Men including fathers have been excused from emotional exercise and growth for long enough. It’s time to face our own responsibility to provide a healthy emotional environment by being one. Tune into who you really are emotionally. Many men are not even aware that emotions are an ongoing response to the world around them. Scanning for emotional disconnection and aggression is step one. When this changes, everything can change.
We are always experiencing emotions.
Humans experience emotions as part of life’s design. We don’t have a choice in being emotional beings. Nor do we have a choice in which emotions we experience from others and record.
Fathers’ harsh and unexpressed emotional pain threatens the emotional health of children and families. If you experience emotional pain and become, for example, shut down or aggressive towards your wife, she feels it. Your children feel it, code it, and store it for future reference. Your entire family is altered because you have not yet become a positive emotional space for those you love.
Often men and husbands experience our concealed emotions, which is why we so often hear from our wives “Is something bothering you?” For a woman, asking this question can be a means to protect herself and the family unit from welling emotional damage.
If you have been reading The Good Men Project and other healthy-male writing, you have been exposed to articles sharing that as boys and men we have been taught to not admit we are experiencing any pain, especially emotional. Talking about our pain has been considered sign of weakness, a behavior deserving of humiliation, punishment, and alienation. Most of us have learned not to investigate or air out our emotional discomfort. Many men are not even aware that emotions are an ongoing response to the world around them. Our wives’ questions about our feelings are a potential antidote to emotional toxins in the family.
Your emotions are broadcasting through your body now.
We cannot stop our emotional responses. They’re like our heartbeat. They have a purpose which preceded our understanding of who “I” is. Both our heartbeat and emotions are nature’s design to keep life running. We can’t alter this process, but we can notice how it’s working and redirect it. We are capable of understanding that our emotions influence us and our surroundings, including our wives and children. With discipline, courage, and commitment to compassionate living, we are capable of reshaping emotional patterns with which we bring suffering to our families. Taking on this task can be helped by understanding these points.
Your children need and deserve an emotionally healthy father. The quality of our emotional connections directly influences our children’s health (1). Knowing this is a chance to expand the more obvious physical protection and nurturing we provide.
We are moving into recognizing fathers are responsible for keeping our children safe from dangerous physical and emotional patterns in themselves and others.
If you are indifferent or irritated with your wife, your child is connected to indifference (2).
Your wife will feel that distance. Your child will feel that distance.
What’s really important here is that you man up and have the courage to start and continue taking responsibility for your emotional disruption and confusion. If you believe you don’t become emotionally imbalanced, you are clinging to a belief that will ruin your marriage and rob your children of the healthy father they need and deserve.
You’ve been brainwashed into being emotionally unfit.
We have been taught since we could listen that men are not afraid or confused. If we are afraid or confused we are not men, not enough, weak, worth less than we’re supposed to be.
So when we have felt either confused or afraid, we’ve learned to shut down our emotions. We’ve learned to say this feeling is not me. We have developed a social response, a male group reaction, which keeps us from our children’s needs, their mothers’ needs.
When we don’t exercise emotionally, the results are the same as being physically lazy. When the emotional challenge arises, we’re too out of shape. We’ve become unfit fathers emotionally.
Get back into exercising understanding for your children. To tune in to our whole spectrum of emotions means choosing to stand up for our families, our children. They are feeling and responding to emotions, just like you. When they seem afraid, cranky, lazy, know that your role is acceptance of your children, and in that acceptance, guidance.
Rather than cringing into a fear of not knowing—that teaches our boys to do the same—we are free to expand our emotional understanding. As we get active and broaden our existing awareness to recognize and trust all feelings, we become again the source of emotional balance our children need to trust themselves.
Broadening our emotional trust is hard work physically and mentally. It’s hard to go for a walk or a jog. It means challenging our bodies and minds.
Giving our children healthy fathers, physically and emotionally, is every man’s instinct. This effort is comparable to getting into healthy physical shape. Getting into healthy emotional shape requires going beyond old habits which offer the comfort of predictability.
These habits usually protect us from admitting and digesting hurt in our lives.
Men (fathers) have been excused from emotional exercise and growth long enough. It’s time to face our own responsibility to provide a healthy emotional environment by being one.
Steps To Becoming Emotionally Healthy
Develop a habit of knowing, accepting and communicating what you are feeling. The willingness to accept both comfortable and uncomfortable feelings offers this choice. Which will I use? You were made to feel and respond to both. