Emotionally Shut Down Men

photo by me

photo by me

Today I felt the most shut down I’ve felt in months. I mean super shut down (due to a combination of factors and triggers). I’m mostly on the other side now, but I had to go work with myself in nature for a bit. Thank God I have incredible tools. *relief*. The feeling of being shut down is strangely comfortable even though it’s also miserable at the same time. Comfortable because I spent many, many years, very shut down and emotionally jammed up and I’m simply used to it. Miserable because of the impact on those I love the most—my wife, kids, and myself. The misery is palpable. When I used to be shut down, like I was today, I don’t even want to be inside my skin. My face is tight and hurts. My affect is flat, numb, non-respondent. My mind is muted and distant. It’s like a deadzone and I’m far away, hard to reach.

Back in the day, shut down was my go-to emotional state. And, since I had no idea how to really deal with myself, I would just go drink, get high, jerk off, or go do some extreme sport to take the edge off. I never dealt. My girlfriends at the time probably made it about them. I’m guessing I did too.

The saddest part of this is how many men are completely shut down, day after day after day. Like my former self, they have no tools. They have no support. Many don’t even know that it could be different. Their conditioning has imprisoned them. And, the ones that do want help, might not seek support because that’s fucking weak. Then, these angry, shut down men get blamed, shamed, and made wrong by many of us do-gooders. “Why are men today so….?” Or “Men are so ________.” I have to look at the ways I have colluded with the machine around how men are “made” (i.e. indoctrinated), into manhood. Where have I participated in stuffing them in an outdated gender box? People so want men to get their shit together and deal, but what if those same people trained them to be this way? What if we are the ones who sent them the mixed messages as a boy about how to be. So, next time you find yourself judging some shutdown jerk-male like I used to be (or was today), take a closer look. He’s probably in severe pain and has no idea how to get out. Blame and shame put him further inside with a shorter fuse. Like a scared little boy, the dude needs boundaries, compassion, understanding, and listening. Then perhaps, once he’s open and listening, he needs a loving kick in the ass from trusted sources.

Comments

comments

9 Comments

  1. Well said.

    In the past, ‘veg out’ was a constant part of my vocabulary. Compulsive reading, video games, movies and porn served as my escape, ultimately doing additional harm on top of the issue from which I was seeking relief.

    Even though I’ve come a long way and rarely use those words now, I fall into the same trap from time to time. Thanks for sharing, for encourage me to look again within.

    Reply
  2. Dear Jayson,

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your courage and honesty. Truly, this is how you have become the fine leader you are, the man other men can go to to learn from. Your willingness to go deep, to say how it really is without any bs is so refreshing and heartwarming to me, a woman, a person.

    With gratitude,

    Riesah

    Reply
    • thanks for the kind regards.

      Reply
  3. Hi Jayson,

    Read your post and thought you may be the right person to ask this. MY BF has shut down. We had a great relationship, he is a good guy, truly. He is ACOA and in AA (11 years sober). He said, “everything was good and then a light switch went off and I stopped feeling the same for you and I’ve shut down” – I am gutted. We were getting closer and closer and the last month I can see now that he was nitpicking, and we had a big argument about my jealousy. I honestly believe he was in love with me and can’t handle it and I triggered him of his past trauma in that argument. He genuinelly has no idea what’s happened. He is going to a therapist, more AA meetings, talking to his sponsor every day. He knows this is his issues, says it’s nothing to do with me and that he just can’t be emotionally there until he figures his stuff out. I know he cares deeply for me but my insecurity is about “I feel differently” for you. Is this something you’ve been through? What can I expect?

    Reply
    • he’s simply scared. it’s his to face. nothing you can do but love him. if you don’t feel him reciprocate over time, move on. get curious about all the ways you get scared too and work on those in yourself.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your response Jayson. The trauma he’s had in his life is awful and I just want to hold him close. I know I cannot fix him, but it’s hard to stand back when he’s excluded me from his life – hopefully for now. I will wait and I know there are no guarantees and I’m working on my stuff – including vulnerability and not being reactionary. This is my journey too. I love your blog/site. It’s very insightful.

        Reply
  4. i need help, my boyfriend who i love very much is emotionally shut down from years of having no support system, no close relationships, no one to talk to. i want to be there to help him open up, because hes been this way for so long he knows no other way to be. its very hard on our relationship and on him. i just want to be able to help him open up, i need to learn the skills and tools to assist him in change.

    Reply
    • it’s not your job to change him. perhaps it’s time to love yourself enough and move on.

      Reply
    • can i use your comment to do a video on the subject?

      Reply

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