Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boys growing up in a world without men

Increasingly, boys are growing up with almost no male influence in their lives, says this article by Steward Drakers in The Guardian. Some fathers are absent but others who are technically present are so little involved that they may as well be absent, he suggests. "At the sharp end, the rock face, there is hardly a man in sight. In their early years, up to puberty, authority is exercised on young men exclusively by women - shop assistants, teachers, health visitors, social workers and, of course, sisters and mothers," he writes.

And where are the men, he asks? "They are strutting their suited stuff in the corridors, the clinics, the consulting rooms; they are handing out prescriptions, devising initiatives, formulating policies," he declares.....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Men suffer more than women in marriage breakup, research suggests

Who suffers most when marriages break up, men or women? asks my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. Recently published, long-term Canadian research suggests that when it comes to depression it is men who are most affected. This may be because men are more likely than women to lose their social supports when their marriages end. The article is part of the Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

The research is derived from Canada's capital National Population Health Survey which tracked more than 7000 people between 1994 and 2005. It showed that those men whose relationships had been ended by divorce or separation by the end of the period were six times more likely to have experienced depression than those who were still married. By contrast, divorced or separated women were 3.5 times more likely to have been depressed than those who were still married. There is more on the research here on PsychCentral.....

Friday, May 25, 2007

Angry wife drove car over husband after mobile phone message

Hell hath no fury department:A jealous housewife ran down her husband with a car after a row over another woman, says this story from the Irish Independent. The woman, who pleaded guilty to causing serious harm to her husband on August 14, 2006 and to drunken driving and dangerous driving, was given a two-year suspended sentence at Waterford Circuit Court.

The court heard that the couple had just reunited after a separation of several months.

The incident was triggered off when the "other woman" played back a voicemail message in which the husband claimed he was "mad" about her.

The defendant left the pub in Dungarvan where the message was played on a mobile phone and drove to where her son was fishing with her husband. She drove the vehicle at him twice, leaving him with a fractured elbow, cracked ribs and his left ear detached from the side of his head.

Following surgery, the husband made a good recovery. The couple had a turbulent relationship and a barring order was obtained against the husband due to violence in the home.

The husband told the court that he did not want to see his wife locked up for what she did to him, the Independent story says.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A walk in the park boosts self esteem

I don't suppose you'd be impressed if you went to your GP because you felt a bit down in yourself and you were told to go take a walk in the park, says my That's Men For You column in today's Irish Times. But research published in the UK last week suggests that a walk in the park may be just what we all need. The column is part of the Irish Times premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

The mental health organisation, Mind decided to examine the mental health benefits of what it calls "green" exercise, it says. The results were quite astonishing. The term "green exercise" refers to taking a walk in a country park, gardening and such activities.

A total of 108 people involved in green exercise activities with local Mind groups were surveyed. A remarkable proportion, 94 per cent, said their mental health had benefited. They reported feeling better about themselves and having a sense of achievement, having greater self-esteem and greater motivation.

You can download a copy of the Mind report here....

Monday, May 21, 2007

Election Diary: Fathers Rights-Responsibililty Party runs eight candidates

The Fathers Rights-Responsibility Party is running eight candidates in this week's general election despite being refused registration as a political party. Says party chairman Liam Ó Gógáin:

"The FRP has managed to put Father’s issues and Men’s Health on the agenda as Political issue in this Thursday’s election . The next government is likely to either a hung Dáil or an unstable coalition, and there will probably be another general election in a year or two. There are also Local elections and EU elections coming up. The FRP will grow into these elections."

A list of the party's candidates is here.....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Using mindfulness to cope effectively with stress, panic attacks and anxiety

Like A Man - a guide to men's emotional wellbeing (Edited extract): Mindfulness is a valuable tool which you can use to deal with anxiety, panic attacks, stress and other symptoms.

When you are mindful you are aware of what is going on in reality in the present moment. So, you might be aware of traffic, rain, another person’s voice or your own breathing. A key aspect of mindfulness is that you don't get lost in a conversation in your head. Every time your mind wanders off into a mental conversation, just return to awareness of the present moment, without criticising yourself. That last point is important: while you are being mindful, you withhold your judgement as to whether this or that is good or bad. So instead of condemning the traffic or the rain or approving of the sunshine or the blue sky, you just notice them.
Mindfulness helps you to avoid falling into old patterns of reacting. It helps you to see new possibilities. It puts you in touch with your own experience. Here is an exercise you can do to get yourself into mindfulness mode:

From time to time, notice your breathing.

