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Man Up Middle Age Men!
Written By: Mark Smith


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Managing Abandonment  Issues Through Recovery
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Indianapolis Marriage Counseling InformationHow many strong, sensitive, totally have their sh*t together in every facet of life middle age men do you personally know and highly respect? I can count mine with one hand and have fingers left over. In 'The Descendants' George Clooney does a masterful job of portraying a workaholic, emotionally stunted, rigid, passive, confused, outmatched, somewhat pathetic middle age man who slowly emerged from his weak, emasculated state with a display of leadership, manhood, strength, kindness, wisdom, compassion and sensitivity in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. It is a wonderful movie that should garner a best picture nomination. (IF YOU PLAN ON SEEING THE MOVIE SOON PERHAPS YOU SHOULD STOP READING BECAUSE I MIGHT RUIN IT FOR YOU BY DISCUSSING SOME OF THE MOVIE'S SECRETS.) Clooney's character is buffeted by the disdain and contempt of his daughters, the eminent death of his wife, the news of his wife's unfaithfulness, pressure from an army of extended family members to sell the family land and his complete loss in dealing appropriate with his out of control kids.

I think it is Clooney's best performance ever, one that should be rewarded come Oscar night. He plays confident as well as any man on the planet, as most women on the planet will attest, but it was his expression of confusion, grief and weakness that was so picture perfect and out of character. I thought that it was a good example for men on how to fight through their confusion, their addictions, their weaknesses, their settling behaviors and ultimately come away from the fray certainly wounded and beaten up but also heroically solid, respected, admired, loved, at peace and anchored in self-respect.

On the door to my office is this incredible, encouraging and hysterical poster...

My main man Barney Fife, leader of men, exhorting the rest of us to gather up the courage and the testosterone needed to be the husbands, fathers, providers, bosses, friends and men that everyone in our lives wants and needs for us to be. Obviously it is funny because, in spite of his macho, puffed up expression, Barney was not a strong man. He was a clown. How many of us men walk around thinking that we are John Wayne or even George Clooney when the women and children in our lives know for damn sure that we are really just clowns? When Barney was a clown it was really funny, but we it is us it isn't so funny at all. Can I get an Amen, women? Therapy and Recovery for a man is all about truly manning up...overcoming addictions, expressing anger well, powerfully but not reactively, genuinely kicking butt in the real world, having the depth and the emotionally availability to be there, connected and accounted for with his wife, kids, family and friends, being an awesome provider, never playing the whiny victim, learning from his mistakes, being vulnerable in sharing his weaknesses and exuding a quiet strength that everyone around him can hang onto to.

I have to admit that I have been a clown at times. I have majorly dropped the ball. I let an addiction reduce me to a weak, confused, lost, out of control, hurtful, fraction of a man, not unlike Clooney's character. But I now have a fierce determination to never ever play the clown ever again. I have worked very hard to regain the admiration and the respect of my children. That can be rough when they are teens and early 20's. Mainly I want to admire and respect the man that I have to look at in the mirror every day. It is really difficult to be a full, strong and great man. The foundations of our personalities are built on broken childhoods. At our cores lay sad and needy little boys who desperately want what they want when they want it, even if that hurts everyone around them.

And, of course, we unknowingly marry women who are hidden versions of the parental traits that hurt and wounded us the most as children. Many of us try valiantly to play the role of Superman who is bullet proof only eventually failing because we are terrible at listening, hearing, being present, sharing power, seeing the gray areas and being intimate. Or we limp into marriage as Barney Fife, emasculated by our parents and then our wives and then our careers and then our children, being great at hearing others but being too conflict avoidant and passive to warrior up for our wives, our kids, our companies or ourselves. Recovery is where Superman meets Barney Fife and then produces Clooney's character in the movie! Go see the movie, You will enjoy it and you will see a modern day parable on male strength, leadership and effectiveness. That is truly a beautiful, attractive and very needed thing!

Indianapolis Marriage Counseling Information




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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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