Toxic masculinity: “At some point this system will collapse”

Toxic masculinity: “At some point this system will collapse”
Toxic masculinity: “At some point this system will collapse”

Psychotherapist Johannes Vennen works primarily with men. In this interview, he explains why some of them still suppress weakness and emotions and how toxic masculinity can affect the psyche.

Mr. Vennen, the term toxic masculinity has been appearing more frequently in the media and cultural debates for several years. What does that mean?
Toxic masculinity describes negative behaviors and attitudes that result from perceived gender roles. But where does toxic masculinity begin? There are no clear criteria for it. Men who believe they have to do everything on their own and don’t seek help certainly don’t come to me. But I often meet men in my practice who believe they always have to be strong and cannot allow themselves to be weak. They suppress their feelings. In doing so, they harm themselves above all else.

What do you mean by that?
As soon as they feel vulnerable or experience an unpleasant feeling, they react toxically: They look for causes outside, become aggressive or even violent instead of listening to themselves and reflecting. They cannot allow feelings that show weakness and vulnerability. That does not fit with their image of the “strong man”. But that is what defines us.

Specializes in the topic of depression in men: Johannes Vennen

© private

To person

Johannes Vennen, 59, works as a behavioral therapist in Rendsburg. He is particularly interested in working with men.

But not all depressed men are aggressive and violent.
No, the reaction doesn’t always have to be so extreme. There is also a “toxic masculinity light”: men who fulfill all their duties like soldiers and don’t feel their limits. This also harms them.

How does this lifestyle affect mental health?
When toxic men notice that their mood is changing and they are experiencing unpleasant feelings, they compensate in order not to become depressed or vulnerable. They then tend to consume alcohol or drugs excessively. Drugs that stabilize the feeling of strength, such as coke or stimulants, are preferred. Addiction becomes a coping mechanism. The only way out seems to be to numb themselves.

Can this toxic behavior also lead to depression?
At some point this system breaks down. Ultimately, depression is only postponed. It is very exhausting to live like this: everything that impairs or questions the man’s strength, he has to fend off, regardless of whether he is sad, hurt or simply not feeling well. He cannot allow that to happen; he always has to be strong. Toxic masculinity is a form of stress that can promote mental disorders.

I am strong, I can do this alone, I won’t let it show – these toxic beliefs also prevent men from communicating and confiding in others.
Absolutely. Men with pronounced toxic masculinity don’t go to a psychologist! Or only when they are on the path to purification. I once knew someone who was a member of the Hells Angels. He called it a youthful sin and was very committed to therapy. But in the past he was strongly inclined towards toxic masculinity.

Have men learned nothing in recent years?
We are still caught up in male role models. The man is the breadwinner, brings home the money, takes care of the family, he is strong, reliable and does not allow himself any weaknesses. These old patterns still have an effect today.

At the same time, a Generation Z is growing up for whom other things are important: more free time and less work.
These young men pay more attention to what is good for them and what gives them joy. They are less performance-oriented and more relaxed. That’s a good thing! A new image of masculinity is emerging.

Does this change the way we deal with mental illnesses such as depression?
I think so. It is normal for younger men to seek help. Younger men take the topic of emotions more seriously. There is a greater willingness to perceive and accept feelings. Many older men still find it difficult to accept offers of help. If they live in Rendsburg, they prefer to come to my practice in Kiel so that no one sees them. And vice versa.

As a psychotherapist, you advocate for me-time or “holy times” that men reserve just for themselves. So Generation Z is marching in the right direction.
Definitely. However, we don’t yet know how young people will develop in the next ten to 15 years. When I was in my early 20s, I said that I wanted a part-time job when I was 30 – I’ve never worked part-time. But I’m confident that they won’t be as exhausted as we are and will be less competitive. They don’t have to be, anyway. The labor market situation has changed. Young people know that they are in demand and can be more demanding when choosing their jobs.

Are there special therapeutic approaches for men that are strongly oriented towards traditional male norms?
They can get help from services that are specialized for men – such as men’s counseling or men’s therapy. The terms imply that it is largely normal for men to have psychological problems. However, many men still avoid going to therapy out of shame. Anonymous services enable them to find out more without revealing too much about themselves.

How else can you reach these shy men?
By developing offers that are tailored to them and with which we can prevent depression from developing. So far, it has mainly been women who have taken advantage of these offers. But if we tailor them better to men, they will come too.

Information and support for men with depression on the Internet and by telephone

Digital applications (DIGAs, online therapy on prescription, is prescribed by the family doctor):

  • Deprexis: Deprexis is an internet-based, interactive program for treating depression based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It offers modules on topics such as stress management and self-esteem and can be flexibly adapted to the needs of the user.
  • Edupression: Edupression is an online therapy that is also based on CBT, but has a stronger focus on psychoeducational content. Users receive information about depression and learn self-help strategies in interactive exercises.
  • Novego: Novego combines CBT with elements of mindfulness and acceptance therapy. It is aimed at people who prefer a more holistic approach and offers a variety of modules that also integrate lifestyle topics.
  • Selfapy: Selfapy offers online therapy programs with personal support from trained psychologists. It combines CBT elements with direct human interaction to ensure individual support and feedback.

Telephone contact points

Information telephone for depression and suicide prevention: 0800 3344533 (toll-free)

: 0800 1110111 or 0800 1110222 (toll-free)

: 0180-5950 951 (14 ct/min from German landlines) or 0228-71002424

Information on the Internet

Suicide prevention

Men-specific prevention offers

Health insurance-supported intensive seminars for men Berlin, Munich and Hamburg

Source: Stern

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts