Well, I stopped writing this blog for a few months to focus on writing the book I was working on, and somehow twenty-seven months went by. Time flies when you’re having fun! I did finish the book though, along with six others, so it wasn’t time wasted.
Since the last time we talked, I wrote three books in the DimWorld sci-fi series, two books in the Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband series, and a how-to book called How to Become an Equine Veterinarian. I just finished my seventh book; a memoir called The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy. It’s currently at the editor and should be out in early spring 2021.
You See, What Had Happened Was…
Writing The Righteous Rage of a Ten-Year-Old Boy has been a huge growth point for me. It’s a chronical of my journey through therapy, and the things I learned about myself. As a result of this experience, my self-esteem is better, my confidence is better, and my understanding of who I am is better. But far more important than that, my understanding of who I used to be has changed, along with my understanding of why I had all these misconceptions about myself and ended up as a raging alcoholic at the ripe old age of 21.
I had an abusive childhood, which I talk about extensively in the book, and as a result of my experiences, I formed certain erroneous beliefs about myself. Guess what? The negative vision of myself that I created at eight was still there when I was eighteen, and when I was twenty-eight, and when I was thirty-eight. It didn’t change, and why would it? Had I not done this trauma therapy at forty-four, it would have persisted until the day I died.
Here’s an example. One of my many jobs as a kid was splitting and stacking firewood. My dad built a rack for the wood, and I had to fill it every day. The wood had to be neat, too, not just tossed in. I got a swat for every piece of wood that stuck out of line from the others, and there were always at least four or five of those.
When my dad came home from work and inspected my work, I would get my spanking. What I learned was that no matter how hard I try, I’m going to fail, and no matter how hard I work, I’m going to get punished. As an adult, I still believed I wasn’t good enough. I also had a chip on my shoulder, a ready-made resentment against every boss I ever had. That made me a terrible employee because I was argumentative, combative, and angry. I worked really hard, and tried to excel on merit, but my attitude kept me from ever advancing. My belief that I wasn’t good enough became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Finding My Truth
My therapist helped me find my truth. The truth was, we needed firewood to heat the house in the winter. I split and stacked all the firewood, and because of my efforts, the house was warm. The fact that I got punished for that wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough, or that I failed, it was because my dad had a warped sense of motivation. The failure was his, not mine. I did my job, and I was good enough, and our whole family benefitted and enjoyed the fruits of my labor. I was a success!
Imagine how different my life might have been if that belief, and a hundred others just like it from similar situations, had never taken root in my mind? If I had recognized my value early on, and not created a huge resentment towards anyone who had power or authority over me. If I had a positive attitude about myself.
That didn’t happen, of course. My insecurities drove me to become an angry alcoholic, a resentful spouse, a terrible teammate and employee, and a miserable person. Fortunately for me, and those in my life, I managed to get sober when I was thirty-two and begin the huge task of turning the ship around. Thirteen years later, I’m still sailing in a new direction, learning new things about myself, and trying hard to become a better person. And it’s working.
But a lot of people on that same trajectory never change course. They spend their whole lives being miserable, even when everyone knows that counseling is a thing. Why is that?
Masculinity, Toxic and Otherwise
American culture, and maybe it’s human culture, expects men to be tough. Men are never supposed to show pain or any emotion other than rage (and maybe lust). Men are never supposed to ask for help. Men are never supposed to admit they’re wrong. We can never break under pressure, be weak, be fragile, be sensitive, or anything other than a big rock.
Have you ever heard such a lot of bullshit? Humans have twenty-seven emotions, and half the population is expected to jam twenty-six of them down into a corner and forget they exist. Really great men jam all twenty-seven of them in the corner. Talk about being true to yourself, right?
Spoiler alert! I’m not a rock. My feelings got hurt early on, and those wounds never healed. I didn’t know how to heal them, because I didn’t have anybody in my world to help me learn how. The fact that I turned to booze for comfort is no surprise at all. In fact, some sort of destructive or addictive behavior was inevitable.
I’m lucky that I met the man who became my mentor. He helped me see that not only is it okay for me to get help, professional and otherwise, it’s the only way I’m ever going to be satisfied with my life. I owe it to myself to use every resource I can find to improve my quality of life. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I suffer needlessly? Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
I went to therapy to fix myself. I wrote a book about it because it’s important to me for people to know what they’re missing out on. It kills me that people would rather suffer in silence than be seen as weak for seeking therapy. That’s the most absurd idea in the world, yet millions and millions of people do it every day.
I’ll leave you with two thoughts. First: what do you want people to say at your funeral?
That guy was an angry, miserable man, but by God, he was tough. He never even thought about changing. He suffered right up to the end. What a man.
- Real men get therapy when they need it.
- Real men embrace change.
- Real men are self-aware.
- Real men understand the value of vulnerability.
- Real men are committed to self-improvement.
- Real men aren’t trying to project an image of something they aren’t, because real men aren’t reliant on the opinion of others to feel good about who they are.
- Real men admit when they are wrong.
- Real men have emotions. Somewhere around 27 of them. And that’s okay.
- Real men don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay, too.
Real Men Get Therapy.
Let’s change the social norm.
Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.