Notice whether you are taking a long breath or a short breath.

Notice the little pause at the end of each breath.

Notice that the air is cooler entering your nostrils than leaving.

Notice your posture.

Notice the length of your spine.

Notice your feet against the floor or the ground.

Notice your clothes touching your body.

Notice the sounds around you and far way from you without getting involved with them.

Every time you drift into thinking, just return to noticing your body.

This exercise need only take a minute or so to do but if you use it every day it can have a profound effect on your life experience.....

Edited extract from Panic Attacks: Reclaiming your life in Padraig O'Morain's book Like A Man - A guide to men's emotional well-being (Veritas, 2007).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Groups for separated fathers in Ireland growing

More and more groups for separated fathers are setting up in Ireland, judging by the forum section of dads-house. It lists groups in Dublin, Longford, Waterford, Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Listowel, Portlaoise and Kilkenny. The website boasts an endorsement from Bob Geldof saying "I fully support the dads-house campaign to get equal rights for Fathers." The following comment which McDavitt has just left on an earlier post provides an idea of some of the frustrations experienced by fathers involved in the campaign for equal rights:

"I consented to the custody of our children being granted solely to my wife. However, I was unaware of this as it was negotiated between my wife's solicitor and my own without my knowledge. A complaint I made to the Law Society about this behaviour resulted in my receiving a refund of €3,500. However, I still do not have joint custody of our children which results in constant discrimination by State institutions such as the HSE and the school our children attend. I was effectively removed as a parent to our children but the official record shows that I "consented" to this.

Fathers don't matter. Children are seen as the property of mothers, single or married, whereas fathers have no rights. Fathers might believe that they have rights but, on separation, suddenly discover that they are expendable. Fine Gael propose to introduce paid paternity leave but the reporting of the family policy ignored this in both the Irish Independent and the irish times."

It's clear from his comment that €3,500 doesn't even begin to make up to this man for having his rights ignored by his own solicitor.....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ireland: Open door for sex traffickers?

Does Ireland provide an open door and a relatively safe haven for sex traffickers? The question is prompted by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic's feature Hidden world of the sex traffickers in yesterday's Irish Times. The article tells the stories of three women tricked into coming to Ireland for jobs that never existed.

Two were "put to work" as prostitutes straight away. That they were distressed and, in one case, crying, did nothing to deter most of the men who used them and some appear to have been attracted by their distress. One was freed when the Gardaí raided the apartment in which she and other women were made to work. Another was enabled to escape when a potential client, upset at her distress, got in touch with Anton McCabe, president of the Meath branch of the Siptu trade union. McCabe - a man I'd certainly like to buy a pint for - helped her to get out of the area and she now lives in another part of the country.

The third woman was used as slave labour for a man, his wife and their children. When the man began to rape her she finally managed to approach a compatriot on the street, was put in touch with a community worker and escaped.

Ireland is unique among EU states in having no law against trafficking. Last month Ireland signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings but that is only the first step on what could be a very long road indeed if the political will to do something about this problem is lacking.

Mac Cormaic points out that the Department of Justice had said it aimed to publish a Bill on trafficking by the end of last year, but this did not happen. Also, a promised provision for victims' rights in the Immigration, Residence and protection Bill 2007 was absent when the Bill was published.

