Counseling for men and Logotherapy

Keisuke Fukue The annual numbers of suicides in Japan surpassed the 30,000 mark for more than 10 years since 1998.
The number has decreased recently but still 27,000 plus persons killed themselves annually.
Men accounted for more than 70% of suicides throughout the same period. Under such circumstances, increased number of local municipalities set up a counseling unit dedicated for men, in addition to conventional one for women, at their Office for Gender Equality.

I am engaged in a helpline for men run by a municipality that quickly started such a service in Kansai area.

For married men, the greatest cause for concern is relationship with their wife. Many men are distressed by disagreement with their wife about children’s problems on the next stage of education, delinquency or others, concerns over their parents or parents in law, or other various issues. They are blamed by their wife, dwelling on it without ideas to deal with it.

I found my clients’ complaints have some common points, which clearly mirror loveless relationship between husband and wife.
In contrast with seriousness of their complaints, they often take easygoing attitude like saying “I wish everything would change one day”, “I would have no such concern, if my partner or my surroundings have changed,” “I want ran away” or “I want clear off everything.”

Many clients try to conclude their consultation saying “What’s this in short?” or “What I said can’t be solved, can it?”
It seems they want to stay away from their problems except getting information from a consultant.
For men who have always been competing with others in a competitive society, it is awful to be evaluated at their complaints.
If their complaints are denied or brushed aside, they may be evaluated as an unable coward who is troubled over “tribal” matters.
They can’t stay with such a consequence.
This is why men unintentionally pretend never getting upset or irritated with such trivial matters.

Although their story is serious, they tell it with a smirk. It seems they don’t want to admit themselves distressed.
There are many stereotypically “masculine” men who behave as if they have no worries and keep on walking quietly and patiently without halting.

From viewpoints of Logotherapy, such masculine men are regarded as “men with weak worrying ability” or “weak men in the spiritual dimension”In other words, they lack sense of responsibility. In essence, they are not aware of themselves as those who are asked by life, or they lack “existential sense of urgency.”

Clients on our helpline often do not see or worry about their problems as their own, wishing someone else to solve the problem.
Many say that their partner should change or that they can change themselves only if their partner changes, indicating their selfishness.
I therefore encourage them to worry about their problem in my counseling.
It is important to put a question to their spiritual dimension, to awake their sense of responsibility, and to let them recognize it meaningful to change themselves without expecting payback.

If they clearly perceive what their “masculine image” is in consulting, they will recover their worrying ability and become able to consider their problems in the spiritual dimension.

There are also many men who are worrying only about their partner, saying “I will try to change myself, but is it really work out?” or “If I make an effort to change myself, will my partner change herself?”
I think, however, what is really important is not whether their efforts are recognized by their partner but whether they try to change themselves even though their partner does not recognize or accept it.
Consultants should convey to clients that only they can do for changing relationship with their partner is to change themselves.
Unless they accept this, it is difficult for them to really change themselves.
In other words, one cannot change one’s attitude unless accepting reality.
Consultants should support clients so as to recognize and practice this.
Logotherapy is helpful for consultants to clearly send message about this to clients.

Sometimes clients speak of their violence.
It requires a lot of courage to confess that they behaved violently.
If consultants admire client’s courage saying “I’m glad you told it to me honestly,” clients may start changing themselves.
Needless to add, our helpline for men never approve violence but at the same time we should never neglect men’s personality.

Most men behaving violently tend to say “I behave violently because my partner is wrong” or “It’s my partner who induces me to behave violently.”
They think they themselves are not responsible for the violence but they are victims.
Unless they are relieved from victim mentality, they cannot accept they are responsible for violence and admit themselves as victimizer.
By looking closely into their victim mentality, clients recognize that they are in armor of “masculine image.” By putting off the armor, they become aware that they are victimizer and start worrying about and reflecting on themselves, wishing to change themselves whatever it takes.
This means they take their responsibility for himself and then for their partner.

Most of clients have been obsessed with “masculine image,” getting into an armor of masculine image without reflecting on themselves.
What is really needed for them is to be aware that they are asked by life, or that they should feel sense of “existential urgency.”

For this purpose, admiring their courage is not enough but may lead to an adverse result.
Instructing them to change their behavior cannot let them recognize correct “meaning” of the act. Encouraging reflection may close their mind.

Why does it have “meaning” to change oneself?
Why does it have “meaning” to change one’s attitude? Only Logotherapy is helpful to tell about meaning, and to send clear massage that human beings seeks for not instinctive needs nor pleasure in the physical dimension but meanings in the spiritual dimension.

In Logotherapy, consultants face clients without stripping responsibility from clients but with believing in their fundamental humanity.
I think rigid but affectionate Lobotherapy is most appropriate for a helpline for men.