Future Research Directions, Hypothesizes, and Perspectives

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The proposed model is one where HAI and HHI are interfaced, having implications for the psychology of men and masculinity. However, the bond with animal companions does not guarantee a panacea for males with difficult attachment histories and so certain caveats need to be considered. One involves males that feel a strong sense of kinship with nature and animal companions but still have difficulty transitioning from the rigidity of traditional male roles and ideology.

Will males of various ages be able to enact masculine role norms in a new ways within the context of HAI, and possibly generalize these ways of being a man when interacting with human companions, peers, family, and friends? The temptation may be to reuse old prescriptive dictums now applied in new contexts. A parallel example may involve ecowarriors, or those that have utilized many of the male roles of traditional Western mythos, just generalizing them to the defense of nature (Gibson 2009). Ecowarriors have been known to engage in a range of activities from peaceful environmental protest to wanton destruction of property sometimes on the large scale such as fire bombs, destruction of ski
resorts, car dealerships that sale SUV’s, etc. Within these examples are aspects of some of the traditional male ideology that are valued by men and society that include a desire to protect and a willingness to stand firm in the face of opposition.

However, we are also suggesting that those experiencing a positive generalization of attitudes and behaviors regarding HAI and HHI may need to seek new solutions through a change in dysfunctional male gender role schemata. Could it be the case that a subpopulation of men who value the bond with animal companions also becomes a type of ecowarrior on the behalf of pets and animal companions? This may manifest itself on one hand as rescuing stray dogs or standing up for their rights on various cultural levels.

On the other, it may involve utilizing the ‘leader of the wolf pack’ mentality that has become erroneously associated with proper dog training. The metaphor has perspective traditional male gender roles embedded within as one assumes the role of an alpha in relating to one’s animal companions, emphasizing a rigid hierarchy, dominance, or even violence. The ‘leader of the wolf pack’ mentality may also extend challenges to relating with human beings that do not share the same HAI values and vehemently attaching them on social media, in print, and in person. These men may be viewed
within our proposed model as wrestling with new solutions for both HAI and HHI.

It should be noted the intersection of attachment and gender roles expectations make for a difficult personal and societal transformation. For men, rethinking core masculine beliefs is something profoundly personal and an impetus to do so involves events and encounters that are highly significant and life changing. We argue one starting place for insecurely attached males (though certainly not limited to this category of men) is found within the relational realm amide the bond with animal companions.

Placing prior research findings regarding gender and HAI in proper perspective also leads us to the following conclusion: seeking to compare the average male versus female on levels of attachment and/or loss regarding to animal companions is not the most benefcial way to interface masculine gender roles with HAI.

In fact, we can lose contextual meaning by prioritizing those types of research studies. Instead, the context of how attachment and loss are both reported and underreported, as well as, their meaning in men’s lives is more a viable avenue.

Another example of a future line of inquiry is based on findings that suggest men that enact traditional gender roles seem to have smaller social support networks (Barbee et al. 1993), and how middle-aged males turn to their animal companions as a significant source of emotional soothing when under duress (Kurdek 2009).

In these types of scenarios, it is important to understand if there are real
cohort differences in the ways males turn to animal companions for soothing. It may also be the case that there is a cumulative effect of negative life experiences due to failed attachments with human companions. It would seem reasonable that after so many failed attempts on the part of attachment challenged males, that an animal companion seems like a viable and secure form of emotional bonding.

However, stating again that the power of the bond is not limited to males with difficult upbringings or have experienced some form of loss or trauma. Future research should also focus on how males that have found satisfaction in work and love may find very similar levels of meaning, purpose, and transcendence due in part to the animal bond.
Each potential trajectory of our proposed model, whether it involves transcendence, existential meaning, or various forms of advocacy, all derives meaning from a significant relationship with someone other than ourselves.

As mentioned previously, traditional male ideology emphasizes a strictly go-it-alone mentality, and has been critiqued for a level of self-absorption (Pollack 1995). These dynamics make relational endeavors challenging if not at odds with men enacting traditional masculinity in Western culture especially in North America. Yet, if we consider that in the healthiest relational context there is enough psychologically space for a strong sense of self (not the same thing as a narcissistic self-absorption) and an equally well-equipped relational capacity, then it permits one to relate
with another in a meaningful way.

In these circumstances the two dynamics of self and being in relationship with another that are often so easily viewed as mutually exclusive facets in masculine world, instead become complementary parts. Perhaps this is one of the reasons man’s best friend is valued so highly even if not all men can verbalize that sentiment. The bond allows males to experiment and experience the dynamic tension of self-other in a unique way. When males are truly connected to their animal companions a relational encounter emerges that is less buffered with psychological defenses.

That is, males feel less threatened of losing their identities within this connection. It is also paramount to understand more about how men response to grief when animal companions are lost; this includes the intensity, duration of symptoms, and how they are expressed. It involves helping males understand more about ongoing bonds with animal companions as a way of sustaining meaningful ties and a retaining a source of emotional support.

Both self-report measures and qualitative research need to be pursued by interviewers that are culturally sensitive to male contextual dynamics. Acknowledging publically there is an emotional reliance upon a companion cuts against much of traditional male socialization, and so does expressing substantial feelings of grief when an animal companion is lost. Men’s
felt but often unspoken meaning(s) regarding the bond with animal companions needs to be uncovered in forthcoming studies.

Another aspect of the needed work involves ways to measure the various variables in the proposed model. This may include an instrument that assesses both HAI and HHI simultaneously. While there have been various attempts to restructure measures from one content area to another (e.g., attachment strength and style for people and then applied to pets), to date there has few efforts to develop an instrument solely for these purposes (see Zilcha-Mano et al. 2011).

New measures may include elements of attachment strength to human and animal companions, as well as, purported behaviors. Our model attempts to offer an initial way to contextually conceptualize and operationalize elements of male gender roles, attachment history, and HAI.
Moving the field in this direction expands the various related variables of interest and provides a heuristic for both researchers and clinicians. However, attempting to do so will not be done without resistance or criticism that may involve anthropomorphizing or that an already fringe area of inquiry has now taken a few further steps in that direction. This new line of investigation must be accountable and held to stringent standards. Many of us have experienced the power of the bond. We
honor those connections by exploring them with scientific rigor, all the while not losing sight of their emotional signifcance.



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