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Feeling our way out of the Mancession Add to ...

Gentlemen, we’re in a Mancession, and the only way out may be to man up to our feelings and ask for help.

If you haven’t heard about the Mancession, you've probably already figured out what it means. It refers to the disproportionate loss in the number of jobs for men versus women, attributed to men’s propensity to be working in such cyclical industries as manufacturing, whereas women tend to work in the more recession-proof fields of health care and education.

Analysts have shown that previous recessions exhibit the same disproportionate effects, and it could be argued that this time, the disparity is in fact not as disproportionate as previous recessions, but lopsided nonetheless.

Let's face it, men aren't known for talking about their feelings, says Dale Curd, a counsellor specializing in men’s issues. “For men, the most difficult aspect of this current recession is dealing with their individual shame and the very real potential that, for many, coming out of the recession successfully means reidentifying how they value themselves and see their value to their families,” Mr. Curd says. “This recession is distinct because it is affecting men at all income levels, not just so-called blue-collar workers. The men I hear from most often are the ones who believed they were secure in middle or senior management positions and who were near the apex of their careers. These men are lost about how to reinvent themselves.”

What makes this process more complicated for men, says Mr. Curd, is how they are conditioned to speak to and support each other through tough times. “While men have the ability to listen empathetically, we are conditioned to listen for problems and solutions. This style of listening inherently creates a high level of vulnerability, judgment and righteousness, while empathetic listening creates understanding and relatedness. And it is shame connected to being perceived as vulnerable and weak which silences men today and keeps them stuck.”

Mr. Curd says there are three fundamental steps a man can take to help regain his sense of self-worth and direction at this time: “First, sit down and have a deeply honest conversation with someone you trust implicitly to listen to any thoughts or beliefs you have about yourself which may be self-limiting or self-destructive. Get these thoughts out in the open so you can look at them objectively.

“Second, choose and map out a course of action to deal with the issue causing you the greatest pain or stress.

“Three, set up a support structure of individuals who will commit to hold you accountable to your plan. More contact is better than less; I've had clients who have set up daily phone calls with their supports to help them successfully navigate a plan.”

According to Statistics Canada, women made up 37.1 per cent of the total employment in Canada in 1976. In 2009, that number was 47.9 per cent. In the United States, it's almost 50/50.

So while the demographics of the labour force have been changing steadily over time, judging by the increase in Mr. Curd's business, it would seem men’s coping mechanisms have not kept pace.

Paraphrasing Sun Tzu, “If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”

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