Roger Kingerlee is a clinical psychologist working locally. His work focuses on male and service veteran psychologies and trauma, often helping individuals to increase their emotional literacy as a first step to positive change. He is also co-author of the recently published ‘Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health’
What are the messages boys and men get from society about how a man should be?
The messages absorbed by boys and men from society about masculinity are I think in the process of changing. While still far from perfect, it’s becoming more acceptable for males of all ages to have, and show, feelings. Psychologically, this is a very healthy development for men and those in their lives.
In your view what are the characteristics of manhood?
The characteristics of manhood are in flux, so we are now able to reconcile the previous opposites of strength and vulnerability. We are moving towards the point where, at best, men can stop worrying whether they measure up, and just be themselves.
What do you think about the current conversations in society about masculinity – do you tend to think that generally its (men are) being unjustly criticised or do you tend towards the view that generally that its toxic?
While some of the societal discourse around men is less helpful, new emotional spaces are quietly opening up for boys and men, whether at school or work, in friendships or relationships. Where this happens and men become more able to access the natural emotional parts of themselves, all our lives can be enhanced.
For you what would be the characteristics of a healthy masculinity?
Healthy masculinity – indeed healthy humanity – for me involves flexibility, integrity, openness, resilience and sensitivity. And a willingness to acknowledge that everyone is different. All of our differences deserve respect.
What affect do you think notions of masculinity that boys grow up with has on their mental health in adulthood?
It’s likely that the notions of masculinity we grow up with – and which are sometimes forced on us during sensitive life-stages – can impact our psychological health later on. Most simply, being discouraged to feel or recognise emotion in childhood can become problematic if we encounter significant life difficulties. We can then think we are blocked, and have no options. Happily, in fact, the option to change is very often present. And once we come to see this – with or without formal help – our wellbeing can improve once more and our lives can eventually be enriched. This is a road known to many of us.