It’s hard being a man sometimes – someone defines you or subjects you to a stereotype or expectation. You’re not alone – other groups in society surely know about unfair stereotypes, too! After all, what does it mean to be a man today? And what’s on a man’s mind? We think these are fairly essential matters to ponder for the well-being of all.
Table of Contents
- What is the Male Psyche?
- How does a Guy’s Brain work?
- What do Men Desire?
- Men and Emotions
- How does the Male Brain Fall in Love?
- What makes a Man obsessed with a Woman?
- How to be a Man? Men and Masculinity
- Some Movies to better understand Male Psychology
- Mind Blowing Facts about Men Psychology
- Myths about Men
What do we mean by ‘Psyche?” The definition of the word ‘psyche’ appears to differ depending on who you ask. Essentially, at menpsyche.com, we are referring to a man’s “spirit, mind and soul”. And all that is pretty important to anyone! It’s what psychology is all about – observing and studying the human mind, thoughts and feelings.
What influences a man’s emotions and thoughts? An awful lot these days! We live in unprecedented times in terms of information, and our hard-working brains cannot necessarily adapt to the changes around us. These changes can cause distress and dysfunction as people struggle to survive and thrive in the modern, fast-changing world.
So, why do a man’s spirit, mind and soul matter? Can’t he just get busy with being a man as defined by society – a masculine being with specific responsibilities and capabilities?
Well, no – He needs our understanding, support and open-mindedness – just like anyone else.
How does a guy’s brain work? Understanding Male Psyche
Now, this might surprise you – you thought slumping in your armchair after work and not talking was a no-no. Have you been accused of being lazy, perhaps, insensitive or non-communicative? Now I’m not here to give an excuse to those who are lazy, uncaring or non-communicative, but there may be more behind this behaviour if we look at the wiring of a male brain.
Of course, the brain and mind are two different things, yet there are differences in a man’s brain structure that can influence his behaviour.
We can demonstrate this using the following common scenario. Sometimes, a man’s partner asks, “Why don’t you say much?” There may be a very good answer for that in the makeup of the brain itself.
The typical brain of a male tends to assign more of its brain to ‘spatial’ tasks. Essentially, this ability assists someone in connecting the dimensions, shape and position of objects in the environment and understanding their relationship. It also extends to mental manipulation and imagination of objects. It is considered an essential skill for mathematics, using the same part of the brain.
Some simple examples of spatial skills are packing a bag, wearing clothes correctly, using a wrench or tool to fix something, directing traffic etc.
There are hundreds of such thoughts going on for anyone throughout the day. However, a male brain tends to dedicate more brain space to these tasks.
So while a large section of a man’s brain is buzzing with spatial tasks, there is sometimes little bandwidth for additional tasks – like talking!
Now to those around you, it seems like you are ignoring them. People usually expect you to talk back or respond when they are talking to you. But this is sometimes a real challenge if the mind is occupied elsewhere, calculating environmental elements and concepts.
And chemical differences, as well as structural differences in male brains, can affect behaviour too.
What happens when your partner talks to you? It’s possible you cannot absorb the conversation and words as your brain is already occupied. A man’s brain has less overall verbal capacity, so you might literally be incapable of processing the same information in a conversational format.
The wiring in a man’s brain may mean he might want to end a conversation as they cannot express words or indeed process words the same way as women.
Now, this all sounds like a magnificent excuse never to listen to anyone again! (Sorry, dear, my brain can’t hear you; I’m busy spatially, it’s not my fault). But it’s not that simple, of course.
In relationships, people need to be mindful of others. Maybe you need space after work to unwind, and that’s not unreasonable, But maybe your partner needs a break too, and she wants to talk to you about something important. It’s about finding the time and conditions where both parties can be ‘heard’ and understood. Read this Men’s Guide to communicate better in the relationship.
What do Men Desire?
There has been a lot written about men and desire. As if all men are the same, and they live in caves and all read the “book of man”, which explains they all need a Ferrari and a hot chick, and off they go, speeding into the sunset!
If you’ve seen any recent television shows about billionaires, you will see that those two things rarely result in satisfaction (not lasting anyway).
So what do men desire? Some men may desire power and money, some may want their family to love and care for them, and some may desire a day off without interruptions!
If you look up the topic ‘men and desire’, you will find many references that associate men’s desire ONLY with sexual desire. There is nothing wrong with this, but surely many men want their lives to be about more than that, right?
