Women—and feminists, in particular—love to make social hay over a class of men dubbed “Nice Guys” (hereafter, referred to as NG’s). When the term is used positively, NG’s are perceived as non-confrontational, cooperative, and sensitive to other’s emotional needs. NG’s, here, are praised for their enlightened masculinity. When used pejoratively, it is used to describe a class of men who fake being nice in order to manipulate others into doing what NG’s want. Here, NG’s are perceived as sexist, manipulative, and full of repressed rage.
Truthfully, nice guys are not so nice.
Dr. Robert Glover observed as such in his seminal work No More Mister Nice Guy. In his practice as a psychotherapist, Glover noticed many of his male clients shared a disturbing number of unhealthy thought patterns. He also noted that women shared similar complaints about their husbands who seemed nice most of the time, but occasionally had meltdowns about their sex lives, threw temper tantrums over seemingly insignificant issues, and randomly displayed a level of outright hostility towards their wives.
After noticing this, Glover began to piece together his theory about what NG’s are and what makes them tick. He noted that all NG’s have a core belief that who they are is not enough to get their wants and needs met—Glover refers to this as “toxic shame.” This toxic shame refers to NG’s belief that they need to prove to others constantly why they deserve love, affection, and sex. They don’t understand that friends and lovers care about one another by definition and that one doesn’t need to constantly prove why you are worthy of love and attention.
In order to fully grasp why NG’s are the way they are, one must consider the state of children existing as children. Children are born completely helpless and 100% reliant on their parents. As such, a child’s greatest fear is abandonment. The omnipotence that fetuses think they have leads to children having an ego-centered mindset that causes them to think what happens to them and around them is caused by them or is their fault. When parenting goes wrong, the child blames themselves. NG’s, in response to this, develop similar patterns of thought and actions that allow them to cope.
Nice Guys have many similar characteristics: shame-based hiding of perceived flaws, the relentless pursuit of other’s approval and distancing themselves from other men and masculinity. They put other’s needs and wants before their own and expect others to reciprocate their generosity. They purposefully sacrifice personal power and autonomy in order they pretend they are a grand victim of society.
These sorts of behaviors lead to what we refer to as “Nice Guys.” Since they couldn’t get their needs met in a timely fashion as a child, they had to develop strategies to get those wants and needs met. As an adult, this leads to seemingly pleasant and thoughtful men who reveal themselves to be duplicitous individuals who believe they must manipulate other people in order to be happy. They refuse to live up their potential so they can maintain their childish view that they are the world’s biggest victims.
Dr. Glover notes that these sorts of thoughts and behaviors are entirely socially created. He notes four major social changes that have forced boys to take on NG behavior: the loss of fathers in families, an educational system dominated by women, the Vietnam War, and second-wave feminism.
He noted that the twin forces of urbanization and single motherhood presented boys with either a father working outside the home or not around at all. He noted that second-wave feminists incessantly proclaimed that men were not relevant to a woman’s life and that all men had to prove they were more than a stereotypical misogynistic pig.
The backlash against the Vietnam War had created a class of males who based their masculinity an non-assertiveness, empathy, and avoiding conflict. Finally, the female-dominated educational system—coupled with single motherhood—created men that only understood women as authority figures. Instead of being people whom men could expect love and kindness, women became tyrants who had to be pleased at all costs.
Over the next seven chapters, Dr. Glover presents several strategies aimed at helping NG’s reclaim personal power and autonomy. He outlines how a NG can prioritize his needs in a psychologically healthy fashion. He has chapters on how a NG can transform their sex lives for the better and how they can achieve more contentment and success in their profession. His suggested activities to change harmful thought patterns are thoughtful and useful if a NG follows through with them.
In the epilogue, he seems to say that a man can be happy if he simply chooses to be happy. Once a man can realize the unhealthy thought patterns that plague their minds—and the attendant unhealthy behaviors—then that man can start to slowly cobble together more healthy thought patterns that will lead to personal happiness and contentment. The freedom that comes from learning how to overcome personal issues might seem fearsome at first, but once a man realizes the happiness that flow from said personal betterment, then he can leave the fear of the unknown behind.
No More Mister Nice Guy is a very good read and he provides many, many tips for men who are depressed, feel they are frauds, or who feel they have no stable sense of self. He doesn’t present any politically correct nonsense about male privilege or sexism—he simply calls American society as he sees it and provides the necessary advice for men to overcome their Nice Guy-ish ways.
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