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My guest today is Pierre Azzam.
We go deep talking about:
- When to seek therapy versus coaching to level up your life, and why seeking help is fundamental to healing and growth,
- Lessons learned from Pierre’s experience as a psychiatrist who worked in palliative care,
- Depression in men, including postpartum depression in dads and how to get through it,
- A grounded approach to mindfulness and connection,
- How to support other men in your life who may be struggling, and
- Emotional intelligence and how to improve your own
Pierre Azzam is a psychiatrist turned professional coach who specializes in working with men. After spending nearly two decades in medicine and mental healthcare, Pierre founded Braver Man – a platform to promote men’s mental health awareness, target male isolation, and help men to cultivate powerful presence and the mindset to thrive.
Find Pierre online at:
Curt Storring 0:00
Welcome to the Dad.Work podcast. My name is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of Dad.Work. My guest today is Pierre Azzam, and we go deep talking about when to seek therapy versus coaching to level up your life and why seeking help is fundamental to healing and growth. Lessons learned from peers experience as a psychiatrist who worked in palliative care, depression in men, including postpartum depression in dads which affects many more men than you might think, and how to get through it, including a lot of peers own experiences with this a grounded approach to mindfulness and connection, how to support other men in your life who may be struggling, and emotional intelligence and how you can improve your own peers M is a psychiatrist turned professional coach who specializes in working with men. After spending nearly two decades in medicine and mental health care, peer founded Braverman a platform to promote men's mental health awareness, target male isolation, and help men to cultivate powerful presence and the mindset to thrive. I really enjoyed being able to talk to Peter, because, as you just heard, he was a psychiatrist. He's a medical doctor. And he experienced a lot in his practice over the years, and is now using that knowledge to help men thrive. Rather than meeting men in the most dire circumstances in their lives. He's able now to understand where men are coming from, and help them move forward into the greatness that they are seeking. And so we talk a lot about peers experiences, and he's just yeah, he's a grounded down Earth man. And I really enjoyed being able to get his feedback on this from an expert perspective, which in the coaching space, particularly is ultra rare. So I really appreciated that from Pierre, if you've been enjoying this podcast, I would really, really appreciate it if you could just take a pause. If you're listening to this on Apple, scroll down to the podcast app with Dad.Work podcast and leave a rating and review. It's probably the best easiest, and of course, cheapest way to support Dad.Work and help this get into the hands of other men. I'd also like to invite you to join our free 14 day email course called better men better dad, you can find that at our website, Dad dot work, type that into your browser, Dad dot work instead of.com It's dot work, di d w o RK, you can find that on the homepage, simply add your first name and your email and that'll be sent automatically to your inbox over the next two weeks. And we have just had a ton of man find a lot of value in that. It's just basically all the things that I have done broken down into easily accessible and actionable steps to take me from miserable angry, not a great dad into being a calm, confident leader. So that's it dad dot work, you can sign up and get that in your inbox today. With that being said, we're gonna dive into this conversation with Pierre Azzam.
I'm here with Pierre Azam, thank you so much for joining me, I am excited by this. Like I said, I saw you on Instagram. And I was just like, Man, this guy seems to get it. Whatever it is. There's like this fundamental awareness that I thought I saw in you. So I'm excited to talk because you've got a very interesting background that I'd love to dive into. So welcome, and thanks for joining me.
Pierre Azzam 3:03
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Curt Storring 3:05
Yeah. So the first thing that I'm curious about is you seem to have been quite deep in academia and medicine, healthcare. And my question is why this switch to coaching? Like I read that you had quite a seemingly distinguished career with awards, promotions, and now you are a coach for men. So why was that switch made from sort of a more medical therapeutic setting to being a coach?
Pierre Azzam 3:30
Yeah, I can't say looking back that it was a super planned out, and that I've intended exactly this sort of linear experience. But I suppose there are very few things in life that I can look back to and, and define in that way. One thing that was very common, in my experience in serving as a psychiatrist was the, in many ways, the interface of masculinity and mental health. Part of that was just my own stuff. I grown up with OCD and pretty gnarly recurrent episodes of depression that were not really identified. I didn't really identify them, or even sort of allow myself to and full until I was in medical school. And even then there was a big, there were big barriers to my own self reflection. But a small portion of my work happened at the interface of psychiatric care and perinatal care, and that was with moms. And that wasn't a primary my primary gig by any stretch, but it was a small portion that gave me a bit of insight into the experience for dad, and, in many ways, afforded a reflection of how Healthcare, and how mental health care in particular impacts men at these times of major life transition. And it allowed me also to reflect a bit upon my own experience of being a man and also navigating the experience of mental health care, my own mental health care, that of other people navigating the system of treating mental illness. And I felt a really strong push and calling to support men in their own experiences of mental illness, but also in their experiences of mental wellness. What does it mean to be to be well, to show up in full, to experience joy and peace and positivity. And I realized, too, that a big portion of mental health care and I suppose my training was very fluent in helping people to get from a state of illness to a state of relative wellness. But it didn't mean them that I could help men who might not be ailing, with a particular mental illness, to show up in full as the best version of themselves, for their families for for their careers or for their communities, or for themselves. And so that piqued my interest around coaching and sought coaching, training and certification in large part to complement what I was doing as a psychiatrist, I didn't really expect to make a big transition. But I found increasingly that I was interested in working with men at all stages and walks of life, fatherhood, and other other important shifting points or pivot points. And so fatherhood in many ways, was what led me to become not personally but fatherhood, working with new dads was initially what led me to become interested in learning more about coaching and helping men in this space, the actual sort of transition initially was slow and kind of deliberate. And then, of course, it became clear that the only thing that was holding me back was my own fear, feeling like I was somehow an imposter. Or, like, I wasn't ready, and I needed to know more, I needed to learn more, in order to do what I'm doing. And the reality was, was all there the doing was very much in the, in a part of the preparedness to show up in full at any given point to help new fathers and to help men at all stages and walks of life. And so I jumped right in in 2020, right at the start of the pandemic.
Curt Storring 8:06
So could you maybe go into a little bit of the differentiation between when might when men might seek coaching versus psychiatric care?
Pierre Azzam 8:16
Yeah, for sure. And I think that's a, this is a great and important question. And one, I think that doesn't always get a tremendous amount of attention. Because in many ways, especially I suppose, on social media, or in kind of the technologic shared spaces. There's not a tremendous amount of differentiation between mental health and mental illness, there's still a lot of stigma around mental illness that keeps people from speaking out or knowing what to say, when faced with the reality of mental illness, whether that's in themselves or other people. The things that I notice, in particular are different for me when I'm a psychiatrist versus a coach, some similarities, but probably the biggest differences are, in many ways when men are struggling to a point that there's a tremendous amount of distress or impairment in showing up at home or at work. There are symptoms that feel like not akin to myself. They're not the way I typically show up, they may be pervasive show up in all elements of life are persistent. If we're thinking about depression, for example, it may feel like a big shift from who I am and how I show up normally, it may impact the way I show up with family. The way I show up to my work, I may miss days at work, or I may show up really, you're to believe with family. It may feel out of my control. And I may not have all of the tools and resources to, to go about changing that experience or modifying that experience. And often that is it feels, it feels like I need more help, like it reaches a state of pathology, then, then obviously, I think in those in those moments, it's often more helpful to seek more traditional forms of mental health care, whether that's therapy or seeking treatment through medication, in a lot of ways. What's differentiated coaching for me has been that many of the men with whom I work may have seen or are currently seeing therapists, psychiatrists, counselors and other settings. But they're often not struggling acutely with those symptoms, or they're working on symptoms alongside a desire to make changes within their lives, that move them forward or into the future. So probably the biggest differentiators for me are that there's a greater sense of identifying what fulfillment and thriving look like, and taking me from a place of relative wellness, and helping men to go from a place of relative wellness, to thriving or to greater fulfillment, as opposed to treating pathology. And probably in the, in the actual logistics of it. Big differences include that I don't dig too far into the past. Met, there are obviously patterns of behavior, and thought and emotion that are rooted in our past. But the focus of coaching is very much on, on how I'm showing up right now how I want to show up in the future. And also, not necessarily why what experiences from my past have led me to this place, but perhaps an awareness to to patterns that have developed from the past that are showing up now, and how I might want to use them or modify them in some way in future. So it's much more future thinking or future focus, and often tends not to dig into the why too much coaching.
Curt Storring 12:34
Right? Okay. So for men who are currently experiencing negative side effects from mental illness or negative mental health, that's when they might seek a therapist or a counselor. And coaching on the other hand is sort of taking, I'm thinking about it like in a pendulum. So on the one end of the pendulum, you're really struggling, and you just can't seem to move forward without help. And you sort of swing into moderate wellness, you know, you might say, and coaching, it seems, takes you from that center point to the other end of the spectrum, which is thriving, which is hitting those goals, which is really transforming your life for the better, assuming that you're no longer like you said, acutely suffering. Is that sort of the gist of it, then oh, yeah,
Pierre Azzam 13:17
that's a great way to describe it. Okay,
Curt Storring 13:19
amazing. One of the questions I had based on your career is whether there are lessons that you learn from your work in palliative care that can apply to how we live our lives now, because, you know, you've heard things about Regrets of the Dying you've heard of, I think there was a man on one of the Tim Ferriss podcast, I can remember his name right now, who worked in settings like this, where he witnessed suffering and death. But he came away from that with so many lessons. And so I'm wondering from someone who has worked in that setting, were there lessons that you took or lessons that you now share with your clients from seeing people in that stage of life?