Meanwhile Ruhama, which works with women involved in prostitution, says it knows of more than 200 foreign women who have been trafficked into Ireland in the past seven years.
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is one of the youngest and best journalists in the country. His article is part of his Changing Places project which won the 2007 Douglas Gageby Fellowship. Previous articles in the series can be read here and hopefully this article will be available on the website soon.....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Girls primp, guys indulge

Women seem generally good at pseudo self-care (primping and plucking) but generally unaccustomed to doing what their body craves (slowing down, saying “no”, creating room for spontaneity, sex, sleep.), writes Courtney E Love in her Composing a Life column on the Crucial Minutiae blog. Men, on the other hand, seem better at this, she says. "It’s not that guys are great at taking care of themselves when they’re sick or eating healthy or going to the doctor–all of which I think of as “appropriate” self-care (girls are good at these cause we’re always worried about being appropriate), but they seem more in tune with the cravings and less guilty about indulging them," she adds. She's wondering what life would be like "if I did exactly what I felt like doing instead of what I thought I should be doing more of the time?" Heck, give it a go and let us know, Courtney. Courtney, by the way, is the author of the book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body.....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time for an emotional education for young men

How much, I wonder, does the lack of an emotional education contribute to depression among young men? asks my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times.

By an emotional education I mean an education in, among other things, how to cope with the emotional pain that accompanies the major disappointments we all experience from time to time in life. The column is part of the Irish Times premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

Young women get a sort of rudimentary emotional education from each other since they talk more freely about feelings and relationship problems, the column says.

With young men less willing to discuss their feelings with each other, they may be at sea when it comes to knowing how to handle emotional turmoil. Is this why so many young men use alcohol like an emotional anaesthetic?

Alcohol and drugs don't go on working indefinitely. It's when these props stop working that young men are in real trouble.

Is there a place in the education system for a determined effort to provide an emotional education for young men and young women? Mightn't it pay off in reducing damage to young minds and bodies?

If we want to improve the emotional health of young men and, indeed, young women, then perhaps we need, as a society, to do more educating and less preaching.....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Like A Man: Only four left in Amazon

The Amazon UK website says it's got only four copies of Like A Man - a guide to men's emotional well-being, by yours truly, left in stock. But more copies are on the way, it promises. That's definitely the sort of thing an author likes to hear within two weeks of the launch. Anyway, you can always get it online from Veritas (cheapest option in the Euro zone) as well as Amazon UK.....

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Most issues remain unresolved in long-term relationships

Like A Man - a guide to men's emotional well-being (edited extract): Most of the issues couples fight over in long-term relationships remain unresolved, according to research in the United States by John Gottman and his wife Julie Gottman. The Gottmans are leading figures in the area of relationship enhancement and breakdown. In their research, they came up with the surprising finding that even in successful, long-term relationships most of the issues on which the couple disagree remain unresolved.

What this suggests is that to demand that another person change completely is a waste of time and a source of aggravation. A partner whose attitude is ‘my way or the highway’ condemns the couple to fight after fruitless fight, a situation which may destroy the relationship.

What really matters about conflict in the long-term relationship, the Gottmans suggest, is the way it is handled. Rows cannot be avoided - but rows that drag on and on, followed by weeks of silence are damaging and draining. The ability to get over rows quickly, and without waiting for one person or the other to surrender unconditionally, is a key skill in developing successful long-term relationships.

Edited extract from Long-term Relationships: Lessons from the battlefield in Padraig O'Morain's book Like A Man - A guide to men's emotional well-being (Veritas, 2007).

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From Irish mammy to yummy mummy

Is the Irish mammy in danger of being driven into oblivion by the yummy mummy? asks my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. And would it be an entirely bad thing if she was? The column is part of the Irish Times premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

However, it goes on to point out that no other woman can ever live up to the Irish mammy's devotion to her son and this is made clear to any woman who has the temerity to become his wife - sometimes sonny boy continues to visit his mammy for his dinner on a daily basis as his wife sits at home and grinds her teeth.

The column recalls that years ago, Gay Byrne read out a letter on his radio show from a wife complaining that her husband's mammy still made guggie for him every day. Guggie is made by boiling an egg, chopping it up in a cup and mixing it with butter while still hot. It's food for a child - but this chap was so attached to his guggie that he still went to the mammy for it!

Nowadays the Irish mammy is in danger of being replaced by the yummy mummy flying around the place in her SUV and nibbling a carrot for lunch. The yummy mummy, the column suggests, is most unlikely to drag herself out of the gym to make a nice cup of guggie for her son before he goes home to his inadequate wife.

In other words, the Irish mammy has fallen victim to an increasingly self-centred and materialistic society in which women expect to be able to give up minding their sons after they get married.

