It is heartbreaking to see the rise of deaths of despair by men without college degrees who just can’t hack it in our modern system. Psychology claims to have the solution and I think it can be of limited help but there is something intractable about men’s problems which it can’t fully address:
Men are planners so calls to live in the moment to beat back despair don’t work well. Psychologists say focus on the now, the dot on the timeline and glean everything positive and calming from the dot. But it’s inborn in men to be scanning the horizon, taking in the whole timeline. If the whole timeline brings about fear and despair then that’s what men are going to feel. Traditional western religion focused on the whole timeline being redemptive (as there was heaven in the end and everything would be made new) as opposed to pop culture Buddhism which focuses on concentrating only on the present moment. Men worked better with a timeline that brought about hope but the prosperity gospel has seeped into modern Christianity so much so that if you don’t have money (like a lot of these men dying of despair) then you aren’t welcome to the church anymore.
Self love manifests itself differently in men than it does in women. For men self love is the tip of the iceberg while dignity is the larger mass that you don’t see. Men love themselves when they live a life that warrants it. A life where they possess dignified work. Dignified work is a load bearing post in a man’s psyche. Take this out and the whole edifice comes crashing down. Modern psychology likes to psychologize men’s situations, for example saying loser men aren’t getting dates because they don’t have “self confidence”. Well duh, of course they don’t have self love because their self love is tied to their dignity and a man does not possess innate worth aside from what he brings to the table. Men receive mixed messages from culture about this which just makes navigating the world more tricky. Men dying of despair often don’t have jobs that provide a living wage and as a result lose everything else.
When men talk about their problems it is often less cathartic. This is because a lot of men’s depression manifests itself as anger so when you exhume it it’s like opening up a Pandora’s Box. When men open up they often make an emotional mess which people around them are often not equipped or even willing to deal with. Therapists can help with this but the most important thing is the rapport with them rather than the type of therapy being used. However, men often need hours of just being with people before they open up, they often can’t do so on cue. That’s partially why men get a lot out of hunting and fishing, just being on the lake with a buddy cracking open a beer and shooting the breeze.
Men need father figures. No therapist, app, or book can replace this. Men have unique needs just like women and they need strong mature male mentors to look up to and emulate. If one is lucky they had a good or good enough relationship with their father. It is heartbreaking that so many boys are growing up without a father, all they have is their mother and modern psychology. Research has shown that boys that grow up without a father do much worse in life than women that do so and this is one of the reasons men are falling behind women on almost every metric. The gospel of the atomized individual is a lie, for males without fathers and even males with them it is important to find more mature male role models that will invest in them. This is easier said than done because modern psychology has told everyone to put them selves first and people shouldn’t selflessly invest in others. But the current system isn’t working out for men and the deaths of despair attest to this.