America has just had one of the more contentious presidential elections in modern history (although I would argue that the presidential process was more grueling for Hillary Clinton in 2016). Donald Trump will end up losing by more than 5 million votes and a healthy chunk of electoral college votes. But this does not matter. Donald Trump doesn’t lose. He doesn’t concede when there are still fights to be had. This flows from a narcissistic mental stance that believes giving in is weak, lacks courage, and any slight against you drives revenge in twofold.

What happens is they hit me and I hit them back harder and, usually in all cases, they do it first…, But they hit me and I hit them back harder and they disappear. That’s what we want to lead the country.

Trump told Fox News in April 2016.

This manly, “revenge is a dish best just served – hot or cold doesn’t matter” is a sad trope of toxic masculinity this day in age.  But, given it is a pervasive undercurrent of the political news, I want to look at it from the other side. How does this mental attitude apply to males that are now working office jobs, helping raise children at home, become the household teacher during distance learning etc… does the hyper masculine mindset succeed?   Based upon societal pressures and expectations, I argue that the opposite force is the best choice of action here.  Surrender is a mental determination that you may not be able to control the outcome of a given situation – that your plan for the event or goal isn’t happening. It was really summed up well by Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening – “Surrender is when the fish moves with the current of a river.”   Men need to surrender in order to achieve the better balance of life and personal expectation.

It is already assumed that men’s societal worth is predicated on hard-work and financial success – to be strong leaders of families, businesses and governments (see the Pew Research Center 2018 American culture data on gender roles and how we define each gender here).  Status, wealth, power – those things are distinctly synonymous with alpha male attributes and hence are trotted out as success metrics for men.   This where the act of surrender comes in.  Men are taught that they can control how things happen by controlling the things within that decision process.  Kids? Raise them tough and be stern. Wife? Provide her money and occasional affection when you want it. Business? Gather as much money as you can and build it as big as you can.  These are simplifications, but all show how control and the ability to predict an outcome are the calling cards of a successful man.  Look at some of your classic theft caper movies, The Italian Job, Ocean’s 11, The Score, Usual Suspects, all of them have a plotline where the final score is marked (spoiler alert) by a brilliant counter feint of the lead role after a supposed change in fortune – something that could only have been thought of by super control freak. 

Alas – life, kids, marriages, business, emotional states, finances, pandemics (!!!), don’t operate that way.  You don’t get to control them and you cannot fit them into a pre-planned structure in which they exist going forward.  The epitome of the guy is the clever strategist who thinks the whole plan isn’t as easy with illness, financial failures, global upheaval and everything else life throws as us.  For men, the answer sometimes isn’t putting things into a structure, but let the structure go.  Don’t think how you should father your children, just be a parent without an expectation of how they act.  Don’t try figure out how your marriage is matching up to your expected timelines, be a partner and watch what your spouse does by themselves. Don’t define your success by how much money you have obtained, focus on the connections that you have made that will support you throughout your life.  These things come not by forcing life into a construct that you have, but by accepting what life is unfolding before you.  

For men, the answer sometimes isn’t putting things into a structure, but let the structure go.

– Mark Jones

For me, one recent example was my discipline style with my son.  If he was starting to throw things and get in a tantrum, I would hold his arms to his side and put him in “lock up” – in my mind designed to teach him to stop those undesired actions. I asked him about it last time I did it and he said “I don’t like lock up. It makes my tummy hurt and makes me feel frustrated.” I’ve since agreed with him to not do lock up and speak with him about where the situations where I normally would have used lock up.  He responds with moving to a settled down state faster.  By letting go of the expectations of control that I had, life can move more smoothly.  I began to see that my son loves to express his feelings via a color scheme – red, blue, yellow and green.    Letting go of the control is a deliberate act. It allows you to remove the pain and fear that comes with missing your expectations and gets you to let go of that burden.  Why continue to struggle against self-made shackles that you have the power to remove?

#trump #surrender #mentalhealth #acceptance #men #male