Perhaps it is all for the best, though. You will not see a yummy mummy producing a cholesterol-drenched full Irish breakfast for her darling boy. Nor will you see her insisting that he sit down on the sofa and have a nice rest – when he could be out having a healthy jog.

The column was partly inspired by blogger Paige Harrison's (she of blankpaige) comments on this earlier post.

I should add that in one email response to my Irish Times article a female, possibly a yummy mummy, says: "Padraig, you are forgetting that most children are fat or obese as Mummy has not got the time to do much with the kids, juggling a job and family to keep a mortgage paid. There is little evidence of youths out jogging!"

Hmmm, could this mean that inside every yummy mummy there is an Irish mammy waiting to get out?.....

Monday, May 7, 2007

Imams won't play with women priests

From the You Couldn't Make It Up department: A soccer game between Muslim imams and Christian priests at the end of an Oslo conference to promote interfaith dialogue was canceled on Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part, says this story on MSNBC. Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in involving close physical contact with strange women. The church decided to drop its female players, and the priests' team captain walked out in protest.....

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Election diary: Stamp duty and Bertiegate ok, but what about decent public services?

Stamp duty and Bertiegate are important in themselves but once again we have a general election campaign in which the needs of those who do not have money (or friends to give them a dig-out) or power go unregarded. In last Saturday's Irish Times Magazine, (Irish Times premium content) Róisín Ingle (right) illustrated this well when she wrote about how politicians at election time will sort out everything from urgent passport applications to, believe it or not, getting the pedestrian light settings changed so that the green man will stay on for longer! But Irish style clientelism is a poor substitute for good public services and she made the point very starkly when she wrote: "I was thinking about this when a young friend with cystic fibrosis texted to say she was on a trolley in A&E. But what does she expect? It's election time and our political representatives are busy playing God with little green men."....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Like A Man: The blurb

We live in challenging times when men need to be skillful in addressing the emotional issues which arise in their own lives and in their relationships with the people they love and the people with whom they work.

Like a Man - A Guide to Men's Emotional Wellbeing, by counsellor and men's columnist Padraig O'Morain, combines insights from Western and Eastern psychology to help men sharpen their emotional skills.

Emotional wellbeing is not only about change - it is also about acceptance. This book draws on Western insights which promote change and on Eastern insights which emphasise the value of acceptance and effort.

The author's column That’s Men For You appears weekly in The Irish Times and has built a loyal readership made up of men and of the women in their lives.

Topics in the book include building better relationships at home and at work; using mindfulness and other techniques to handle anxiety, stress and panic attacks; battling the blues; the hidden beliefs that drive us; dealing with workplace bullies and other difficult people; getting through marriage breakup; and taking care of your physical health.

If you’re a man, buy this book for yourself. If you’re a woman, buy it for the man in your life.

You can buy the book online from Veritas (cheapest option in the Euro zone) or from Amazon UK....

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Writing a self-help book for men

When I was a teenager, the only self-help books on the shelves were Catholic Truth Society pamphlets such as What Every Boy Should Know and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, says my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. The column is part of the Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here. Carnegie’s books, far more fun than Catholic Truth Society pamphlets, had a positive influence on my life and I still sometimes recommend them to counselling clients, the column says.

My own odyssey into self-help authorship began with a request from Veritas to write a book for men and culminates this evening with the launch of Like a Man – a guide to men’s emotional wellbeing.

A major challenge in writing a book like this, I found, is getting the tone of voice right. As I pared down my "just do what I say and you’ll be grand” style, chapter after chapter went to the recycle bin. And when my editor Ruth Garvey tactfully remarked that “I have read books that tend to slip into a slightly condescending tone,” further chapters were trashed.

The last thing that’s needed in a book for men is a condescending tone, not least because men are fed up with being lectured as though they were hapless, hopeless and irresponsible. Traditionally, men have been expected to get on with things without complaining, to go to war without complaining, to do hard and health-damaging work without complaining – and then we are ticked off and lectured for not taking care of ourselves!

Self-help books, if they are to be honest, have to be based on the author’s own faults and mistakes and what he did, should have done or could have done about them. And I am blessed with having had, and still having, many faults from which to learn! If only I had read What Every Boy Should Know before it was too late.....