Recently, mental health has gotten a lot more attention, acceptance, and understanding. We’ve still got a long way to go before we evolve out of the old, toxic approaches to psychology.
But progress is happening, especially when it comes to mental health issues for men… making it OK for men to be struggling with their thoughts and feelings.
But is it really OK?
What if showing your vulnerability to women actually turns them off?
Recently, I got asked this question by a member of our Man Up facebook group:
“Mental health, particularly in men, was a taboo topic. In recent years, there has been a cultural shift, recognizing that we all should be more open and support each other around mental health.
“However, having studied a lot around the topic of what behaviors push women away and cause issues in relationships, it’s occurred to me there’s almost a paradox here.
“On the one hand, we’re saying, ok we need to all be more open and supportive around mental health. But on the other hand, a lot of online gurus say that displaying or conveying anxieties, loss of control, or depression actually push women away.
“Here lies the conundrum. Does the man convey the weakness or not, and if so, how? As it seems both can cause the woman to sense the weakness of the man and pull away…”
— Kristian M.
Kristian is getting stumped by a series of false assumptions. So I’ve made a new video podcast episode of the Man Up Show to unpack where Kristian went wrong and the exact 3 steps he can take to resolve his confusion… and speed up his success both with women and with his mental well-being!
Watch or listen to this new video podcast episode here!
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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.
Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (https://www.davidtianphd.com/blog/), is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/manupcommunity/) and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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- 4:54 How is your Mental Health related to your Attractiveness?
- 7:37 Why therapeutic processes take time
- 9: 50 Why you should not turn your partner into your therapist
- 12:48 The importance of healthy boundaries and what to do about them
Can Psychotherapy Make You More Attractive as a Man?
Dr. David Tian: I’m David Tian. And in this episode, I’m going to be addressing the question: Is working on your mental health attractive? Or is it a weakness?
Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I’m David Tian, Ph.D., and this is Man Up!
Welcome to the Man Up show. I’ve got a question here from Christian from the Man Up group. I’m going to read out the question first and then we’ll get into the answer. Okay, so Christian is writing about mental health, and he’s saying how there’s a large conversation arising around mental health for men, and let’s see, there was also a recent case of a man tweeting he’s not okay and is depressed becoming a huge hit. These things are getting huge support. Mental health, and particularly in men was a taboo topic. In recent years, it has become less taboo and receiving a cultural shift, recognizing to remedy mental health. We all need to be more open and support each other around mental health.
The reality is, suicide, especially in men is one of the leading causes of death around the world. Okay, having read, watched, conversed a lot around this topic but also around what behaviors of men push women away and cause issues in relationships. It’s occurred to me there’s almost a bit of a paradox to some degree exposing why it has been such a key issue.
On the one hand, we’re accepting, okay, we need to all be more open and supportive around mental health. But on the other hand, a lot of advice saying, displaying or conveying anxieties, loss of control, depression, whether for periods many go through or long-term, pushes women away. Okay. So, he’s saying on the one hand mental health, good. On the other hand, displaying your problems pushes women away, so, bad.
Here lies the conundrum: Does the man convey the weakness or not? And if so, how is weakness here, being the fact that you need help with mental health, as it seems both can cause the women to sense the weakness of the man. So, again the weakness being that you could use some help with mental health and pull away exactly the opposite of what may stabilize and strengthen the relationship. “I myself, I’ll be honest, I’m going through a tough breakup at the moment.”
Aha. So, this is the context. This is very important to understand the huge topic he just raised. “I’ve had, as many have in the past year, a stressful year. I was on part paid furlough leave for several months during COVID, brought back, put on redundancy risk.” And so on. And he goes on to enumerate some more work problems.
“And it’s come at a time my girlfriend had a couple of holidays with her family coming back with a sense of all is fine and should be happy, and just me feeling under supported and undervalued.” So, the girlfriend comes back from family holidays, feeling positive, and he’s like, “I’m stressed. Support me and value me more.”
“That’s worsened my anxieties and behaviorisms. She’s felt pushed away rather than taking some responsibility for worsening, not helping my and our situation.” So, he’s asking her to take responsibility for her making him feel bad because she’s happy and he’s not.
“Reflecting on it now, I felt she was dismissive to my attempted polite complaints of her behavior, not helping or being supported for behavior or,” – here’s an example, such as “not letting me know she’d landed safely from a flight and was on her way home.” Okay. So, I’m not sure why her letting him know that she landed from a family holiday is supposed to make him – he complains to her in a polite way that it’s not helping his stress that she didn’t call him. So, very needy behavior.
