General Question

Jude's avatar

How can I change my negative attitude towards men?

Asked by Jude (32098points) April 6th, 2012

I grew up with a father who was verbally and emotionally abusive towards my mother, he cheated on her and was an absent father. My older brother molested me at a young age. My father continues to be difficult (he’s 73) and my brother is a Debbie Downer, odd and someone who still tries to be involved in my life. He’s depressing.

My mom (who is now deceased) finally gained some self-esteem when she was around 30 (after having 4 kids and living with my dad) and decided that she wasn’t going to put up with my father ways. They stayed married, though (despite the fact that my siblings begged her to leave him). She went on to get a degree, had a great job and was an amazing mother to us kids. My Dad acted like a victim whenever my mother pointed out the fact that he was neglecting his children. He acted as though he was being punished..

Anyhow, I could go on..

I lost my wonderful mother, and now my older sister whom I was extremely close to is going through a difficult time and will never be the same. I won’t ever get back the person that she was. The two positive family members are now gone from my life and I am left with the male figures.

I find that whenever I encounter anyone even remotely like my father or brother, I immediately don’t like them.

I plan on discussing these issues with a therapist, but would love to hear from you all.


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20 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

Your plan of action for yourself is definitely in order. Remember, all of us guys are not the same and only you can select the good from the bad.

I have seen similar situations in police calls.

I wish you the best.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Charles's avatar

“I plan on discussing these issues with a therapist”

This is what I would suggest.

tom_g's avatar

@Jude: “I plan on discussing these issues with a therapist, but would love to hear from you all.”

I think this is the best thing right now, and I’m not sure if there is anything we can say. We can’t possibly take away what has happened to you. This is something that you probably need to work out in your own way – with a therapist, of course – so that you’re able to be comfortable with your attitude towards men. It might not be that you have a “good” attitude towards them eventually. Rather, it might be that you find an attitude that works for you and no longer causes you pain. Good luck.

flutherother's avatar

From what you have told us you should focus on your older sister just now. She is the one who needs help. I don’t understand why you think she is gone from your life.

It is a hopeful sign that you want to have a less negative attitude towards men. This would have to be worked out through your father and your brother. I would keep in touch, and though it might be difficult I would raise the issue of how they behaved towards you and towards your mother when you are alone with each of them in turn. It will be very uncomfortable I am sure and perhaps they will never say sorry or anything like it but you must give them the chance.

LuckyGuy's avatar

You already know that all women are not the same. Recognize that rule is true for men, too.
The “jerk gene” is not tied to the “Y” chromosome. There are nice guys out there. Honest.

Coloma's avatar

I think it’s best to reframe “men” with “people.” some people are just bad apples, because of their own issues, backgrounds, character disturbances, not ALL “people.”
In future encounters with men, be it potential friendships or romantic interest ask a LOT of questions about their family, values, morals, past relationships and then, all you can do is watch to see if people walk their talk. The process of revelation is lengthy in building trust, there are no shortcuts.

Think of it as having a bad experience with an animal. Just because ONE dog bit you does not mean that ALL dogs are biters. Good luck with the therapy, good call. We all have to take charge of our ourselves.

blueiiznh's avatar

^ what she said.

It sounds like you have a starting plan that is sound. I hope you move through this with as little flashback pain as possible. I completely understand and have walked your shoes only with a reverse gender perspective. The approach of reframe stated by @Coloma is very valid.

I applaud you for your desire to work through it.

wundayatta's avatar

Your body has learned these generalizations about human behavior, and it provides the first reaction to anyone new you meet. It’s a visceral reaction and it carries great weight inside that collective you think of as your mind.

Your intellect is another voice within that collective, but right now, it is a weak voice. Your history and the lessons you have learned from that history are far stronger.

To change, you have to retrain yourself to think differently. It starts with your intellectual understanding of what is going on, but that has to be transferred to the rest of your mind. That takes some doing. Therapy can help, although they usually take one of several different strategies that may or may not be enough.

One strategy is cognitive therapy, where you learn to always check your instinctual reactions and your emotions against conscious thought. You talk back to yourself. You will be always questioning your feelings about people, and asking what the basis for those feelings is. You will be training yourself to look at people based on real evidence of behavior, not based on generalizations based on gender and attitude.

Another strategy could be mindfulness, where you learn to identify feelings as mere feelings that you don’t have to pay attention to. You can let them go, when they are not useful. I’m not sure this is a good strategy for the issue you are working on.

Another strategy could be talk therapy. You learn to understand in great depth what you have been through and how it has led to you being the way you are. The assumption is that once you understand this, you can see through your body’s visceral reactions and defuse them either partially or completely.

I think you need to learn to work at the body level—beneath conscious thinking. I think you should learn to dance your way through this. I say dance, because dance is what I know, and I know you can use it to change the way your body thinks.

Traditionally, what you are dealing with could be treated the way people treat PTSD, which calls for desensitization therapy. You must imagine being with men, and in your imagination, you come up with good outcomes. You imagine positive men who are not abusers. You play out scenarios in your mind where you have good interactions with men.

I wonder if this could be complicated because there is a part of you that is much like your father. It sounds like he is depressed, and I know you experience depression. You may have inherited it from him.

Your depression is not something you like and of course you must associate that with your father, and I could see that contributing to hatred of your father. You might rightfully blame him for this part of yourself that hurts you.

The problem is that this part of you is part of you. It’s not going away. I would encourage you to learn to have compassion for both yourself and your father. Depression is probably one of the most difficult things a human can deal with. Give him a break about it. Give yourself a break. Maybe you use positivity as a tactic to fight depression, but that tactic won’t work for everyone. It certainly doesn’t work for me, and yet you’ve known me long enough to see that other tactics can work.

