The Detoxing Man is Collaborative (by default).
I fully bought in to the idea that men are meant to be self-sufficient. I tried to solve my own problems, logically gathering all of the information, and coming up with the best possible outcome for everyone in the process. The “I alone can fix it” mentality is seductive in its simplicity. It tells me, “you don’t need help” and “you are just not working hard enough.” But, in reality, there is no amount of solitary hard work that can substitute for others’ perspectives.
My wife being angry at me for reaching out about exchange programs on my son’s behalf without asking her first cannot be solved by me thinking harder about the issue. I couldn’t see it as she did, that it was a parenting move and one that requires collaboration. Never seeming to have enough money at the end of the month and having to borrow from our HELOC to cover the daily costs of living could not be solved by just the sheer will of wanting to spend less money. I couldn’t say no without the perspective of a weekly budget or the help of my collaborative family. Not putting important upcoming events on the calendar until I was sure they would happen and the exact time they would begin was not a solution to anything, but rather a selfish move meant to preserve my control.
Self-sufficiency is a myth. My life is so intertwined with the lives of my family and community that I cannot “fix it” on my own. But, I can break it pretty good. When I stay within my own head and believe that I have all of the information that I need to make decisions without talking with others or getting help, that is when I know I will truly break things. Break trust, break promises, and potentially break away from the right path forward.
So, I must work against this instinct of isolation, of “making my own way in the world.” I am not an Island, no matter how much I might pretend to be in order to feel more important or prove to myself that I have things figured out. I must forge on with a collaborative instinct, a default setting toward asking for help and being open to receiving it.
I had put off going to therapy for nearly my whole adult life, and it was this carcinogenic self-sufficient model of manhood that kept me away. I truly believed I was “working on myself” in my own time. And I suppose that was true in the broadest sense, except that my own head was the one responsible for many of the issues that I was trying to work on. Why did I believe that it could be the single solution to all of them as well? After going twice a month for the last five months, I am no longer looking to make solitary gains. I go to therapy to collaborate with someone who isn’t constrained by my thoughts (and one who doesn’t even live in my home). It is an incredible feeling to know that there are other people working on your behalf, telling you that you don’t have to be self-sufficient to be sufficient.