Pierre Azzam 13:57
Yeah, that's a great question. I think the things that I've taken for myself in the way that I show up with other men and other end clients is, is often that I may not have the answers. In many cases, I won't single handedly out the answers. I don't walk into the sort of coaching experience with an assumption that I'm that I've got it all figured out for the other man or even for myself, but often that recognizing I don't have to have just the right thing to say that my focus is on being present for the other person and helping to create a container or space for the other individual to experience what they're what they're facing in the moment without necessarily trying to undermine it in any way or find words that will take it away. And so I think that's for, for me, my experience of natural forgetting situations in which, in many ways, there was no way for me to make suffering go away, it was a matter of really allowing people to fully face in a safe way, the experiences that they're having. Now from the standpoint, I suppose, of seeing my patients at the end of life or experiencing serious illness, life limiting illness, there are certainly elements of regret that we all face. And often they are. Some of them are sort of trite, and maybe over, over identified, but they're often really, in the realm of connection. And this is true, I think, for men and women alike. The challenge for many man, I suppose, is that in a lot of ways, our more traditional norms, and ideologies around masculinity don't don't necessarily drive us to focus on our connection, they might drive us to focus on performance, self sustainability, self reliance. But often, themes at the end of life, tend to be around seeking peace and communicating important things to people who matter who may not have felt connected to us. And so it that tends, I think, to be the case more frequently for men, because there are often a lot of regrets around, not connecting in full. And often that is, often as far as my experience goes, I suppose. So it's anecdotal, but often that his father's regretting, not being as available and connected to their kids. And so I think it in it probably, in retrospect, though, I've never really thought about it in this way. So I appreciate this question. has compelled me to support men and connecting with their families, without necessarily having to show up in a specific or maybe expected way, but being present, being fully connected?
Curt Storring 17:35
Right? And could you go into that a little bit? Because like you said, there's no prescriptive way to do this. It's not, you know, this, you follow this? Suddenly, you're connected, and you're a great dad, it's gonna be different for everyone. But there is this sense, like you said, just lack of connection. And so for the men listening, I mean, just imagine briefly, that you're at the end of your life, what are the things you're going to regret? And like you say this is, it's done over and over again, you hear everyone talk about, what are you going to regret? Well, you know, what changes can you make now, and I love these little hacks almost, that when you get hit with the two by four, or the Mack Truck, as we've talked about, before, you can make a change, but it hurts big time. But a small hack is just thinking like, when I'm at the end of my life, what will I regret or miss or whatever. And I think this is a great opportunity for men listening to go there in their own minds. And so assuming that you want to connect more deeply with your family? How can men start to do that? And I know, it's not like you said, prescriptive, but what are some of the ways that you have helped men to establish presence, and just sitting in whatever that looks like for their family? This is so hard for guys who, like you said aren't conditioned to connect? So like, how do we how do we even start doing this?
Pierre Azzam 18:51
Yeah. I think in most cases, it's a matter of just sitting and being present with ourselves and connecting to our own experience. And this is a tough one. Because when I work with guys, most of the time, when I invite an awareness to what's happening in your head and your heart and your body, there's often a an expectation of an agenda. Where do we go from here? What's the best possible outcome? Am I doing this right? It's sort of like the, the common experience around mindfulness where or meditation where you ask yourself, Am I doing this right? Well, right is just in the process. The whole point is just to be and to sit with the experiences that we're having and to, to name them. We don't get most men don't get an invite to do that. And so it feels uncomfortable. So a lot of judgment that comes up. And so I invite that awareness around the judgment that will emerge for us when we try to just be present. I should be doing this, I shouldn't be doing that I need to be doing this, or I'm not doing this well enough. Where, like, Where the fuck are we going? What's happening? All these things emerge, and they're naturally they naturally distract us. And so a lot of it is often just practice it using mindfulness in the moment when we're working together, to sort of build the muscle memory around how to be present in full, how to feel connected, or how to be available such that and aware such that I invite connection with my family without necessarily trying to do five other things at once. Whether that's play on my device, or judge myself, as good enough, not good enough. I think it's perhaps the most overused hack of all but it really is practicing mindfulness in a way that feels approachable. And oftentimes I'll use, I'll use awareness to or experience with, with networks of attention to explain some of the facets, some of the tenets of mindfulness, so it doesn't feel so maybe so esoteric, or woowoo, to men. And that is that single tasking is often the way to go when it comes to engagement. And that even if that is connecting, even if that's not necessarily taking something off of a checklist, or to do lists, that if you're interested in connecting and being present, it's just a matter of setting the intention, recognizing distractions will emerge. And returning back to that intention, you're not gonna do it right, the first on do it right in quotes the first time. But that's not the point, you just go back to it. And the in most cases for men tends to be returning to whatever is happening in front of me, looking at my kids, opening my heart, being present with the family at dinner time, changing a diaper, being with my wife, or partner, thoughts, sensations, judgments, they'll emerge. And the whole point is to return back to the anchor, which is connection, or presence or openness, whatever it is, that allows you to, to be most available.
Curt Storring 23:10
I love that, thank you, I love using the point of attention or point of awareness, rather than in a meditative setting, when you're maybe focusing on your breath, or you're noticing your experience as consciousness, whatever you sort of focus on during meditation, just taking the actions that you are performing as part of connection as those awarenesses. And knowing. Again, like with meditation, the goal is not to do it, right. It's to sit with it and continue to come back to that object of awareness. And so continue to come back to connection. Like man, that seems, if you've been meditating, even for just like a week or something, you sort of get this idea. So to bring it into everyday life, that seems really powerful. And again, it's gonna be hard, because like most men are hard wired to perform and do the next task. But if the next task is to come back, even if you have to set it like that, okay, but my task right now on my to do list is just to notice when I'm not in connection and bring it back. That seems amazing. I love that. Thank you.
