This interview is published in exclusivity on Grégoire Canlorbe’s website.
Jed Diamond, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men’s health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives.
Jed is the author of 14 books including his latest: The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. Since its inception in 1992, he has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network. He is also a member of the International Society of Men’s Health and a founding member of the American Society of Men’s Health.
He blogs for the ThirdAge, Huffington Post, BeliefNet, Scribd, and other venues. He is the only male columnist who blogs for the National Association of Baby Boomer Women. His homepage is MenAlive.com.
Grégoire Canlorbe: One of your fundamental insights is that men are subject to hormonal fluctuations that can be noted monthly and that turn out to be as intrusive and inconvenient as the equivalent female process. Could you explicit and document the way these hormonal machinations in men’s bodies affect their feelings, their thoughts and their behavior?
Jed Diamond: I never thought much about male hormonal fluctuations, until I turned 40 and began research for my books Male Menopause and Surviving Male Menopause: A Guide for Women and Men. We now know that men, like women, experience complex hormonal rhythms that affect our sexuality, mood, and temperament. For instance, my own research, and that of others, has found five different testosterone cyles in men:
- Rhythmic fluctuations three or four times an hour (Could this account for research that shows that men think about sex every fifteen minutes?)
- Daily changes with testosterone higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon.
- Fluctuations throughout the year with levels higher in October and lower in April.
- Decreasing levels associated with male menopause or andropause that occurs in all men, generally between the ages of 40 and 55.
- Monthly fluctuations that are rhythmic, but different for each man.
“The morning highs, daily fluctuations, and seasonal cycles whip men around,” says Theresa Crenshaw, M.D. “Think about the moment-to-moment impact of testosterone levels firing and spiling all over the place during the day, and what this must be doing to a man’s terperament.”
Grégoire Canlorbe: When men are angry, anxious and irritable, it impacts their work, their families suffer, and their life energy is diminished. On the other hand, the aggressive, self-assertive tendencies in the emotional life of the alpha male can be a powerful driver of success and a key to self-control. How would you account for this apparent paradox? Is there an “optimal” dose of wrath which allows men to have a healthy life?
Jed Diamond: We all get angry, irritable, and anxious at times, especially when our interests are ignored or thwarted, or when we are worried or fearful. These feelings are built into our brain structure. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp identifies the following seven basic affective systems along with the primary emotions connected to each system:
- Seeking (expectancy)
- Fear (anxiety)
- Rage (anger)
- Lust (sexual excitement)
- Care (nurturance)
- Panic/Grief (sadness)
- Play (social joy)
Men are often taught to suppress feelings like nurturance, sadness, and joy and emphasize feelings on the rage spectrum, including irritabilty and anger. In my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, I say that “The Irritable Male Syndrome is a state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and loss of male identity.
The key to having a healthy expression of our rage and anger is to be sure we are developing the other areas of our lives. We need to play more, feel the sadness and grief of loss, learn to care and nurture ourselves and others, allow our fears to be expressed, and keep our minds active as we seek out new activities and passions in our lives.
Grégoire Canlorbe: For more than forty years you’ve been helping couples get through the difficult challenges of marriage to find real, lasting love together. Most of them come to you because they miss the passion and love they once thought was theirs when they said, “I do.” Rick Astley knows this feeling.
“I can feel your love slipping away
Draining from my heart each and every day
I can feel your love slipping away
Draining from my heart each and every day
Everybody thinks we’re so in love
But things aren’t always what they seem
Even my best friend says we’re so good
Just how wrong can a person be”
According to you, most couples find themselves in this situation because they’ve been using “a faulty love map”. Could you come back on this diagnosis?
Jed Diamond: We all want real, lasting love, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Yet too many marriages fall apart and most people don’t know why. They mistakenly believe that they have chosen the wrong partner. After going through the grieving process, they start looking again. But after more than forty years as a marriage and family counselor I have found that most people don’t understand the inevitable changes we go through in a long-term relationship and don’t recognize the five stages of love.