Continuing with the question, “Sometimes, admittedly, I wouldn’t raise things in the best way and have been too picky due to such stress.” That’s interesting that he considers that to be a matter of pickiness. “Whilst I’ve also increasingly realized and openly accepted more responsibility for those aspects on my side, I feel there’s a lack of her accepting her behaviorisms increasing my anxieties rather than being someone to support. Increasingly accepting and looking for support for my anxieties here, if anything, seems to push her away even further at a time I needed the opposite. Kind of a generic topic with a personal situation tacked on that’s all related.”
Okay. So, big general topic. I’m very glad that we have the background which is, he’s going through a breakup because he was incredibly needy around his girlfriend being all happy and positive because she had a good time on her family holidays and then she didn’t check in. That’s one of the many little things that he complained about, and felt like she didn’t take responsibility for his anxieties.
Okay. So, three points here. We’ll try to make this as tight as possible, three points. The first being the bigger issue, which is about therapy and attraction, or mental health and attraction.
So, the assumption here in this question is, if I’m getting my mental health done, dealing with my anxieties, and nervousness and, well, let’s go with anxieties and neediness, that should somehow make me more attractive. So, he’s looking at mental health as sort of like a pickup technique, a way to – a technique, or tactic, or strategy, or method to make him more attractive. That’s not how it works, therapy, mental health, attractiveness, and sex, and sexiness, and all that, two separate things.
They’re related. And I’ve talked about how they’re related in the sense of a byproduct or side effect. So, if you’re getting your mental health figured out, and you’re working on that, you’re going through what I call the therapeutic process, which includes therapy, but also includes meditation, mindfulness, movement, self-awareness, being present, and all that good stuff. And also, the philosophical aspects of the cognitive therapy aspects of figuring out your values, living those out and all that good stuff, therapeutic process.
As you’re going through that process, you will eventually become more attractive naturally, and automatically, as a byproduct of the therapeutic process. But it’s not a direct result. So, the example – I thought of this analogy, hopefully, this will work for you – strength and conditioning for sports. So, when you go down onto the sports field, and you play in the game, you don’t just do the strength and conditioning exercises that you’ve been doing in the gym. So, you don’t just drop down and start doing squats, wondering why you’re not scoring just because you’re doing squats, or you just dropped down, start doing pushups or something, and why isn’t the game counting my pushups as scores.
That’s not how it works, the strength and conditioning will, as a byproduct, make you a better sportsman or a better performer on the field. But it’s not directly a technique for winning the game. Okay, so they’re separate, but related. So, don’t expect that by turning her into your therapist, that she’ll suddenly be sexually attracted to you or more aroused. That’s not how it works.
You’re getting your mental health together for mental health’s sake, not for attraction sake. That’s not a technique or tactic to get better with women. It’s for its own sake, for your own happiness, fulfillment, love, meeting your own needs, and joy, and contentment, and peace of mind, and all that good stuff that comes with mental health. As a byproduct or a result of that, you’ll eventually become more attractive, but I’ll get to that in the next point.
But just pointing out that they’re separate but related as byproduct side effect. Just like, if you’re not strong enough or fast enough, or if your cardio sucks, you’re going to have really limited results on the field. But if you get your strength and conditioning stronger and better, then you’ll perform better on the field. But it’s not like you take the exact movements you do in strength and conditioning, or you actually do strength and conditioning during the game itself. It’s not going to work, right? So, that’s how the analogy works. Hopefully, you get it.
And so, mental health is sort of like strength and conditioning for your mind, your heart and your soul. And that as a byproduct will make you better in life, not just more attractive with women on dates, but that too, is one of the side effects.
Okay, so that’s the first one, it’s a side effect or a byproduct, not a direct tactic, or technique, or like method for picking up chicks or becoming more attractive. Mental health is for its own sake. The second point is, it’ll take a while for the mental health process, the therapeutic process to kick in, that you will become naturally attractive.
So, let’s say for example, let’s say it’s from one to 10, from scale one – let’s say there are 10 steps to your therapeutic process, only around step 6, out of 10, will you start to see the effects on your attractiveness. So, the first five, six steps, you’re going to be kind of a mess, okay? So, that’s because you’re doing the work, right? So, you’re doing the meditation, you’re doing the grief work, you’re getting to know your protective parts of you, all the different parts of you, you’re getting to know the vulnerable parts of you and helping to heal them and repair it, and all the good stuff that happens in the therapeutic process.
You’re getting to be more with yourself during your meditation, you’re finally experiencing what it’s like to not have thoughts swirling all around once in a while, when you start with meditation, maybe once a week.
One of those sessions will be, maybe for a few minutes, you’ll be just fully present without thoughts rolling around, for instance, right? And then the more you do it, the more of those types of sessions you’ll get, the better you’ll get at it, the more grounded and centered you are, the more calm and the more you are able to meet your own needs. As you’re doing the therapeutic process, about 6 steps out of 10, you’ll start to see the results just sort of as a side effect, that people are responding to you differently, that different types of women that didn’t even notice you before, and that you couldn’t attract before, are now being more attracted to you.
Because they’re on their therapeutic journey and they can feel that in you as well. So, that’s 6 out of 10. Around 9 out of 10, it becomes – 9 steps out of 10 of the therapeutic process, it becomes a point where you have facility over how you are with other people.
So, your emotional intelligence increases, you’re able to feel with other people, you’ll be able to be there so that you’re not demanding that they meet your needs, but that you’re naturally and almost effortlessly able to see through to their deeper needs, and meet their needs joyfully without a lot of effort, right? So, it’s somewhere between 6 to 9 out of 10 steps, about 60% to 90% of the way in your therapeutic journey, you’ll start to see that side effect happening. But for the beginning, you shouldn’t be turning your dates into therapy sessions. So, that’s step three, don’t turn – or point three. Don’t turn your date or your girlfriend, or your wife, or whoever you’re with into a therapy session and expect her or the person you’re with, to thank you for it or to be more attracted to you.
All right, so this is something you should do at specific times. You know, like, when you’re meditating, when you’re with your therapist, when you’re on the therapeutic retreat. There are dedicated times for this. You don’t want to be a sobbing mess at work and expecting your boss to coddle you, because you’re going through some issues. He’s hired you to do some work, right? So, when you go on a date with a woman, she’s going on this date, a big part of it is to have fun, to enjoy yourself.
And if you’re turning her into your therapist, and then – you shouldn’t expect that she will then be attracted. Now, if she’s a mature woman, she might feel for you, she might have some compassion for you, she might feel more connected to you. But in a way, that’s sort of like a motherly way, or a big sister way, don’t expect this to be attraction. You might have a friend who just likes doing therapy for whatever reasons. And that’s great, that person might have an enjoyable time, but that’s not the norm.
And so, do your strength and conditioning in the gym, then when you come to the field, get ready to play, right? So, into the relationship, so the caveat here being into the relationship, if she’s committed to you, and you’re committed to her, then it’s a perfectly fine thing to discuss with each other the bad shit or the shit that you’re working through, right? And it’s not so much, “Support me or else.” But it’s like, “Hey, it’s something I’m going through, and I’d like to share it. Would you like to connect with me? If so, this is what I’m going through.”
There you go. And notice how even I put it, how I even put it is not needy. It’s not like, “I need you to react in a certain way, or else I’m going to go to pieces. I’m just sharing it because it’s flowing out of me, this is where my mind is right now. And if I didn’t, I would just be fake, right? So, I’m going to share it.” But I’m doing it from a non-needy place.
Notice that that, in order to even get to that stage, you’re already 4 out of 10, 40% of the way – 30% of the way into the process. So, if you’ve just started doing therapy, if you’ve just started, especially not talk therapy, like experiential therapy, like IFS therapy, or Gestalt, or something where you are feeling feelings, and you’re being with those feelings, and maybe there’s some grief work, maybe there’s some crying or whatever, right? You’re discovering different parts of yourself, you’re into your feelings.
When you’re there, then you can begin to express that to others when you’re out. Don’t expect that to lead directly into attractiveness, though, it might lead to a deeper connection, right? But it’s not going to be, “Oh, wow, he’s revealing all this stuff. I want to drop my panties now.” It’s not going to be like that. It’s like, “Oh, oh, I feel with you.” Empathy, motherly, sisterly, right?
So, now you make some friends, or you have a deeper connection. But the sexual attraction on top of that is going to come later when you can meet your own goddamn needs, right? So, this is the second half, the part B of this point, which is don’t turn her – the part B of – well, the third point is, don’t turn your date into your therapist. The other side of that is meet your own goddamn needs, meet your own needs.
So, unhealthy boundaries look like what you’re doing, Christian. You’re making her responsible for your emotions, thoughts and feelings, and you’re not taking 100% responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, and behaviorisms, right? Your behaviors. You need to take responsibility fully for your own feelings, thoughts and behaviors.
Right now, Christian, you’re holding her responsible for your feelings, thoughts and behaviors. You’re violating her boundaries, you’re telling her, “You are responsible for my thoughts, feelings and behaviors.” That’s violating her boundaries. And so, that’s one end of it, don’t hold her responsible for your shit. The other end of it is you have to take 100%, 100%, not 80%, not 30%, 100% responsibility for your own shit, your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Okay, so this is what healthy boundaries look like. I know you’re not very far along in the mental health in the therapeutic process. I call it the therapeutic process, including therapy, mindfulness, meditation movement, the whole deal. Because you haven’t learned about boundaries yet. And you haven’t gotten practice. It’s going to take – considering this as your default and holding other people accountable for your thoughts, feelings, behaviors – considering this is pretty early in the process for you, because you’re just learning about it, it’s going to take a while for you to get used to taking 100% responsibility for yourself.
Okay? So, don’t make her your therapist. That’s a great way to turn a girl off, as you know, you found out, right? So, get a real therapist. It’s sort of like saying, “If I meditate in front of her, she’ll get turned on.” No, it doesn’t even make sense. “If I cry my guts out, it should turn her on.” No, that’s what you should do in the therapy room. That’s your strength and conditioning for your heart, for your mind, for your soul. Okay, that’s the mental health work, right? And then when you come to the arena of the date, then that’s where you’re actually doing the date stuff.
You’re having a good time, you’re making her laugh; you’re making yourself laugh, you’re connecting emotionally over things. You’re not thrusting your shit onto her and telling her, Deal with it now.” That’s what you pay a therapist for. So, get a professional therapist, get a professional to do it.
A caveat, this doesn’t mean that you should pretend to be somebody you’re not in the date. Don’t expect that if you’re early on in the therapeutic process like steps one to six, that when you start spilling your guts, don’t expect that to be attractive in any way. Okay, so your neediness, you’re forcing her to be your therapist there, and that’s a mindset. It’s not the word you say. You can have the same words but like with the thought being, “I’d like to express where I am right now.” Versus the same words with the thought being. “Now, heal me. Now, meet my needs. Now, give me a hug because that’s what I need from mommy and I’m not getting it. And I don’t even know that I need that from mommy, from my parental caregiver, whatever it is.” And you make her that, then that’s totally different, right?
So, it’s perfectly fine when you start into the process, like you’re 6 out of 12 steps in, to share as you’re into your healing and growth, to share what you’ve learned, to share what you’ve gone through, and then it can actually be very attractive because it’s vulnerability and you’re being open. This is where you’re hearing from others and maybe for myself as well.
I’ve said this before, vulnerability is attractive. It’s attractive when you can be with your own vulnerability. So, you can be with your emotions and your own needs and meet your own needs. Once you’re able to get further along in that process, then you’ll start to see that that vulnerability becomes attractive. But until you can be with your own vulnerability and not need her to fulfill those needs for you, until that can happen, I recommend that for your dates, you don’t do that.
Maybe you shouldn’t date for a while. It’s perfectly fine for that six months a year or whatever when you’re doing hardcore therapeutic process that you stop going on dates because you need to be with yourself, that’s totally fine. And then further into the process, around step 7 or 12, when you get past the 50% mark, then going on dates and coming with an open heart, that can be very attractive.
Okay, so this is a quick recap for Christian’s question. The first is therapy and attraction are two different things. Therapy, as you go through the therapeutic process will, as a side effect or byproduct, eventually be more attractive. The second is, it’ll take a while. Around 6 out of 10 steps to 9 out of 10 steps, you’ll start to finally see that effect happening. But at the beginning, the therapeutic work and mental health work should be happening in the mental health context with your therapist, or in your meditation room, or during those specific times.
And then the third is, don’t turn your date into your therapist. Don’t make her responsible for your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and don’t allow her to make you responsible for her thoughts, feelings, behaviors. She’s got to deal with her own shit. You deal with your own shit. Don’t make her deal with your shit, okay?
So, you get your own stuff handled. Okay. And how do you do that? Take it seriously. Go find a therapeutic professional, go get a therapist for real and take it seriously. The more you take it seriously, the faster the process will go. Okay. Thanks so much for watching. It’s been a while since I’ve done any Man Up episodes. I hope to do a lot more soon. We are in Taroko Gorge here in Taiwan, and a beautiful resort here, a really nice day, and I will see you in the next episode. Till then, David Tian signing up, Man Up!