What is the definition of desire? It’s a strong wish for something or for something to happen.
Desire, then, is absolutely a personal wish. However, men may desire something else, like societal validation. If a man is not in touch with his desires, he could get stuck chasing desires he believes are his – leading to a world of resentment and dissatisfaction.
Maybe men desire recognition, business success or materialistic objects – but do they? Or have they never really asked themselves, without social conditioning, what they strongly wish for in their life?
You have jobs and responsibilities. It’s selfish to have desires. There’s too much “noise” these days to hear your inner voice.
But what’s the difference between desires (wants) and needs? Now we get into the slippery slope of what you perceive as a need versus what you actually want and why it matters. Needs, likes wants, have been defined by others, but aren’t these sometimes different for everyone?
But whether it’s a need or desire, both have the potential to get you into trouble occasionally.
Following your desire may conflict with others, the law or your best needs. What if you have a need or desire to control things, your life, but it spills over into controlling those around you? Becoming self-aware may be required to identify what you want in life and whether that will cause problems in the future.
Your desires do not have to conflict with someone else – although they might. If you want Sunday off, but someone has asked you if you could help them that day, you may start to feel resentment. But it doesn’t have to play out this way.
Does everyone have a right to their desires? What if mine is “unacceptable” to others?
What if you have a deep desire for time off, free time with no responsibilities? Can this be negotiated? Sure – if a partner is reasonable and feels their wishes are met too. If you cannot meet your desires sometimes, will they turn into resentment? Is that your fault, or can you blame others?
Your actions are your choice, but there will always be consequences.
So beyond sexual desire, many men want to know that they matter, are important to someone, and have succeeded at something. Doesn’t this seem like a universal desire beyond gender?
There is nothing wrong with desiring ‘things.’ People may tell you to move beyond objects into spirituality, but they are usually telling you this from their home or surrounded by their own ‘things’.
Desire is personal. It’s your firm wish.
Many men may have strong sexual desires, but it’s not mandatory! Even if it’s biological, it’s still not mandatory and does not need to form the basis of your desire. And what if sexual desire is actually a need for intimacy, not sex? The emotional needs of men are often hidden below the macho ‘Ferarri driving hot chick magnet’ stereotype.
Wouldn’t it be nice if men had the freedom to decide their desires, not chase someone else’s ideas?
Men and Emotions
Emotions and men….Ahhhh. Another area of life where men are confused, and understandably so.
Many have been either directly told to hide emotions or indirectly observed modelling by others who hid theirs (a parent, for example). Or their emotions have been judged as weak. Feelings and emotions are not a gender response – Anyone can feel anything as a natural response to stimuli or the environment.
Being emotional is not weak – it’s the opposite of what we have been told. It is not irrationality or instability – it is the basis for intelligence. So, thoughts occur due to emotions. We don’t have thoughts without emotion creating the idea (or following a thought or idea). We react to environmental stimuli, and the resulting emotion or feeling directly dictates and changes our thinking.
And after years of sexist labels pigeonholing people, new research has busted some myths about men and emotions – it seems men are just like everyone else – Men are NOT less emotional than women!
This is significant because men can stop feeling guilty or less manly for feeling any emotion. There is no need to deny feelings or react like a ‘man.’
Of course, accepting your emotions and then displaying them in public are two different things. You might believe in your right to express feelings; however, you may face societal pushback until more men in society start to show up authentically.
We have also made a Comprehensive Guide To 150+ Helpful Resources For Men that can help you when you need help with a certain issue. You can also save it for later help.
There is no compulsion to do this, of course. But the more men are seen being ‘natural’ and exhibiting the range of emotions they feel, the more acceptable it will become.
Federer and Nadal crying together may one day be ‘normal’, and we won’t need a news report on the occasion!
Ironically, women often respond favourably to men capable of showing emotion.
Here we are, trying to be ‘strong’ for women. But it is not a weakness to them, but rather a display of strength to go against societal norms. Being true to yourself and your feelings is a strength, especially considering the cultural gender expectations.
Men tend to face pressure from other men to conform to stereotypes of masculinity.
How does the male brain fall in love?
One of life’s great joys and main drivers is falling in love. We are told this in the movies, so it must be true.
What happens to us when we meet someone? It’s as if something overtakes our mind, our psyche. It’s not us in the driver’s seat anymore.
Testosterone, a sex hormone mixed with hard wiring in the brain, drives men to seek and pursue the best mating option. And when they find one – despite theories to the opposite, they can attach faster and more profoundly than a female.
