When I was 23 and feeling disenchanted with my job, I resigned and got a part-time gig working in a record shop. In retrospect, I imagined that it would be something like you see in films: hip, bohemian and an opportunity to meet attractive girls. But that was far from what I actually found.

The shop was mostly full of men, between 35-55 or so, persistently foraging the shelves for a super rare Elton John collectable or limited-edition Pink Floyd laser disk. What emerged over the 6 years I worked in this place was a chilling picture of men’s emotional health. The strong fixation and obsession with music they displayed often seemed to come at the expense of all else in their lives: clothes were not changed or washed it seemed, faces were not shaved and belongings not clean. It appeared all their money or time was spent on this collectable pursuit.

Talk to one of these men about their particular subject of interest and you’d receive a warm reception at first, but only to the point that you paid homage to their subject matter expertise. For if you dared to stand in the way of them getting that rare release, or suggested they weren’t quite the expert they thought themselves to be, you would likely receive a torrent of expletives, several menacing stares and the occasional physical threat. Being on the end of this aggressive intensity certainly felt horrible to me.

Watching these men almost made it appear as if there was a song of obsession constantly playing in their head.

When I stopped and considered my own life, I could definitely relate to this.

As a young man I’d often stare in the mirror and all I could hear would be ‘wow, what an ugly guy!’ – my shape, size and look all seemed so wrong. My days were riddled with a stream of thoughts like this about how I was lacking somehow – or dwelled on a deeper kind of existential misery about my family or society. The things that made life worth getting through – music, sport, technology or recognition at work – kept me hooked into an endless loop of thoughts about bands, football teams, design and celebrities. Like a stodgy meal it filled me up, but I knew inside it was a long way from being nourishing.

Although I was able to lead a ‘normal’ life, in retrospect these thoughts had a devastating effect on my ability to relate to my family, form friendships and be sincere. I was cynical about the world and plagued by a deep lack of self-worth and self-doubt. It was only when I came across the Ageless Wisdom, presented by philosopher Serge Benhayon, and learned about the significance of energy in our lives, that I started to understand and consider that these lonely songs of isolation and sadness playing in my head were not actually the real me and I could choose to press pause instead.

The more I started to experiment with questioning whether these attitudes were truly mine, the more I got to see that once they were cut there was a strong feeling inside, deep within me. Often, I was sensing something powerful about a place or person close to me.

As men we are bought up to be the ‘tough ones’ . . . to bulldoze through life. Whilst girls get their fair share of ideals imposed upon them, there is a general sense that they are naturally more sensitive as ‘the fairer sex’. Boys on the other hand are expected, it seems, to disregard what they feel from an early age and build a thick skin. My own life has been littered with occasions where I have felt this at play – from being picked on for having the temerity to cry at a young age, to being verbally abused in front of my colleagues at work as if this would somehow encourage me to work harder. These days I know those bullying me had simply received the same treatment they dished out. The truth is we are just the same within and feel everything that goes on in life to the same degree.

So is it any wonder then, that as men, when it comes to denial, we are so adept? And what better way to survive life than fill ourselves up with stuff that distracts from how we feel inside? What if we consciously choose to play these songs of ignorance to escape our true sensitivity?

What if the true struggle for men is not what we traditionally think, but the acceptance of our sensitivity, delicateness and energetic awareness? This is what I’m feeling is true for me.

Whilst I’ve let go of the self-destructive thoughts, I still get days when I get the catchy hooks of lies stuck in my head. But the more I consistently say yes to what I sense and feel, the more I am beginning to see that in the space and timelessness of just being me there’s a grander symphony of divinity playing a profound melody. If I choose, I can hum along and let my body be an instrument that plays in tune – in sweet harmony. What a million miles this is from the heavy metal lies and nasty lyrics we let pass inside ourselves as normal, fine and who we are.

Imagine what sweet joy we would see if we as men chose to switch our repertoire and flipped our song sheet to be the true song of man that has been waiting inside to be played all along?

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Self-worthMental healthMen’s health

  • By Joseph Barker

    To sketch, paint and question life. To cook, laugh and wonder why. To hug, hum and appreciate the sky, to look into another's eyes. These are some of the reasons Joseph loves life and is inspired to contribute to this amazing site.

  • Photography: Matt Paul