Pierre Azzam 24:08
Yeah, of course, of course, in a lot of ways. You know, I love that you put it in that way, because it feels it feels like then meditation is sort of training for you to show up mindfully in whatever you do, whether that's your work, or your engagement with another person.
Curt Storring 24:28
Yeah, thank you. Is has already been I don't know the answer to this. So maybe it's not the right tree to bark out. But was there a dark night of the soul for you in your journey like that led you to going down this path? Because this for me, was sort of a labor of love. I needed to do this kind of work. I was unsatisfied and this was taking up so much of my own personal life doing this work on myself and with other men, that I sort of went like, Man, I need to share some of this that's worked for me because I've transformed my life. With the help of so many other men, I just can't help but share it. So I'm just curious, was there something in your life that sort of got you into this to begin with was something motivating you at a very core level to do this work? Or was it simply being around the dads that you were with?
Pierre Azzam 25:16
I think most of my work has probably been driven by my own, I suppose my own experience of suffering or my own experience of facing challenges, cognitive challenges that I might create for myself, emotional challenges in fluctuations of mood, or at least periods of pretty dark depression, and also, kind of never feeling like I allowed myself to feel good enough. Or, perhaps, that I was that I, throughout most of my life have been judging myself for how I show up. And how what that means for me, relative to how I see myself as a man, but also how I might see an ideal in being a man. I think it's an under discussed topic around mental health, the traditional norms of masculinity, how they show up, but for me, there were so many, I don't think there was a single one. Kurt, I think, to your point, looking back, there were handfuls of experiences where I undermined myself for not being the man I thought I should be. And I just saw that so frequently, in my work, as a psychiatrist, I saw it so much in, in the men I saw, you know, in a lot of ways I was. So most of my work as a psychiatrist was really spent in the general hospital setting. And it was spent with people with medical illnesses. And often that was life limiting chronic. And so it meant that there was often not a select Sort of a selection bias for who I saw. And so it wasn't just a matter of people coming to me for help, but often, that other physicians would, would send referrals, or asked me to see someone in the hospital who might be experiencing either. In many cases, that was a sort of neurologic challenges or neurological illness. But who were to seem to be suffering, in some way, behaviorally, cognitively, emotionally. And so it meant that I saw many men who might not normally go in to see mental health professionals. And so faced with the stigma of kind of being a psychiatrist walking into a patient's room, many cases unexpected, it sort of allowed me to think of my own experience in getting mental health care, the sort of feeling of not being able to do it on my own, the self judgment that emerges, it emerges quite often for men. And I can relate to it, the sensation of not being able to control that I couldn't get out of bed, or I couldn't do the things that I normally love doing because I was facing depression periods of my life. I could empathize for more than just sort of putting myself theoretically in the shoes of many men who were suffering. I felt it. And so, yeah, there were moments of recognizing, you know, even the work that I in the work that I was doing, that mental health care, doesn't always show up in the most approachable way to men. And so, I think increasingly, I found myself feeling compelled to change that in just for myself. I realize I have to maintain humility here. I can't sort of single handedly changed the face of mental health care for men, but I could do it for myself and the men with whom I work, but Probably more than anything, it became overcoming my own fear of doing so, changing my path, Guy was on a very sort of
trajectory, clear trajectory around being a physician. And it was fucking scary to jump out of that trajectory. And I was held back by a lot of my own personal fears. And I realized, in those moments when I feared making this transition that it was, I realized how important this mission is, I would see more men who were suffering, or hear of more stats about rising rates of Mount loneliness, male suicide, and I found myself compelled to, to make this shift. And so in part, yes, it's sort of, like, I suppose I had many dark night stories. But more than anything, it was just seeing a lot of suffering. And also seeing a lot of good that happened when men could be vulnerable. Together, when we sort of let our guards down, we allow ourselves to be more real, and less prescribed.
Curt Storring 31:29
Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And you, man, I just see men as like this untapped resource when they're not able to share vulnerably with other men, like you say, and it says, though, we're not supposed to be like this, we're not allowed to be like this, whatever the case is. And then you like you're a human. You know, men are humans and humans feel emotions. And when you share those things, I mean, I love the phrase, feel it to heal it. And, like, you've got to go through and share these things with other men, where and when appropriate. And so I love that you sort of saw this as being part of that to give men this approval, as it were, or validation to go there. Because it unlocks so much. I've seen it in my life, I've seen it in the men that I've worked with, and men's group, otherwise, just like being able to go there is like this unleashed potential. And suddenly, it's like, oh, there's so much good here that we can get into. And one of the things you mentioned was depression. And that's actually one of the things I had on my list that I wanted to talk to you about. I've seen this on your Instagram a lot. And I want to start with postpartum depression for for dads. Because like, I think if we start specifically, and then maybe broaden it into depression as a whole, I'm just interested like, I, I think I probably experienced this, but I've never heard of this for dads. So could you maybe explain like, what maybe what is depression? Like? How would you define that? And then how does it present? Because I think a lot of men probably suffer from this unknowingly. How do Yeah,
Pierre Azzam 33:10
I think that's great. So you're absolutely right. It's under discussed under recognize, also under treated, so it was maybe a decade into my own practice and training as a psychiatrist before I even learned that post partum depression was a thing and dad's. And so I recognize, like, I went through the normal channels of training, and even then didn't know. But and impacts about 10% of men in the first year post, or in during pregnancy and in the first year postnatally and tends to show up in particular ways, I think with men that are a little different than in moms, probably the biggest ways are that the symptoms fall follow a more male pattern of depression, and I'll explain what that means. Shortly. They tend to be more insidious and slow. Whereas often the change can be more abrupt and mom. And perhaps it's harder to tell whether it's just that the changes are slower in men or whether it takes longer for us to recognize it when it shows up or for other people to recognize it. But in dads it's generally thought to peek at months three to six. There are a lot of theories around why that might be particularly around Around leaves from work and transitions around caretaking. Up My hunch is actually that a bigger part of that is just the insidious nature of depression, and how it shows up and are delayed of recognizing it. The slow onset tends to then feel for many men and further partners and family members, like it's a change to personality rather than distinct point of pathology. And so often, dads can be then blamed for showing up in a particular way, even if they're not, even if they're inherently suffering with with a depressive episode or are with major depression. Now, by the book, I suppose major depression requires two or more weeks of low mood, or change to level of joy that we feel a level of pleasure in the things that we experience plus some combination of symptoms with respect to sleep and appetite and energy and concentration, feelings of worthlessness guilt, thoughts of not wanting to be around thoughts of suicide. In reality, in most cases, and this is true for men. Depression will last untreated depression will last on the order of four to 12 months. And so pretty big chunk of life when I first experienced depression, or at least, I think looking back, I probably had it already experienced a few episodes before this into adolescence and possibly childhood. But my first diagnosed episode was when I was 22. And I looking back had symptoms for about 18 months before I got help. And that's not an atypical picture for men. The order on average is about six eight months. Before seek before recognition, few months longer for treatment. So on average, four to 12 months depending on what you're looking at.
Many men will describe won't describe feeling sad or tearful or low even, we're a lot more likely to describe feeling deflated, feeling drained, feeling fatigued, as opposed to the kind of common image of or the common expectation of feeling tearful, a lot of men will describe feeling numb, even being angry, having attacks of irritability or anger. There's often a sense of self shaming, or self criticism, really harsh self criticism. I found myself not being able to, in my own experience, not being able to make simple decisions because I was so indecisive and unsure of myself. There's also a greater tendency to externalize to become angry, to find ways to numb whether that's through substances, or gambling or risky sex or indiscriminate behaviors that we wouldn't normally turn to. That tends to be much more common in men as well. And so for Dad, if we're looking at the picture of how this shows up for Dad, we're looking at a picture of feeling defeated, deflated, slowly, experiencing uncertainty, self criticism, anger, irritability, restlessness, maybe externalizing, along with potential changes to sleep. Obviously, that's a tough one when you're looking at new parents are early in early parenthood, but changes to appetite and energy and concentration and motivation. And affects about one in 10 men in the year postnatally. But interestingly, if mom is experiencing postpartum depression, that risk goes up. That rate goes up to one in two to four, so 25 to 50% of men whose female partners are experiencing postnatal depression will also experience postnatal depression in the first year. So it's pretty remarkable. And I think what then drove my attention and my awareness to the importance of potentially helping dads in this space is that there's a shortage of Perinatal Services for mom, but almost no Perinatal Services that I could see in my own sort of institution in which I was working in the ones with which I was familiar for dads. And so the, the rates are much higher than perhaps most of us expect. And there are very few services that are specific to that.
Curt Storring 40:51
Well, yeah, that's an alarming number. What, what can men do who are like, Okay, I'm checking some of these boxes here. And I, I'm, I relate so hard to this, I can remember distinct periods of my life after becoming a dad, where I felt all these things, worthlessness, and yeah, just couldn't do anything, and thought that it would be better off without me. And I just couldn't get anything, right. And so like, Where can men go? I know, you've just said, like, there really isn't anything, but what sorts of tools and they could be maybe individual tools they can work on by themselves? Or it could be with help. So how can men move through and I don't want to say get over because it's not getting better? How can men move through depressive episode, whether it's postpartum depression or otherwise?
Pierre Azzam 41:40
Yeah, the first, my first thoughts are naming, just even naming the experience for yourself, and letting one other trusted person. Now, there's a lot of stigma there too. Especially if the one other trusted person is. And we're looking at the postnatal period, especially if the one other trusted person is mom, and you're. And you're, you have all of these sorts of thoughts or expectations about not wanting to burden. And so And often we tend, men tend, and I know I do this and do this, to create stories and try to conceptualize really, cognitively, our experiences, like I shouldn't be depress, or I don't, I need to not name those because I don't want to burden my wife or my partner, whomever. And that tends to then just allow us to suffer silently. And not actually connect, not get help keep ourselves isolated and insular. And that for many men is a tends to add fuel to the fire of depression. So opportunities to connect, whether that be with a romantic partner, or with family members, or with friends, that you can trust around sharing this experience. But I want to normalize the value of getting help. There is something really important to Yes, you communicating our experiences with family. And also, unfortunately, we're not always like, we're, we're human as well. When we interact with family, we have baggage that comes with our family members, judgments that might emerge. Most of us if we're not necessarily trained to respond to people who might be suffering in some way, or don't have a lot of experience, want to say the right things. And so we fumble around trying to change the experience for the other person, when in fact, we sort of on intentionally undermine it. And so there's value to seeking help from someone who's not in the picture. Someone who may just be able to create some space for you to hear to be heard. So you're effectively not sharing or not shouldering the burden yourself. And so, I'd say The first step is clearly aware at some awareness that something isn't right. You don't even have to know what is not right. But inviting another trusted person. And often that getting help professional, right,
Curt Storring 45:15
professional help. Yeah. And that's, I think that's important that you went there to D stigmatize it because again, it's still, I mean, after all of these years now of campaigning for mental health, and people to be just more accepting of the fact that, you know, you may have issues along the way, and it's okay to get that help. It's still like, well, if I do that, I'm like a loser or a failure, I needed to do everything by myself. And even like, I know, you mentioned family and friends, the friends piece can be interesting as well. And I've just seen this personally in men's group, in a men's group, and you know, you all of these men have your back, and they're not involved in your life otherwise, and maybe they're your friends as well. But like, just to have that safe space, to be like, Hey, guys, here's what I'm feeling like, I have seen so much power in simply shining a light on what you think is too shameful or dark, or, you know, whatever it is causing these episodes of depression. It's like, man, you, you shine a light on that by sharing it. And suddenly, it's not so scary. Suddenly, people can relate suddenly, it's like, oh, it's not just me in here. And so that brings me to the question of how can other people, like you said, people might fumble around? What can you say to people you might notice these things in because, you know, you shouldn't go around trying to fix everyone unnecessarily. But how can you respond when someone's like, and I'm not feeling it right now? Like, what? What can we say? How can we maybe ask them to seek professional help? How can we support people in our lives who are experiencing this?
Pierre Azzam 46:45
Yeah, okay, this is a great question. And I want to acknowledge a couple of important things here, at least in the especially in the men's space, when there's so much expectation that men should show up in a particular way. And a lot of assumptions that we make about other men that might look to have it all sort of figured out based on external appearance, there's huge value to the group element, especially for fathers. And so at least in the dads space, but I would say, I would say this is true for men, the power of groups is enormous, because you're seeing models of vulnerability and authenticity and masculinity in one place. And it doesn't feel like there's such a dichotomy between the two, between masculinity and vulnerability, or seeking help, or having a situation a challenge. And so most of the work that I have seen emerge for fathers has really been centered around this idea of helping men to get together in group, because it also over it also tackles, perhaps not tackles but navigates the challenge endemic to all men, which is that we tend to be isolated, and lonely. And so just being in a group, just sort of creating the space and opportunity is a huge shift. In terms of the question around, how do we respond to our, to our suffering friend, probably my first instinct is Tell me more. Or I'm here and you can share your experience. You don't have to have the answers. You don't have to find a commonality. There might be some commonalities, but I invite you to hold your tongue, it's probably a matter of saying less and listening more, building upon the questions that are the whatever is shared. If you get curious about something, asking about how it feels, how it's experience, what it's like for them without making assumptions. Probably a couple of important elements have been that I share from I suppose my own experience in coaching and working with men in mental health care is to focus on questions of, of helping the other person to explain their experience to shine light on it. From a practical standpoint that often requires not shaming, not blaming, not even asking why? Why tends to sort of put people on the defensive a lot of the time. And so just. And it assumes that we have explanations for why we're feeling the way we are. And that's not really what matters. What matters is giving an opportunity for the other person to have a voice. Yeah,
Curt Storring 50:39
those are perfect. I love that. It brings to mind a couple of things. One, I'm reading this book by Jason Gaddis, friend of mine, and Relationship Expert, and he has this acronym called LW foo, and I can't remember exactly what it is, I want to say it's listening until fully understood or something like that. But the idea is even you know, this particular instance, is very sort of deep and impactful. But even in your relationships, or everyday relationships, if you go in there listening to understand rather than to respond, that goes an awful long way. And it also brings to mind, I think it was in this book, the prosperous coach, which you may have read, which is actually on my desk right now. And I think in there, he mentions this idea of a lamppost or a light post. And the idea is, for coaches, the power isn't in your ability to answer, it's in your ability to listen. And the idea of a lamppost is that 80, you could get 80% of the way there and whatever coaching session you're in, if you were to just like, be a lamppost, if someone just like, went up to a lamppost and started talking about what's going on inside of them. That would be like 80% of the battle, which just goes to show like, being able to speak your truth, and then have it heard, like, there, you can't underestimate that. So I love that the answer is just like, Tell me more. I'm here for you. You know, I'm going to get through this with you or like, whatever that can be, whatever supportive thing and then don't fix it. That's not the job at all, man. If I just like could speak to someone without them being like, Oh, well, here's my advice. Like, no, no, don't go there. So that's really good. Thank you. Yeah,
Pierre Azzam 52:17
yeah, that's it's huge. Kurt, I think to your point, too, if there is some element of support, or experience that shared, I will usually ask, not batting 1000 year on doing this, but I will usually ask or let the other person no, I've had a similar experience. Would you like to know more? And? Or what? Perhaps, how might it help if at all, to hear more? Especially if they ask, What do you think I should do? What you've sort of quote unquote, should do is based on your own sort of priorities and values, there are potentially many things you could do. None of which is necessarily right or wrong. But if if asked for specific advice, I've often given what I've done sticking to I statements, this is how I found myself experiencing this. This is what worked for me. I have gotten professional health. This is how my experience has been on both both ends. For me, it's often been a matter of explaining Well, what is it like on the other end? And also, what has it been like for me getting help, too, because I think it's not just I often get asked questions about, you know, seeking mental health care. But it's important that I also share my own experience in terms of getting it.
Curt Storring 54:03
That's just like a huge part of why I'm even doing any of this myself is just like, here's what I have felt and here's why it's so important to share because like I I truly believe I am on these quote unquote other side. I have gone through and work through so many of my so called demons. And now it's like, by the way did you know you could get to the other side? Because without that hope, I think it can be quite despairing for a lot of men thinking like, well, this is it I'm stuck like this forever. I'm broken. I'm not good enough. And I'm just gonna like have to keep on trucking. Until you know I die of a heart attack or something which, you know, I don't even know my dad like he just might one day with no no pretense nothing he just died. And I think a lot of it was a lot of the stuff he was keeping in. And that's, you know, projection, judgment, whatever. But it's hard to understand that like, you can just do all these things and so hearing your own experiences from other people and being like, okay, there is hope. That's such a huge part. Have all of this for me. All right, I want to talk about emotional intelligence, because I think this is sort of a great way to cap it off. Because we've been talking about having men open up and having them share their experience. But often, it's hard to do that if you don't have the language or the words around that, how do you even communicate what you're feeling? When your answers like, well, how are you doing? Fine, you're disconnected from your body, and you can't even feel any of those things. So I have observed, I think, on the things that you've posted, and in my own sort of circle, that emotional intelligence is like, the bedrock foundational thing that helps us to be able to communicate. So how do you think about emotional intelligence? And how are you sort of training your clients, if you are on establishing emotional intelligence and like putting a name to the feelings like you just mentioned?
Pierre Azzam 55:53
Yeah, this is a big area. And an area that's actually received a lot of attention in terms of relatively in terms of men's mental health. And I say that relatively because I think that there's still a lot of value to, there's still a lot of untapped potential in terms of research around men and our experiences of emotion, and behavior, and how we fully are aware to them, or have them. But it's not uncommon that when asked, how are you? Or how are you feeling? The answer is fine. Or maybe even if someone's a little more self aware, I don't know. Like, I It's a third experience, because I, I can certainly relate to that. There's not much invite, often in our everyday lives to reflect upon our experience of emotion. And so there's a lot of material that can be used to learn more about emotional intelligence. And to appreciate the emotions as they emerge, and the lexicon around emotion. Because it's actually quite common that men don't have a, an awareness to our own emotion or emotions at large. But I think in my work, generally, to avoid it being too academic, I usually focus on just what's experienced in the moment. And recognizing differentiations, between feelings and emotion, and thought patterns. That often when we describe how we feel, or really, we're sort of accustomed to describing a thought, rather than how we actually feel in the moment. And so it's often just a recognition of how emotions show up for me, physiologically, and then putting words to some of those experiences. And so, I might find myself if I'm struggling to sort of name that I'm pissed off. I might find myself feeling tight, tense, warm, read, heated, closed off, shallow, and my breath. And, and often there's an exploration of those experiences, and putting words to the emotions behind them, just so as to gain some awareness to what that emotion was like. And so the challenge is often that we tend to judge our emotions, that rather than just naming them or experiencing them, we think, well, I shouldn't be pissed off. And let me tell you all the reasons why. Like, the other person should have done something differently, or I should have shown up differently, or why I shouldn't be pissed off or why I'm pissed off. And I usually just recognize that as a distraction from the actual present experience of the emotion. And so usually, it's sort of a mindfulness kind of a return back to the experience, whether that's tightness or heat or whatever, and maybe just sitting with it. And naming the experience as it relates to an emotion. What are you feeling in your heart, and then just sitting with it without necessarily having to do anything about it. And so I'd say that's usually the first step. And then it becomes kind of an iterative process of doing it over and over and familiarizing oneself with what that's like.