Once a man has found the right match – he is compelled to mate with his choice. If he succeeds, then it’s all over – the mind now connects them, and he’s addicted, as it were.
In this state, you can understand someone may see potential mates through rose-coloured testosterone glasses.
Emotional attachment and love are complicated biological and social occurrences. Individuals may respond differently to relationship cues. Often a partner’s vulnerability triggers an emotional attachment in men, but this is not always the case. Depending on many factors, including past experiences, this behaviour could also be a turn-off. Sometimes a man can be attached if he sees a supportive environment, but only sometimes. He may not need that in his life.
It’s all a recipe for confusion and mixed signals when considered with biological and social factors, but perhaps it may also lead to the love of his life.
What makes a man obsessed with a woman?
Essentially it’s their brain and hormones!
When men fall in love, they fall in love hard. According to an expert on the brain, Dr Louann Brizendine, who penned a book called “The Male Brain“, her comprehensive study of many facets of neurology and biology led her to the following conclusion – “let men be men.” Well, that sounds like simple, sensible advice.
So how does this in-depth knowledge of brains translate to men chasing women? To start with, the part of the male brain involved in sexual pursuit is 2.5 times larger in a man than a woman. So what might seem like ‘obsession’ is hard-wired for guys.
This brain capacity, coupled with the flood of testosterone a teenage boy receives, makes it virtually impossible for the young male brain to stop focusing on sex.
So you can see that rather than a fatal character flaw, most men are wired to focus intensely on women and search for the ‘perfect’ mate. Their system is primed for this behaviour we sometimes label as ‘obsessive’ (this is NOT an excuse for stalking, by the way).
While a woman’s brain is wired to look for reliable, secure mates prior to engaging in an intimate relationship, men are wired for the opposite and feel compelled to mate repeatedly and be intimate until they find a suitable mate. You can see where some major problems might arise with this discrepancy.
Have you ever found yourself scanning and staring at women? Your brain structure, circuitry and that trusty hormone friend, testosterone, cause men to visually check for mates and see what’s out there, even when they have a mate or are not seeking one.
How to be a Man? Men and Masculinity
If you are confused by this question, you are not alone! I mean, how are you supposed to show up as a guy these days? What’s allowed, what’s expected, and what does masculinity look like to you?
To demonstrate this confusion, a well-known scholar of masculinity asked his students one day to identify the difference between a ‘good’ man and a ‘real’ man, and he got different answers! The group needed clarification on these seemingly similar questions.
Men have been fed a whole load of conflicting and stereotypical information on what masculinity means and what a ‘real’ man ‘should’ be. Concepts such as being tough, aggressive, focusing on achievements, avoiding any qualities that appear feminine etc., have led to confusion. Such restrictions on behaviour and character could be a reason why men may be facing depression as they fail to live up to the restrictive notions of masculinity. And those who cannot communicate their feelings or troubles are further stuck alone with their problems.
Also Read: 5 Lessons That Help When Being Alone
It may be time to define things yourself. Being a man might be more of a question of how to be yourself, not what others want or need you to be.
Some Movies to better understand Male Psyche
Fight Club – Explores the nihilistic nature of a modern man’s world, where they are saturated by a desire for money, self-indulgence and the extreme of materialism. It showcases that instant gratification, on display worldwide, can result in confusion and a lack of purpose among men. Men will do anything to become meaningful and valuable in a sense, even if it means becoming agents of chaos. It also reflects the inner struggle of the men to toe the line and be the provider with the base instincts to compete over power and display dominance.
(Currently available on Amazon Prime).
Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket and The Hurt Locker all depicted the horrors men endure during wars that many citizens never knew.
It showed that war could change the psyche of men, traumatize them for life and, in turn, change the entire society through the transient property of trauma. Similarly, the heroism and courage of a few can also shape the next generations and inspire the young, which remains the foundation of duty and responsibility among men.
The Prestige by Christopher Nolan shows the competition among men in a surreal way. It shows the obsession to be the best, the pursuit to be popular, to be most innovative, to be a discoverer has taken men to explore the different human traits, good and bad. It shows how few men devote themselves to an idea, so much so that they sacrifice what they love the most. They devote themselves to their love to the extent that they sacrifice their own idea.
(Currently available on Amazon Prime).
Cinderella Man by Ron Howard showcases that men, throughout history, have risen above society’s norms and set themselves as a glowing example, giving hope and raising morale. The film highlights how one courageous man with a strong will and ethics can change people’s hearts and minds and become a symbol to the masses.
(Currently available on Disney Plus).
The Dark Knight Trilogy showed how heroic men have risen from their miserable existences to become a symbol, an idea to inspire others and instil the feeling of right and justice among fellow men. It showed that all men had to face their biggest enemies and conquer them through their innermost strength and willpower to keep balance and order in the chaotic world. And also, when the order becomes absolute, they pick up the charge as an agent of chaos to re-establish new order, even if that means sacrificing themselves for the future. It’s a must-watch to better understand male psychology.
(Currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime).
Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg is a very poignant movie showing even the men of opportunity, during a time of moral crises, can demonstrate a motherly nature to save their people. They can go to great lengths to protect the innocent from the powerful and use their intellect to outsmart evil to save humanity. It shows moral crises have turned selfish men to pursue noble causes. It also shows that power can corrupt anyone, and even a kid can turn into a monstrous person under unthinkable conditions.
(Currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime).
Remember the Titans – A great film that shows men rising above their differences to achieve a common, greater aim. They have forgotten their small battles to fight the wars through compassion and understanding. Men have worked against the pre-existing conditions and aspired for greatness, which changed the society around them. It shows how sports can bring men from different backgrounds to come under the same banner and go for the same glory as brothers on the playing field.
All these movies will help you delve into the different personalities of men and get the gist of male psychology.
Mindblowing Facts about Male Psychology
- Friends, approval and peer pressure are key concepts for boys. A fascinating point from experienced parental educator Michael Grose is that loyalty significantly influences boys’ lives. They are highly affected by peer pressure, which can occasionally hamper their progress as they are not encouraged by their friends to become too successful or move ahead of their friend’s circle. So, ‘fitting in’ to any group and obtaining others’ approval form important objectives for boys.
- Another gem from Michael Grose is that boys sometimes need silence and their own space to self-reflect. Returning to a ‘cave’ of some sort now makes sense, as they seek to go inside themselves to understand the world around them.
- A report in Psychology Today noted a widespread problem that can arise in communication between men and women – speaking in the ‘abstract.’ This boils down to the fact that, more often than not, men speak about the big picture, and women talk about specific details of a topic. Understandably this can lead to some fascinating conversations (or arguments!).
Myths about Men’s Psychology
- An excellent report by All Pro Dad covers several common myths about men, including the popular ones that men are not emotional and don’t cry. This myth, more to do with cultural expectations than any gender or biological reasoning, has severely affected some men. Expressions of emotions and feelings are normal behaviours for anyone.
- Men are Great at Sex and are Sex-obsessed! – Talk about performance anxiety! While men are undoubtedly different to women in terms of sex and its relevance in their lives, many do not report being good lovers or having unhealthy obsessions with lots of sex.
- Men care more about Looks than Women. While some studies show that men rate looks as slightly more important than women, what men actually choose in a mate is no more looks-oriented than anyone else – most people choose a mate they find physically attractive.
Men are important, so their thoughts, desires and life experiences are important (well, to us, anyway!). Men face an avalanche of information telling them what success looks like and what their behaviour should be but only a little information on how to work out what matters to them. Changing societal gender norms is helping free men, but at the same time, some men are becoming lost in the mixed messages. If men can move beyond stereotypes and society can stop pushing them, some men may find a balance in their spirit, mind and soul.
- The Mind of a Man (WebMD)
- Spatial Cognition (Science Direct)
- What Do Men Need in a Relationship (Love to Know)
- Little evidence for sex or ovarian hormone influences on affective variability (Nature)
- Emotions are the Rudder that Steers Thinking (ASCD)
- Men are Just as Emotional as Women (Forbes)
- The Male Brain (Dr Brizendine)
- Love Sex and the male brain (CNN)
- The Psychology of Men (Psychology Today)
- Lesson – Boys to Men – Teaching About Masculinity in an Age of Change (The New York Times)
- Nine Facts about boys that you may not know (Parenting Ideas)
- Six Myths about Men, Women and Relationships (Psychology Today)
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Harsh is the founder of menPsyche. He enjoys using his extensive research and writing skills to communicate ideas and concepts, with the aim to improve people’s lives.
Harsh trained as a Communication Engineer and published a MSc (Research) thesis, as well as worked in a variety of marketing and consultancy roles.