Knowing the Needs of a Man’s Heart

Bob Damrau, LPC, LMHC

Men feel most like men when purposefully moving through life with the confidence that what they have to offer impacts the lives of family members and neighbors in some positive fashion. Navigating this side of eternity, however, is rarely marked by fair skies and calm seas. The storms of life often bring doubt in one’s ability to make a difference. The winds of adversity can add despair as thoughts spiral downward. Men tend to think, ‘I don’t have what it takes,’ so they drop their sails and are tossed aimlessly in need — never sending out a call of distress.

Most men learn to hide their needs as boys. They are taught what is acceptable and not acceptable at home. The masculine characteristics are encouraged and usually include strength, independence and fearlessness, while unmanly attributes like weakness, dependence, and fear are disdained. So, to be accepted, guys strive at an early age to gain supreme control over their feelings (usually by pushing them down) which results in not being able to identify the needs that are embedded in those emotions. Dragging this type of strategy into adulthood results in a continual denial of a man’s needs, as well as the deprivation of his heart’s longing for genuine connection.

‘Needs are a key factor in love and intimacy,’ says David Ferguson in his book entitled Top 10 Intimacy Needs. Ferguson continues, ‘It’s possible to ‘hydro-plane’ through life and never share the joys of intimacy with another human being.’ The lack of a real emotional life, where feelings are voiced and needs are met through caring for one another, leaves a man vulnerable to the changing current of his times. When not directed by their feelings about themselves or the needs of those for whom they care, many men turn to an addiction, which will never bring satisfaction ‘ lust.

Before reading the rest of this article, I encourage you to reflect on these questions.
What do you think are the origins of lust in your life?
How does this problem affect your relationships today?
Are you willing to change course?

If your musings conclude that your acting out behaviors go deeper than, ‘It feels good;’ if your fantasies often center around the desire for real intimacy; and if you genuinely want to break the compulsive cycle, then listen up. IT’S OK TO HAVE NEEDS! God created man with emotions in line with His own image. He also made humanity needy, so that individuals might exercise faith in the context of relationship both with Himself and others bearing His likeness. The very first problem recorded in the Bible is spoken by the Lord. Genesis 2:18 says, ‘It is not good that man should be alone.’ God’s remedy for this was to create another human being for the purpose of relationship. Man was never meant to go it alone, neither should he remain isolated.

So, what does a guy really want? Knowing the needs of a man’s heart requires him first to identify what he is feeling. Let me explain. When a man acts out, whatever he was feeling would most likely go away, leaving him unable to target that emotion and, therefore, sinking him deeper into need. You see, there are needs imbedded in every feeling. For instance, a person feeling alone needs support. Or a man who is in transition may need comfort (change always carries a degree of loss). The guy who is feeling rejected probably needs acceptance or a sense of security. Now, once the feeling is identified and the need is generated, then a healthy connection with a spouse, friend or brother-in-arms will lead to getting that need met. And whether or not a need is met has a profound impact on a man’s life. This is another appropriate place to reflect.

Are you OK being a person designed with needs? Can you identify the relationship between your acting out and your unmet needs? What are your most vulnerable internal triggers (feelings/needs)? A person admitting he has needs is not admitting some personal weakness or that he is unhealthily dependent or that he lacks courage. Rather, it is a confession of one’s humanness. All men have needs as per God’s design. Acknowledging neediness is both truthful and beneficial. It is the rudder that keeps a man on course as he grows to love God with his whole heart and those around him from his heart. May you have fair skies and favorable winds.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Thoughts on Rest in Recovery

Bob Damrau

Say, ‘When’

A cartoon that recently got my attention depicted a client exclaiming to his counselor, ‘I’m learning how to relax, doctor—but I want to relax better and faster. I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!’ I smiled on the outside but a deeper sense of fatigue prompted a time of personal reflection. I was feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a major life transition. My behaviors appeared frantic, as if I was in a run-down between necessary activities and scheduled deadlines. I thought nothing was being done quite right and gave up on ever hearing the words, ‘You’re safe.’

This downward pattern of thought is a vulnerable place for anyone, but it is especially dangerous to an individual with compulsive tendencies. The temptation to give in to a quick fix presented itself as my way to escape from feeling out of control. It would have been easy to act out and medicate the seeming negativity, but I have learned to better manage situations like this in order to prevent that kind of relapse. I brought to mind a quote from Rollo May, who said, ‘It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.’

Then I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Did you know that Christ spoke this during a time of increased opposition to His ministry? That acted as the reality check I needed to identify the problem, break free from the insane thoughts, and find rest within the bounds of a healthier perspective.

The earthly lifestyle of our Savior is the prime example of living a balanced life. A colleague once said, ‘Jesus–the only person ever to be charged with saving the world—never got in a hurry.’ Just prior to preaching in Galilee, cleansing a leper, and healing a paralytic, the Lord ‘went out and departed to a solitary place’ (Mark 1:35). When the disciples finally located Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you’ (Mark 1:37). There were urgent matters to be addressed for sure, but He knew the limits of life in the flesh.

People teetering on the edge of burnout usually spend too much time and emotional energy caring for others and too little for themselves. That happens when we attempt to outwork and under-rest everyone we know, including God. I often wonder if Jesus would be hired by a lot of churches if His work habits were well known. My favorite movie is ‘Regarding Henry.’ Harrison Ford plays a powerful and arrogant lawyer whose life is drastically altered when he walks into the middle of an armed robbery and is shot in the head. His injuries leave this character with some long term cognitive deficits. Returning to his office, Henry’s secretary offers him a cup of coffee and cheerfully says; ‘Say when,’ as she pours the milk. The camera pans from the coffee cup to Henry and back again, without a word from him. When the secretary realized her disabled boss would not respond, she finished pouring the milk, handed Henry the cup and cordially said, ‘When you’ve had enough, you need to say ‘when.” Later in the movie, Henry is fed up with his old lifestyle of sex, lies and greed, and decides to change. As he walks by his secretary he exclaims, ‘I’ve had enough, so I’m saying ‘when.” I was that character—always on, ready and in control. It wasn’t until I experienced a traumatic illness that landed me in the hospital for an entire month that I began to come to terms with the fact that control is God’s realm and I needed to cast aside my plan and take on His yolk. That’s how I learned to say when.

Getting caught up in the fast pace of life is a certainty. A lack of rest can lower a person’s resistance to the place of despair. Any plan for recovery must include an appropriate amount of R & R, and Jesus, Himself, promises to give it. He simply requires that we come to Him. There, in His presence, is where I heard, ‘You’re safe.’

Need help finding harmony and balance in your life? Join us at our next New Life Weekend.