At the beginning of a client’s therapeutic journey, I quite often will use an analogy to explain how repressing things works. I would like to share that analogy with you to provide you with that very same insight. Imagine I give you an empty jug and I ask you to hold it out directly in front of you. Now in the first instance and for a short while you will be able to do that with relative ease. Now consider I begin to slowly fill that jug with water and ask you to maintain that position. As the jug gets heavier and you hold it for longer, it is going to begin to feel painful to the point where eventually it will become unbearable. The only way to alleviate that pain is to either empty the jug, or place it down. Now imagine your psyche is the jug and the water is all of the painful and upsetting experiences you encounter.
The metaphor of emptying your jug effectively relates to you being able to externalise what you are feeling. This could be through therapy, talking to a friend/family member or just by having that regular method of release that works for you. There is an argument that a man’s reticence to disclose, means they allow things to build up to the extent where it becomes unbearable and they see no other way out of the pain. A situation where the very image of having to get through another day elicits such feelings of dread, is unimaginable to most of us, but a reality for some. Sadly, we don’t always get the opportunity to offer empathy and support to somebody, because in many instances we simply do not know the extent to what people in this situation are feeling, until it’s too late.
One of the biggest challenges we face is the stigma which still exists around mental health, particularly in men. If we can create a society where mental health is more openly talked about and no longer stigmatised, then we encourage people to externalise without fear of judgement. For everybody out there affected by mental health problems, there are always people available to listen and support. Please talk to somebody and understand it’s ok to not feel ok, and opening up to somebody to actively talk about how you are feeling is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness.