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  • Jotham Busfield, LICSW

The "Men's Playbook" and Two Types of Strength

The Men’s Playbook…referenced by Kevin Love and covered in our first podcast episode (Youtube: is a play by play approach we see too often with guys when it comes to coping with stress and dealing with emotion. In short, the Men’s playbook says “If you’re a real man, you have to suck it up, move on, show no weakness, deal with your problems on your own.”

It’s no surprise as to why this happens so often. Like so many other things, it is taught and observed through the modeled behavior of those in their lives. Young guys are taught that they need to “suck it up” which is code for “showing emotion is weak” or “shake it off” which is code for “pretend it didn’t happen”. They are taught that the only way to deal with things in life is to hold it in and be stoic. Not shockingly, this only leads to vicious anger outbursts and often significant mental health issues forming, particularly depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

The guys who promote holding it all in say that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. The people that promote learning how to deal with emotions often say those guys that hold it all in are either “stupid” or “the real weak ones.”

Let’s examine the two approaches to see what is what:

Reject Emotion (Men’s Playbook): Definitely takes strength (holding in all emotion), but unfortunately sets the person up for problems getting worse and worse (this process of holding everything in builds pressure more and more and inevitably leads to explosion).

Accept Emotion (New Playbook): takes a DIFFERENT type of strength (accepting, facing and embracing real emotion by allowing themselves to feel vulnerable), while also allowing pressure to escape the system gradually, which leads to a person maintaining their mental health while often building true confidence

They both take strength. However, only one combines strength AND good outcomes. For those guys out there reading (or those close to them)…ditch the old playbook. It will make you feel strong in the moment, but inevitably leads to things crumbling. Try out the new playbook. It will be a challenge to adjust in the short term, but if you want a life with healthy relationships, true confidence, and fulfilled purpose, it’s the only path that helps you Step Up + Move Forward.

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