Because I think often, when we try to connect around our emotions, and this is definitely true in romantic relationships, were connecting our stories of what we think we should feel and what the other person should do. Rather than just saying, I'm angry, or I feel really sad, huge difference in terms of the energy brought between, I feel really sad today. And the energy that might be brought from something accusatory, like, why do you do the dishes last night? Or why do I have to take care of the kids again, just naming the emotion allows for connection without pointing a finger. And doing it in ourselves, allows us to just experience it without blame, without pointing the finger to ourselves or to another person. And then we can communicate it. And in many ways, the burden is shoulder by more than just us. That's usually I'd say, usually the start to it. I try to experientially and not like get too in the weeds around it. Because it can be the sort of esoteric kind of a thing. If it feels like it's too textbook. I think for most men, it needs to be rooted in actual experience.
Curt Storring 1:01:57
Absolutely. And being able to sit with it is so powerful. And if you are judging or blaming that's almost like this blocked actually feeling and then moving the energy of the emotion. And one thing that I have seen used with sort of great effect is this feeling we all as well, I don't know if you use that, but just like giving men this like words to it. Like I love the physiological aspect, cuz that's even like one step below. Like, what am I just feeling in my body. And then again, sitting with that, and presence being a human being versus a human doing, and I know, that's super cliche, but like men do all the time. And it's so hard to just like, be like, I'm not feeling good right now. I'm going to stop this, I gotta do something, I gotta whatever. And it's just like, nope, shut up, sit down, feel it. And you know, what comes will come. And so yeah, and I love that. It's just like, sit with it be presence, feel the body feelings. Try to name like, the motions around that body feeling? Absolutely. It's an iterative process. Like, it's not gonna happen overnight. This for me, this took years. And like, you know, that can seem daunting. But starting now can have benefits fairly soon. And it has very durable benefits, the longer you do it, in my experience. So I mean, again, like you said, this is a huge topic. And, you know, maybe not going to be able to dive into all the aspects of it. But I just wanted to get your opinion on that. Because it's so flippin important, if we're going to be talking about these things, and bring their feelings to professionals or otherwise going to be able to communicate that and you can't if you don't know the words, or the feelings, so yeah, thank you for going there.
Pierre Azzam 1:03:32
Yeah, thank you for bringing up the feelings will, you know, there's some research around around the experience of what's called alexithymia. pretty familiar with that term, by chance? It's no. So it's the the inability to describe emotion, and more specifically our own. But there's been some research around how common it is in men. And it perhaps being normative so prevalent that it's a normal experience as opposed to pathology. Because it's rare, we get the invite. Like, it's rare, we get the invitation and check in it's not promoted in the way that we maneuver our lives. In most cases. There's an overvalue been overvaluing, sucking it up, bottling it and stuffing it down and plowing through. And so over time we learn it's you not important how I feel. And so using understanding there is a lexicon there's a language around feeling allows us The opportunity to expand upon it to create even the muscle memory around. This is what anger is. This is how I know I'm angry, too. So thank you for bringing that up.
Curt Storring 1:05:12
Yeah, it reminds me of something. A recent guest, David Stegman said, he said, most men are craving connection, but never get the invite. They want to go deeper, but nobody invites them. So that's what I'm hearing is like very similar language there is like people don't have this invite. And so, you know, seek it out, extend to another man and like, try it out, see what happens. And there's risk to that, of course, because well, what if he doesn't accept it? Or maybe you join a men's group? Maybe you get a coach, maybe get a counselor therapist? But yeah, having a place to be invited to share?
Pierre Azzam 1:05:48
Yeah, it's important stuff. Yeah, it sounds like you're doing that with that.
Curt Storring 1:05:53
I'm certainly trying for providing sort of a just my own story of like, this is all the stuff I've been through. And I think the most powerful things I've shared are like very personal experiences, or men can relate and be like, oh, you know, you can get the other side or you don't have to be perfect, or whatever it is. I mean, I want to talk about all sorts of things with you. Maybe we'll have to do this again, sometime. OCD and ADHD. Like there's so much to go into there, which I know you have spoken to a lot. And so I guess I'll just punt it over to you. Where's where can men find more of you or work with you? Because I've been following Instagram for a while. I love it. So where can men connect with you here?
Pierre Azzam 1:06:33
Yeah, probably the easiest way is through Instagram, and I'm at my handles @Braver.Man. And my site is bravermancoaching.com. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me.
Curt Storring 1:06:49
Okay, well thank you very much for taking the time and providing the wisdom and expertise it's been amazing, so many good insights for men, particularly those struggling perhaps, or wanting to go from neutral to thriving. So I just love the range of this. So thank you very much PR I appreciate it.
Pierre Azzam 1:07:06
Thank you Curt. I really appreciate it as well
Curt Storring 1:07:15
that's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. It means the world to find out more about everything that we talked about in the episode today, including Show Notes resources and links to subscribe leave review work with us go to dad dot work slash pod. That's di d dot w o RK slash pod. type that into your browser just like a normal URL, Dad dot work slash pod. To find everything there you need to become a better man, a better partner and a better father. Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.
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