As a counselor who has spent several years specializing in working with men, I have come to recognize a few toxic thinking patterns prevalent in guys. These thought patterns are like bad, outdated software, limiting the performance of an otherwise capable computer.
In other words, toxic thoughts will keep you from realizing your full potential, in any avenue of life. Let’s identify some toxic thought patterns and examine solutions.
Balancing emotion and logical thought
People experience both emotion and thought as part of their ongoing, daily existence. However, the content and management of these varies greatly across individuals. Some men are more given to thinking obsessively and becoming emotionally overwhelmed. Others stay firmly in the arena of logic, reducing most of life to a seemingly objective set of decisions. Often times, men who are unsure in their ability to manage thought and emotion tend to attempt to live on the logical side, avoiding emotion. Emotions are experienced, but they are a private affair, being held and dealt with internally.There are some real advantages for a guy to stay on the logical side:
- He’s good at it. He can put together a reasoned, logical argument, and pick apart another stance with little effort.
- It renders him emotionally safe. In other words, he has no significant emotional investment in his interactions with others. As such, he is behind a kind of fortress wall, keeping him from harm. He can have a debate with you, but doesn’t know how to have a relationship.
- Probably hardest reason to hear: it often positions him as superior. Now, most guys who actually do this will quickly have a logical argument explaining they are not attempting to be superior, but let’s have the courage to take a look. The problem is his way of thinking becomes the measuring stick by which he assesses all others. If something makes sense to him (is logical), it is possible. If something does not make sense, then it cannot be true. He holds the standard by which others thoughts and feelings are assessed, and he’s rigid in clinging to his assessment.
These men tend to exhibit excessive focus on task accomplishment and career identity, insensitivity to the needs of others, and a way of relating to others which is seen as “aloof.” It’s like you need to remind men who operate like this that Vulcan’s were actually a fictional character on Star Trek, not an ideal to be aspired to.Solution: You need both emotion and logic. Life is not a math problem, nor should it be a soap opera. Learn to identify what you are thinking and what you are feeling, noticing the connections between the two. Pay attention to what you see in yourself, like a curious observer, having the courage to take in what’s there. From this stance, you’ll be in a strong position to allow the Lord to refine the man you are into the man He has for you to be. Finally, allow others access to your previously private experience of emotion.
Rigid categorization of people, events, ideas
Decisiveness is not a bad trait, however, attempting to quickly define people, events, ideas using an “all good or all bad” system is not workable. Often, it is a tool of convenience, quickly simplifying life. Simply place things in one category or another. Single men using this way of thinking will quickly attempt to have others “figured out” and respond to them accordingly. People are either worthwhile individuals he will engage or simply part of the background. Again, this way of thinking provides the illusion of safety, similar to being logical. It prevents the man from wasting his time or getting hurt by taking risks in relationship.Solution: Life is a bit messy. Let go of some of your control and allow things to unfold. Stay engaged, rather than checking out in relationships and see what happens. You might notice some successes in forming close relationships, as well as some failures along the way. However, the failures likely won’t be as devastating as you thought.
The “there’s something better” stance in life.
It’s a position of always looking around rather than being where you are. The man fantasizes about what he might do or could do given the opportunity, all at the expense of the life he is currently living. It allows him only limited availability for the life he is actually living. Additionally, contentment with where he is currently at is seen as “settling”, a word sure to turn the stomach of any man. Stewardship is the answer. A man can and should have aspirations, but not at the expense of where is today. These aspirations should not take the form of fantasies that anesthetize him from reality. Instead, he needs to remain firmly in the reality of the present.Solution: Stewardship. What has God given you today, and what are you doing with it? Not what you want Him to give you or what you might have tomorrow. Tend what you have to the best of your ability. Work to refine and be an expert with little. The benefits are huge. Read Matthew 25:14-23 & Luke 19:12-19.
Parable of the Three Servants14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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