Your father, perhaps, is not fighting depression the way you want to, and if that’s the case, it probably annoys the shit out of you. You probably want your father to be a role model for you and instead you have this guy you despise.

That is very difficult. My father is not someone Iike, either, and yet he fathered me. I feel like I have to let my resentment go and my anger, too. It’s too late. Nothing will ever change. All that I can do now is try to enjoy my time with him. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Do I wish I could change the past? Sure. But we all know what the chances of that are. So I am trying to accept that my resentment doesn’t really help me, so I can let it go. I recently made this real because he turned 80, and my Mom asked me to MC his party. I couldn’t say no. So I decided to do as good a job as I could, and I did do a good job and he even thanked me! A first! Had I held onto my resentment, I think I would still be in a place where I don’t feel appreciated.

I don’t know if this would work for others or not. People say you should act as you want the world to treat you. I stopped caring about what he thought and I did the job for me, and he appreciated it. That was a bonus. By analogy, if you started treating your father as a source of wisdom or comfort or whatever you want from him, knowing the wisdom and comfort comes from within, perhaps he will start acting as if he is wise or whatever. Do you see what I mean?

Whatever you do, expect it to be a long process. I won’t tell you how many decades it has taken me to learn this. I believe, however, that if you work at it, and if you set in your mind the goal you want to achieve, that you will get there. Maybe not for a decade, but eventually it will happen, and it will be worth it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

^^^ If that doesn’t help change your negative attitude toward men, I don’t know what will.

serenade's avatar

In addition to the above, I’d just say take on this change and/or your exposure to men in small doses. Seek positive experiences and only entertain as much as you think can handle for the day or week or whatever. When you’re done with your dose, see how it fits in the grand scheme of @Jude.

Coloma's avatar

And…look on the bright side, as long as you’re not contemplating mass neutering and have your Lorena Bobbit issues in check, you’re gonna be just fine. lol ;-)

tinyfaery's avatar

I will never fully trust men and I get along in life just fine, mostly. I trust people in degrees and on a case by case basis. Maybe you should do the same.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Jeruba's avatar

The fact that you would like to feel differently and that you own what’s getting in your way is really positive. That puts it where you can do something about it instead of thinking it’s someone else’s job.

I think the likeliest way to move your attitude even just a little bit is to allow yourself to know one or two men in a friendly way. Just a little friendliness, nothing more. Coworkers, a neighbor (no, not that one), a brother of a friend, somebody’s grandpa. They’re really not all the same.

This approach seems to help soften barriers between members of different races, ethnicities, language groups—even species. Myself, I generally don’t care for dogs at all. But I have let myself get to know two or three individual dogs and come to feel quite a warm affection for them. This really did a lot to overcome a global aversion I had, reminding me that prejudices are unjust to individuals and may cost us some nice experiences. It feels good to lose the fear that’s usually behind them.

Take this comparison only for what it’s worth and not as a veiled comment on men.

Shippy's avatar

I can relate to this question so much, I also had a domineering drunk for a father and an abusive brother. The only light in my day was my mother, but unlike yours fell subject to the very bad dynamic in my family. In later years my mom died and I too was left with my father. I used to think the same thing you do. I was filled with resentment, as I often wondered how I landed up with a man, I would never have chosen as a husband, to care for, pander to just like mom did.
You know what, it wasn’t my job to. I should have literally walked away. I would have been a lot more stable today, happier, and free. I would have built a good life and family that I had always wanted. But I didn’t I stayed. Because obligation was something my father made one feel. And I pandered to that, so I was no better than my mother. How do I see men? I still have a huge disliking for them. Or so I think. Because lately I have noticed most of my best friends and most of the people I can talk to are males. I must have just “forgotten” during those periods that I dislike men. So really I don’t it is my conscious thoughts that don’t like them. The men I speak of now are soft, loving, gentle, kind, and warm. As I have found some women to be cruel, mean and callous. What I am saying is, it is a human condition, and sometimes we forget and just get on with it.

filmfann's avatar

I am shocked and appalled by the behavior of several men AND women I know.
It is easy to lose faith in men when those men closest to you act like such beasts.
Please remember that they are not representitive of all men, just some bad men.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I too was abused at a young age and didn’t trust men for a long time. I was even terrified that my own dad, who is nothing short of a wonderful father and one (out of two) of the most important people in the world to me, would do the same thing to me at some point. Thankfully, as the years went on I realised that my dad is one of the good guys which changed my negative attitude of men around somewhat. I then met my boyfriend who has strengthened that.

I have been lucky that I was shown that not all men are to be feared and now I ten joy the company of decent men. I think, if there are any men in your life that you consider to be decent, focus on their qualities and only associate with men that have similar qualities and completely cut out the ones that have caused your negative attitude to them in the first place. Maybe then you will start to feel the same way that I do about men.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still men that I don’t trust and there are plenty that I wouldn’t be in a room alone with. I don’t think I will ever get over that but these aren’t people that I have to see regularly.

In short, my advice is, find the good guys. They are out there. I even believe there are more good than bad.

letmeknow17's avatar

if they resemble your father and you feel you should stay away from them then thats probably a sign telling you you should, unless they prove otherwise just stick with your gut feeling.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“I find that whenever I encounter anyone even remotely like my father or brother, I immediately don’t like them.” You never indicated that you felt this way toward ALL men, just those who remind you of your father or brother. Sounds logical to me.

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