In the past couple of weeks I’ve had quite a few conversations that have resulted in the statement being made along the lines of:
1. I didn’t think my words affected him
2. He’s a man – this shouldn’t’ bother him
3. He just needs to man up – and not be so sensitive.
4. He’ll get over it – he doesn’t get emotional
Men are conditioned to behave and convey their emotions in certain ways of which most are useless in actually communicating how we feel. Men are taught some very useless means of dealing with their emotions. Let’s outline a few:
Holding it in
I think we’ve all heard this one and frankly I haven’t met a man that has found this one useful. Generally, when I hold it in, I get increasingly frustrated and end up doing things that are self-destructive.
Got a problem – get a drink. Wife upset you – get a drink. Holding it in not working – get a drink. I think we got enough roads in our community that lead towards drinking that we should probably try to minimize the negative routes.
I don’t know how many men I know will “pretend” like something doesn’t upset them and then try to convince themselves of the lie. The difference between this and holding it in – is that pretending the man actually tries to convince themselves that this event really doesn’t bother them. However, the outcome may be the same in regards to engaging in the self destructive behavior.
By no means is that list exhaustive or scratch the surface of all the various mechanisms that men use, but the point is simple – men do a lot to hide their feelings.
The Bottom Line
Let’s cut to the chase here – men have emotions that can be both negatively and positively impacted. Yes, I realize how obvious that statement is, but the truth is too many people walk around thinking those emotions aren’t legitimate. As men we have to do a better job of communicating our emotions. We’re going to have to ignore those who are scared to do so and ignore women that like to perpetuate negative stereotypes of men who disclose their emotions.
Men, we got to do better in handling our emotions not only with women, but with each other too. Looking in our community I think it’s obvious that we have a pretty tough time communicating with our wives and each other. I can’t tell you that I’ve found the magic bullet of communication, but I’ve found that successful communication between us men and the women in our lives begins with prefacing the moment with an emotional marker that lets them know “we’re in the circle of trust”. It sounds corny, but it really works. It gives people the chance to step outside the defensive, joking, and insincere place and listen to what you’re saying in a more receptive manner. There can be more harm in bottling up your emotions until you explode, then sharing them and letting those around you celebrate the good and bad times.
“By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it.”