Emotionally Isolated Men: Suffering in Silence


In their book:  “101 Most Influential Non-existent Person.” authors – Jeremy Salter, Allan Lazar, and Dan Karlan, tells the story of the most influential fictional characters.  What do you think, who is leading the list, the most popular myths of our time?  Oddly enough, this is none other than macho native of America, the famous Marlboro Man, who became something of a national symbol of the United States.  Created by Phillip Morris in 1955, the Marlboro Man came to epitomize self-reliant manhood for generations of men

The Marlboro man was the ideal poster child for the rugged, independent self-image Philip Morris wanted to sell its customers.  He reflected a non-domestic masculine fantasy image that men and women admired.  Carefully crafted branding invented his larger than life character that suggested:  “No family tied the Marlboro Man down.  He appeared to have no need a home, just a ramshackle shed, his horse, a tin coffee cup and of course a pack of Marlboro.  He epitomized resilience, self-sufficiency, independence, and free enterprise.”

So how did a fictional advertising character become the most influential non-existent person in America?  And just how influential was the Marlboro Man?

Advertising icons like the Marlboro Man are hugely successful because it’s a “lifestyle” branding, creating an image of masculinity that a man aspires to be, or already imagines he is.

Unfortunately, the Marlboro Man also romanticized the isolated life as a “lifestyle” that all too many men continue to buy in to.  A lifestyle that research shows is compelling men to kill themselves because they’ve lost any meaningful quality of life.  Largely, according to research, the result of lack of family connection, community, or meaningful relationships.

However you can’t blame the Marlboro Man or any of the thousands of the cinematic “lone wolf” characters that stream to our devices daily.  Remember the Marlboro Man reflected a non-domestic masculine fantasy image that men and women admired.  An image that gained popularity because the current model of masculinity wasn’t working for most men.  The same can be said for today, current models and/or images of masculinity aren’t working in the real world.

When something isn’t working within your relationships one of two things tends to happen, you innovate or you isolate.

Innovation requires learning and trying something new or different that causes change.  You may not be comfortable with change, no one usually is.  But if you’re willingly embrace change; the benefits outweigh any discomfort caused by changing.

Unfortunately many men choose to isolate.  Bolstered by the romantic notion that you are one of the “unique” breed of men who doesn’t need anyone to live a good life.  Which might work for a few weeks, months or even years, but eventually the solitude and silence reveals your deep need for relationship, companionship, and community.  Because that’s how you’re wired.

Understanding Social vs. Emotional Isolation

Social isolation is different from solitude, which is simply the desire to be alone, usually by choice.  Taking time to be alone can be a healthy, rejuvenating experience that allows you to reconnect with your own needs, goals, beliefs, values, and feelings.

But when you choose too much solitude that socially isolates you from others, you begin to develop feelings of loneliness, social anxiety, helplessness, or depression, among others.

Social isolation is the absence of social relationships.  It’s unhealthy when you spend excessive time alone, particularly when you no longer benefit from time spent alone.  Socially isolating yourself can mean staying home for days, not talking with friends or acquaintances, and generally avoiding contact with other people.  As a result any form of communication, however limited, is likely to remain superficial and brief, while more meaningful relationships are missing

Emotional isolation often occurs as a result of lacking any close confidant or intimate relationships.  Even though intimate relationships are necessary for your well-being, they can trigger negative feelings and thoughts.  Consequently your emotional isolation acts as a defense mechanism to protect you from emotional distress.

When you’re emotionally isolated, you tend to keep your feelings completely to yourself.  You’re unable to receive emotional support from others, feel “shut down”, or numb.  You’re reluctant or unwilling to communicate with others, except perhaps for the most superficial matters.

Emotional isolation often occurs because of break down within your intimate relationships, particularly as a result of infidelity, abuse, or other trust issues.  You feel alone within the relationship, rather than supported and fulfilled.

Does any of this sound or feel familiar to you?  You’re not alone millions of men struggle with social and emotional isolation that often leads to depression, porn, alcohol or drug addiction.  And unfortunately to suicide.  Don’t become another statistic, reach out, and talk to someone right now.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help quickly.  Call your doctor.  Call 911 for emergency services.  Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.  Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (1-800-273-8255); or TTY: (1-800-799-4889).

The good news is that there are some practical ways to overcome your social or emotional isolation.  I’ll share some recommend, resources, and relationship/community building ideas in my next few blogs.  Share some ideas and resources that you recommend, I’d love to post them.  Also check out, “Letting Go of the Guilt, the Value of Forgiving Yourself”, “The Courage to Ask for Help”, or “Healthy Masculinity: Not a One Man Show”

If today’s blog was encouraging to you, take sure you sign up to receive blogs every Tuesday and Thursday.    TransformingFamilies.org  was created to enable you to discover and develop authentic, healthy intimacy in all your relationships.

FYI: I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you would like to improve your relationships, or you want someone to talk to, e-mail me at ‘rturner@transformingfamilies.org’, and we’ll schedule a time to connect. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.

4 comments on “Emotionally Isolated Men: Suffering in Silence

  1. Do you really think that it’s correct to blame the characters we see in advertising and Hollywood for the way the world is? It reminds me of how in the 1980s, everybody was blaming violence on video games. That’s largely stopped because now with 30 years of evidence, we know there is nothing there. I recall back in the mid-1990s when there was uproar of Joe Camel being a “cool cartoon” that would entice kids to smoke. I smoked as a teen because my friends did, and they smoked because their cool older brothers did….and their brothers weren’t cartoon. Doesn’t this really just come down to a lack of hands-on parenting coupled with a change in attitude over what’s cool or not…or the Monday morning quarterbacking that always results in cool not being healthy? Curious what you think about this.

    • Randell Turner

      Thank you, great feedback. I agree, we cannot blame, but do need recognize how influential media is, has been and consistently attempts to be in our lives. I also agree that without actively engaged parents, grandparents or other healthy adults to guide the development a healthy moral compass, young people are left to try to figure it out on their own. Which is not good on so many levels, this is when outside influence potentially becomes detrimental and potentially dangerous. Fortunately now we can also use the same media to educate, encourage and equip others struggling to find help, healing and hope. I am delighted to know that websites and resources like yours: recoveringpornaddict.com are available to men and women 24/7. FYI: By the time the Marlboro Man went national in 1955, sales were at $5 billion, a 3,241% jump over 1954. Now that’s influence.

      • Thanks for the compliment. What’s ironic about the stat you site is that many would attribute it to the rise of television in people’s homes. Why did the numbers rise so much from 54-55? Walt Disney’s show debuted.

      • Randell Turner

        Interesting isn’t it. Advertisers attribute their success to the first real use of “story branding” to sell a product. Television was a great new medium and tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to take advantage of the increased viewership. I think that popularity of westerns weekly series and movies contributed to their development of the Marlboro Man story brand too.

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