Men have similar emotions to women; they just display them differently.
Most of us were raised in a family where it was accepted that girls were a little softer and boys somewhat stronger and more robust. This is the way we learned how to display what we felt. Girls may become emotional, cry and talk incessantly about what was happening and how they felt. Boys would often keep it within, fearful of looking soft or weak to share any emotional feelings. Did they have these mixed emotions, absolutely?
Men may not be great with emotions – but they can be
Men often cop criticism for being out of touch with their and their partner’s emotions. We believe men are not as emotionally intelligent as women. Men are portrayed as emotionally unevolved with too much testosterone and too little sensitivity.
If we want our boys and men to become more emotionally complete and confident, it is parents, coaches and teachers who can instil this change. The reason boys and men seem less connected to their emotions and fearful of openly discussing feelings is due to the manner in which they were raised. Expectations were often placed on the male gender with the fear of ridicule from peers and family if emotions were displayed.
Like father, like son
Like the way girls learn how to be a woman, boys learn how to be a man by following the lead of their dad. They model how dad works, speaks, acts, communicates, parents. As a child, we know no different; we learn through example. Once boys become older, they can draw on further comparisons; however, the ingrained beliefs remain embedded.
Boys strive for their dad to be proud of them. They want to demonstrate how strong, tough and resilient they are. After all, they are going to be a man just like him one day, talented, hard worker, supporting his family and acting in the manner in which we observe and respect.
Adverse behaviours are passed down from father to son. For generations, men were told to simply block out their emotions, remain silent, and just proceed with life. The children learnt this was the way to be a man. The grandchildren learnt the same thing. It has only been over the past decade that men are only now discovering a voice and bravery to manage their emotional anxieties.
Many boys were (often still are) taught that boys don’t cry. In the playground at school shedding tears rated as bad as wetting your pants. Crying was an invitation for bullies to ridicule and humiliate you as soft and weak. Boys were taught that “crying is for girls” and being caught with tears in your eyes was fragile and shameful. From a young age, boys learnt to fear emotional displays, push them aside and never ever talk about how they felt.
The Male Icons
Our greatest male icons are entirely unrealistic. They are unemotional tough guys who tolerate pain, threats, and hardship while always being smooth enough to get the beautiful woman as she falls into his arms. While watching a movie we’ve all received the candid lessons about what is required to be a “real man”. Like James Bond, we should never get emotional, be utterly unflinching and barely break a sweat. After a hard day of near-death experiences, we should be able to quickly forget about it all with the help of a few martinis and a disposable woman.
The Fairy-tale Dilemma
Even fairy tales don’t help. Men are often expected to assume the position of the brave Knight in Shining Armour, riding in on a white horse. Many men feel enormous pressure to be robust, dependable and stable always. They worry about what would happen if they ever showed emotional vulnerability, would my partner and children see me as weak, useless, fragile. They remain the shoulder to cry on, often carrying much of the financial and physical burden of the family. Too often, men don’t feel they can ask for support.
There are many factors which shape our male species struggle with their emotions. We are all capable of change. Men need to learn a few essential lessons and often it is not only other men but also the women in their lives that can help equalise this. After all, we talk about an egalitarian society; it works both ways.
Emotions Benefit Us
While some emotions can feel uncomfortable, they actually have an important purpose. Rather than being there to torment us; they are there to help and guide us. Emotions are closely linked with our values and standards, and when something doesn’t fit well, it’s normal to have an emotional response. Men who understand this link can harness their emotions for their own benefit. By making decisions in line with their values, they can keep their life moving in the direction they want. Emotions are a warning of something going on, something we may not feel is exactly right. Emotions can warn us to do or think differently.
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Avoiding emotions isn’t tough, it’s Impractical and Dangerous
Men do all sorts of things to avoid emotional discomfort. Some drink excessively, some bury themselves in work, others compete in ironman triathlons. Many are punching walls or family members and end up in the courtroom, wondering how to cope with the added emotions of embarrassment and regret. This isn’t being tough. Men who choose to honour, understand and work through their emotional issues are far stronger and smarter than those who avoid them.
Stop the Pretence
We are all humans. We don’t have to pretend we are fine all the time. At times we feel happy and cheerful; at other times we feel sad, concerned, frustrated or overwhelmed. Keeping up an act for the benefit of others, to protect our family or diminish our feelings doesn’t work. When we are struggling, it’s healthy and strong to obtain support.
It really is okay to cry
Some of our greatest men have shown tears. Prime Ministers, when they speak about emotional issues or lose the election, display tears and emotions. Many of our leading sportsmen have displayed tears of joy or despair to millions watching.
Salty liquid coming from a man’s eyes when he’s experiencing intense emotion, won’t make him any less of a man, just maybe less of a robot. Real men do cry. It shows they are human. It shows they care. Its shows there are things in life which really matter, and these things can affect me.
Action Heroes Are Not Always The Best Role Model
There is hope for all men; however, for them to become better at dealing with emotions, we should all take a little time to think about who we aspire to be. Do boys and men want to be a one-dimensional superhero? Do they want to be closed-off clones of their dad?
Too many men suffer because they are embarrassed to show emotion and feel uncomfortable reaching out for support. Men struggle because of some very old fashioned notion of what it means to be a “real man” rather than a real human. Following outdated macho stereotypes won’t make men stronger or better. Learning to deal more effectively with emotions and learning enhanced communication skills will.
A Woman’s Role
Strangely enough, it is the woman who teaches her boys and man how to be a balanced and complete human. We must provide a safe, non-judgemental environment for our men to feel safe in disclosing emotional pressures. There are so many emotional pressures nowadays. Making an appointment with a counsellor, going with him before having him attend individually is a wonderful and healthy step toward developing emotional strength.
Learning the critical communication skills enabling both partners to be able to speak safely without conflict or drama, is equally vital. My new book, soon to be released, called Communication Harmony is about 3 secret power words to remove all conflict and drama from every conversation. It is a guide to conflict-free communications with easy to implement practices to direct conversations to rewarding results, without all the drama. It explains how you can open up conversations and invite him in safely. You will be amazed at how easy you can get him to talk, share and listen to you.
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