It’s Anxiety! It’s Depression! No, It’s a Spiritual Crisis – BetterMen

June 19, 2014

Your life just isn’t measuring up. You’re angry and frustrated because you know things should be better—you should be more successful by now—you should have the relationships you want—you should be happy.

Your conclusion? There’s something wrong with you.

What’s the point?

You’re not the first ill-informed man to come to this erroneous conclusion. In fact, you’re in very good company. To paraphrase that ridiculous commercial, “I’m not just the director of this men’s center, I’m a member, too!” I’ve been there. Let me tell you how it happened.

Many years ago I was in a men’s group. One week we met in a local park and circled up under a large eucalyptus tree. It was a beautiful day with a light ocean breeze and I was feeling like a champ. Our leader at the time ran us through a few exercises; we helped out a few of the men. And then—then the question, “What do you believe in?”

A couple of the Jewish guys believed in their God. Our Native American followed the red road. A couple of other men had their own strong spiritual beliefs unattached to anything organized. And then, “Levine, what do you believe in?” Silence.

I’m a Jew raised atheist. I was never a member of any club. Once again, I found myself on the outside looking in. Stunned. Untethered. “I believe in myself,” I said.

After I received some quizzical looks, one man suggested I read two books that helped him discover his spiritual path. Then it was suggested to me that while doing my daily dog walking, I start talking to God and sharing how grateful I am.

I can’t begin to tell you how extraordinarily uncomfortable this all was. Talk to God!? What!? But I trusted the men and I did it, daily, until it began to change me.

Here’s What I Learned

For most of my life, I relied on me—that’s it. And it worked most of the time. But when it didn’t work, when I couldn’t measure up, when my confidence failed me, I spiraled into anxiety and then depression.

But relying on me was all I knew. I had never learned to ask for help. There wasn’t much help around in my family. So, like every other kid in less than desirable surroundings, I adapted and developed some amazing coping skills. But they weren’t enough—at least they were no longer enough.

I had become completely self-centered. I was the center of my universe. That’s how I saw the world and how I addressed every challenge that crossed my path. I was the foundation upon which I stood. I was what grounded me. I counted on me!

But the foundation of that wounded little boy was not strong enough to support a man with mature responsibilities, questions and challenges.

My problems, if too challenging for me, caused me to feel completely overwhelmed. Being out of control scared me to death, and a few times my thoughts went to just that permanent solution to relieve my excruciating pain.

The good news is that I don’t go there anymore. I don’t get overwhelmed with anxiety. I no longer lose my sense of self in depression for days and weeks on end. Doubt doesn’t get the best of me for very long. And I’ve seen many men experience this same remarkable transformation.

Let Me Pay It Forward

Here’s what I suggest:

•Read “Conversations with God” and “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”
•Take time each day to be grateful.
•Remind yourself it’s not just about you by volunteering and making it about someone else.
•Develop a connection with some sense of a higher power so you never forget you are not in charge.
•Ask for help every step of the way.

I’ve offered these same recommendations to men for years. And I’ve seen men make terrific progress. When they begin to look outward, their need for control diminishes. When they ask for help, they learn to rely on others and not just upon their own limited counsel. And when they become better men they’re so much more pleasant to be around.

In this process your definition of success evolves. How much money you thought you needed is revised. The changes you make attract and heal your relationships. And happiness, though looking quite different than you once imagined, is yours.