    This is just one of MANY on Youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3bqwSQ_eOI

    I wish the author good health!

    • Hippo says

      The Buddhist claim seems more to be that people do not control their thoughts, and that since people do not control their thoughts they should not be attached to them.

  19. Avid Reader says

    Thanks for the article Ben, a good read. I was at a training course a couple of years ago on how to education in Engineering. The thrust of it was that male students should be more like women. I asked why women couldn’t learn to understand that a man may not want to spend the first half hour of the day talking about social activities especially if there is a deadline coming up, and not take everything so personally. Needless to say, didn’t go down well.

    • ccscientist says

      Women can completely melt down about a problem at work (at least to their spouse/friends/dad) and it is viewed as ok. Men will usually confine themselves to a few sardonic comments or face-palms. It is not the case that women’s jobs are uniquely meltdown-worthy. We are just different.

  20. Interesting points. Thanks for sharing your experience, Ben.

    Perused the article but want to give it a deeper read. I also haven’t had the opportunity to delve into the comments yet but glad to see there’s some productive discussion taking place.

    I would like to take a moment to call attention to the distinction between “stoicism” as described here and the philosophical school of “Stoicism”. While there is much in common — and I think your defense of “rational coping” is well in line with that tradition — a reading of this larger body of work will reveal the development of practices that, indeed, are more than “just stop thinking about it”. Rather the claim is that one should face head-on the nature of the universe and one’s place in it, and give up guilt or anxiety over those things which one cannot control.

    The *[Enchiridion](http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html)* (handbook) of Epictetus is one of the first things I read which led me to further explore this discussion. I quote the second paragraph, as it encompasses this aspect of the philosophy more broadly, though the first is what struck me immediately upon my initial reading:

    > The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.

    And, while sometimes one must indeed simply grit teeth and push through, the practitioner wishes to develop an affection for the whole of nature, so that one welcomes the events of each day and one’s chance to face them. Marcus Aurelius charged himself, in his [personal notes](http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html):

    > Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts. And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee.

    Much more information is available online, encyclopedic summaries as well as sources both classical and modern.

    I hope to read the article and comments in more detail and perhaps return to participate further. Cheers

    • Dan R. says

      I planned to leave a similar reply. I have to disagree with the author’s choice of labels; as (philosophical) Stoicism is growing in use in the vernacular and this use, akin to “toxic masculinity”, will lead people to have a misunderstanding of the term.

    • Tim – If I remember Marcus Aurelius, his stoic nature was in balance due to his stoic preference to expose his emotions only to immediate family and close friends. Those outside of this circle did not see any changes in him, even after his beloved daughter died.

      Stoicism to me is the best of philosophies for life as it makes us stronger, as opposed to untrammelled emoting which only serves to make us weaker. It’s a pity that stoicism in the west was watered down to such and etent that it ended up as a ‘stiff upper lip’. There ia so much more to it that that. This ‘stiff upper lip’ exposed us to the feminist attacks of a stunted emotional life which led to the madness we see around us today. I refer to the subscribers to this expansion as ’emotional cripples’ emoting about everything and thereby reducing many of the big things that could be done by a calm mind to an emotional reaction.

      This has reduced a complex wonderful internal world into a simple emotional echo chamber. In other words we have all be feminised.

  21. Michael says

    I’m not sure there’s anything in the world I trust less than feminists talking about men’s issues. The way they feign concern for men and act like they have the answers, when in reality they are just trying to prop up their own false ideology. It honestly sickens me – using half truths and distortions to try and convince men they understand them better than they understand themselves. And of course none of it based on any hard science or research. And what’s worse – you can find many men selling themselves out and buying into it – forfeiting their self-respect in the process. There’s no evidence that life would be better for men if they starting handling their feelings and emotions like women do – in fact women are on average far more susceptible to emotional pain and mental distress than men are – and we’re supposed to sign up for that?

    • ccscientist says

      Michael: yes, the flip side of women needing to be more sensitive in order to properly care for babies and children is more general anxiety and worry. It makes complete sense when you think about it, but it isn’t “better”.

  22. Very good article but surely what the author was practising was stoicism rather than ‘male stoicism’.

  23. TheSnark says

    “I would not recommend ‘Stop Thinking About It’ as a mental health campaign slogan…”

    The popular version of that is “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which is excellent advice for most situations.

    And I have to agree…women who say they want a sensitive man don’t really want one as a mate. If they really want to be around sensitive men, they hang out with gay guys.

  24. Keven says

    Interesting article, unfortunately it has little to do with Stoicism the philosophy.

    First, the philosophy doesn’t encourage the repression of emotions. In fact, the purpose of practicing this philosophy is to reach a state of being termed eudaimonia which many people translate as happiness. It also means thriving in life.

    Second, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on Stoic principles and is considered to be one of the most effective forms of talk therapy available. So the idea that a “stoic” wouldn’t seek therapy makes little sense. Instead, it is more likely that an actual Stoic would seek out CBT to learn how to better apply the philosophy in their lives.

    Stoicism, in reality, advocates that we use reason to monitor our thinking process to ensure that what we think is going on is REALLY what is going on. It guards against cognitive bias and other forms of reactive thinking that clouds our judgment. The whole point of Stoicism ,the philosophy, is for our emotional expressions to be based on reality, instead of being based on made up ideas of what we think reality is. It has nothing to do with hiding, burying, or trying to remove emotions from our lives. It does the opposite. I helps us understand our emotions so that we can respond to the world in a productive manner, instead of being controlled by things outside of us.

    I am sorry but is seems that the authors understanding of stoicism came from a dictionary definition instead of reading about the actual philosophy.

  25. lynn oliver says

    The idea of boys and men showing emotions is far more complex than just not showing it. It begins in infancy with increased aggressive treatment and much less kind, caring, supportive treatment by parents, teachers, others to make boys, later men tough. This aggressive treatment comes at different levels and increases as we go down the socioeconomic ladder and more time in those areas. Any sign of weakness is then shown even more aggressive treatment. The problem with boys and men is that the belief boys should be strong is killing off their academics, later economic success, and at all ages greatly damaging their mental/emotional health, all to make them tough. When we see average stress as many maintained layers of mental work from many past, present, future – experiences, fears, angers, preparation for defense, needs along with many weights and values developed and for boys/men the ingrained defensive posturing of body language, voice, gait, even eating habits are all a part of preparation for defense given to boys/men from infancy. These layers take up real mental energy within an upright rectangle leaving less mental energy to think, learn and have good mental/emotional health. As those layers accumulate toward the top of the upright rectangle, they create both psychological suffering and shorter reflection time leading to many harmful escapes from over or under eating, over shopping, to drug/alcohol abuse, and suicide. So many more boys will be affected. We need to release all boys/men from the false genetics models and show everyone how our individual environments greatly affect thinking, learning, motivation, and mental health. Some boys, later men are already seeing the hurtful effects of the more aggressive less supportive treatment they have and are receiving from infancy. Many are trying to escape this abuse by attempting more and more to remove themselves from the various attributes which have led to more aggressive, less supportive treatment in the past. I am afraid just showing more emotions will only work in the much more stable, hopefully more insightful areas, which is very few and far between for boys and men. We must make a societal commitment to begin educating teachers, parents, and others in society that the more aggressive, less supportive treatment they are giving boy and men is creating many many failing boys and many failing men in society. I fear those men are also becoming more and more angry as they see themselves failing while the girls and women around them who are treated with much much kind, caring, supportive treatment by parents, teachers, others and are now surging ahead in education and society. Sadly the false belief in genetics is now creating even more abrasive and more harsh treatment by many girls and women in society due to their false feelings of superiority and much freedom of expression so allowed for girls and women due to our much more protected status. We must remove the false genetics models and provide true equal treatment for all from infancy.

    • Kyle says

      Lynn Oliver where to begin. The first premise I would like to disagree with is that the idea of raising boys to be “tough” is necessarily a negative practice. Even though we have not had our homeland attacked since we attacked ourselves during the Civil War (in the U.S.) is NO GUARANTEE that it will not be attacked in the future. As a man, I am acutely aware that if there is such an attack on our country, I will be one of the ones called to defend it. ALL men are in this same position. You may not be aware of it considering you are a woman but the fact remains. So in order for our society to be defended, it is CRUCIAL that every man be able to tolerate and function in a combat situation. I realize that ALL men won’t be able to but the more that are able to, the better the chances of defending the country. You may consider this hypothetical but the fact of the matter is that men consciously or subconsciously know this. We also know that when it comes to supporting a family, WE are the ones who are ultimately responsible for succeeding at this endeavor. So though I agree that treating small boys harshly is not a good idea, the fact is that boys need to be “tough” physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It goes with the turf. The idea that this “toughening” process AUTOMATICALLY leads to mental health issues is in NO WAY proven by anyone. It is merely surmised by people who have done way too little research into male mental health (which is everyone by the way).
      And the idea that this “toughening” process is somehow causing boys and men to perform worse in school has absolutely NO BASIS in fact. How about the feminizing of the school standards and practices and the constant degradation of masculinity in the schools as a likely cause for boys performing worse in schools? The idea that the “toughening” process is “killing off their academics, later their economic success” is nothing that has ever been proven much less addressed by anyone of any credibility. If, in fact, it has, please respond with evidence.
      I have to say that one of the VERY LARGE REASONS why men are not inclined to express their emotions to other people is the overwhelmingly negative response they receive when they do so. And the very worse offenders in this category are the women they are romantically involved with. Any man can tell you that the worst person to express his negative emotions to is his girlfriend or wife, HANDS DOWN. The result of doing so is very often the END of the relationship. So when ANY woman comes along and suggests that men should express their emotions more, it’s the worst joke he could imagine hearing.
      “We must remove the false genetics models and provide true equal treatment for all from infancy” is yet another unproven idea with NO BASIS IN FACT. The reality of “equality” does NOT exist in our universe. Sorry. No two grains of sand are alike. No two parents are alike and no two children are alike so it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for there to be “equality” in how people are treated. This is not to suggest there is no room for improvement. But to even suggest that ANY treatment of ANYONE be “equal” is ignorant. There will be NO “equal” treatment of ANYONE EVER. It is not possible. And the idea of “equality” is a concept that is mentioned numerous times in the writings of Karl Marx and other Marxist writers and thinkers. It is a concept that is used to manipulate people into agreeing with Marxist ideology and has no basis in reality. In other words it is a LIE.

  26. Saw file says

    @Lynn O
    Seriously? Again… Seriously?
    I work in the world of MEN, and we would nod n smile and then ignore your’intelectual’ nonsense
    We already have this down to a science.
    Thx anyhoo.
    HR ‘chicks’ are..

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