Embed from Getty Images
It’s hard being a sensitive kid.
Crying easily and feeling things deeply—these are not celebrated traits when you’re a child. In fact, it’s rare—especially as an adult man—that these are celebrated ever.
Strength is often defined as holding back the feelings. Being able to keep a stony face in the midst of a crisis: that’s considered real strength.
- “I had to be strong for the kids.”
- “Someone needed to be the rock [strong, hard, not easily breakable].”
- “I needed to be the one to hold it together for everyone else.”
I hear this all the time and mostly from men. Men who view their job as taking care of others. They feel they need to be able to be the one unmoved when everyone else is falling apart.
And this is considered Strong.
Which seems to indicate that everything else is Weak: the people who break down, act depressed, “lose it”. That’s weakness and it’s ok for wives and little children (boys sometimes get a pass for a few years, but sometimes these expectations are extended to toddler sons).
Witnessing a man cry can be harrowing. It’s hard to know what to do, which way to turn, where to look. They must be so embarrassed, right? Let’s make a joke about it—this way they can find their way out of those tears with some pride left.
The Non-Productivity of Emotions
What happens when we allow ourselves to feel vulnerable? I’m not just talking about crying, but also feeling afraid, sad, worried, or anxious to name just a few. Some of these would be considered “negative” emotions and I get it, they certainly don’t feel “good”, but what do we dislike about them so much?
One comment I hear from my clients is that these feelings are not “productive”. Feeling those things and expressing them isn’t going to help my situation, they say. It’s not going to get my job done at work, it’s not going to get my kid to listen to me—it’s not going to solve my problem!
You may be right. Allowing yourself to feel the way you’re feeling probably won’t solve your problem, but that’s not actually the intention. What it will do is help you get out of your own way.
You probably want the bulk of your energy to go toward fixing that problem. Unfortunately, way too much of that energy is spent pushing down the emotions you don’t want to feel. I’ve likened this to trying to get something done when you really have to pee. So much physical and mental energy is going toward holding it in until you get to a bathroom—and that means you don’t have the capacity to really work on what you say is your priority. You need to get some relief first.
Relief and New Directions
Once you allow the emotions to be whatever they are you also get a chance to learn something new. Maybe some rigidity can be tempered by allowing yourself to feel. Maybe it’s sadness, maybe it’s humiliation, maybe fear or anger, but giving yourself permission to acknowledge what you’re feeling—to be that sensitive kid, at least (for now) to yourself—may open up some new pathways that your controlled-emotion-what’s-the-point-of-feeling self wouldn’t allow.
Would it hurt to try? Because the next thing that holds us back is the shame. Are you “man enough” to sit with that?
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Getty Images