I feel I’ve learned how to be joyfully in love and want to share what I’ve learned with you. My third marriage, to my wife Carlin, is going strong after thirty-six years. We certainly have our ups and downs, but we’ve learned that most marriages can be revitalized and given new life. I share what we’ve learned in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best Is Still to Come.
I am convinced that we don’t have to be victims of the world around us. Even if our spouse is feeling down about the relationship, I’ve found that one person can do a lot to turn things around. In looking back on marriage, I realized that most of us learned that there were just two stages of love. In Stage 1, we find that special someone and then fall madly in love. If we’re lucky the “in love” stage lasts a few years and we then enter Stage 2 as we build a life together and hopefully our love deepens and our bond with our partner strengthens. We look forward to living “happily ever after.”
When we hit the rough spots and can’t seem to get back to “being in love,” we either settle for a relationship devoid of passion, or we end things and move on. But over the years I’ve discovered that these feelings of disillusionment don’t signal the end of a marriage, but are actually an important third stage. This is the stage at which most relationships end, but once we understand all five stages, we can deepen our love and save ourselves the pain of separation and divorce. Here are the five stages:
Stage 1: Falling In Love
Stage 2: Becoming a Couple
Stage 3: Disillusionment
Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
Stage 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World.
Most of us are only aware of the first two stages. When we begin to run into problems we assume we must have made the wrong choice. What I’ve learned is that disillusionment is actually the third stage of a good marriage. It’s a time when we can let go of the projections we put on our partner and heal the wounds from our childhood. Learning to heal and grow through stage 3 rather than leaving the relationship, allows us to enjoy the benefits of real, lasting love, and can then support each other in doing good works in the world.
Grégoire Canlorbe: The vanishing of martial spirit and the concomitant rise of the consumer society are sometimes invoked as a key factor of male irritability and helplessness in present times.
“Another bad effect of commerce, wrote Adam Smith in his Lectures on Jurisprudence, is that it sinks the courage of mankind and tends to extinguish martial spirit. In all commercial countries the division of labor is infinite, and everyone’s thoughts are employed about one particular thing… The defense of the country is therefore committed to a certain set of men who have nothing else ado; and among the bulk of the people military courage diminishes. By having their minds constantly employed on the arts of luxury, they grow effeminate and dastardly.”
In other words, by losing from sight the moral values linked to testosterone, and by letting themselves be absorbed by the material enjoyments that capitalism affords, men grow febrile, softened, and foul. Do you hold this discourse for relevant?
Jed Diamond: In my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, I describe the warrior spirit as having to do with the courage to be who we are, not to make war on others. The more we focus on a consumer culture that at its root is consuming our planet, the more destructive we become.
Our consumer culture was birthed around 6,000 years ago when we turned to large-scale agriculture in the Middle-East. This is what Jared Diamond referred to when he said that “civilization is the worst mistake in the history of the human race.” Consuming ever more of the Earth is the result of a way of thinking that views humans as disconnected from the community of life on planet Earth. Without a deep connection to our roots we become increasingly pacified in spirit, but war-like in practice.
We must return to the true roots of our warrior spirit if we are going to survive and prosper. “Is now the time,” asks Matthew Fox, author of Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, “when the Earth years and humankind years for the end of war—totake back the archetype of the spiritual warrior from the Pentagon and bastions of militarism?”
This kind of activism allows us to heal ourselves as we heal the planet. Psychologist Sam Keen says it well. “The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:
- The new human vocation is to heal the earth.
- We can only heal what we love.
- We can only love what we know.
- We can only know what we touch.”
Grégoire Canlorbe: Thanks for your time and your insights. Would you like to add anything else?
Jed Diamond: I look forward to hearing from people. Feel free to visit me at www.MenAlive.com. If you like what you see, please join my free e-newsletter list where you will receive updated articles of interest. I’ll enjoy your comments.
Related content: Interview with Roy Barzilai, for Agefi Magazine
Grégoire Canlorbe, a journalist, has conducted several interviews for journals and reviews such as Man and the Economy, founded by Nobel-Prize winning economist Ronald Coase, Arguments, and Agefi Magazine; and think tanks such as Gatestone Institute. He’s also collaborating with sociologist and philosopher Howard Bloom on a conversations book. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org