Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Portrait of an Emotionally Healthy Man

By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

It's a tale of two men:

Alfred Paine began life in wealth and privilege. His family wasn't warm or close, but his parents endowed him with a trust fund at birth and later, an Ivy League education. When he died, though, he counted no close friends. He left behind multiple unhappy marriages and adult children who rarely visited him. One daughter described him as having lived "an emotionally starved life."

Recommended Related to Men

Alonzo Mourning's All-Star Rebound

First and foremost, we're trying to bring as much attention as possible to kidney disease; educate the general public about risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history; share the warning signs and the importance of regularly seeing your doctor; and highlight organ donation. So many people have kidney disease and just don't know it, which is why it's so important to create a relationship with your doctor. The National Kidney Foundation provides free kidney screenings...

Read the Alonzo Mourning's All-Star Rebound article > >

Paine's schoolmate, Godfrey Camille, also came from an upper-class, troubled home. His parents were loners, nervous, and suspicious to a fault. "I neither liked nor respected my parents," he said. An acquaintance from his college days remembered him as "an intractable and unhappy hypochondriac." Needy and unloved, Camille coped unconsciously by running to the college infirmary for unfounded ailments. But he eventually bloomed into what one observer called a "happy, giving, and beloved man." His daughter praised him as a great father. When he turned 80, he threw himself a birthday potluck party and hired a jazz band -- and 300 people showed up.

Why did Camille grow into an emotionally healthy man, while Paine did not? Powerful clues emerge from a landmark study on men's development that has run for more than seven decades, making it the longest study of its kind in the world.

Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy Men

Paine and Camille, whose real names were disguised, were among more than 200 Harvard undergraduate men whom researchers studied for physical and mental health from late adolescence into very old age. The Grant Study of Adult Development began in 1938 and continues today, though the 62 Grant men who survive are now in their late 80s or 90s.

What can we learn from the lives of so many men studied over so many years? In his recent book, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, George Vaillant, MD, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School who became the study's director in 1966, extracts the insights gained from the study and translates them into life lessons. The following are some key insights Vaillant discovered about how men can live mentally healthy and emotionally rewarding lives.

1. Mentally healthy men use mature coping methods to deal with adversity.

In the struggle to manage life's challenges, Vaillant says, men may resort to immature coping methods: refusing to acknowledge one's problems, blaming others for personal failures, being passive-aggressive, displacing anger (kicking the dog instead of the boss), or routinely escaping into a fantasy world.

Immature coping methods have disturbing, telltale clues. "They make you feel wonderful, but they have no sticking power because they're narcissistic," Vaillant says. In other words, blaming others and blowing up in a rage may satisfy you, but no one else. "They can indeed make you happy in the short term, but they're very maladaptive because they drive people away."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow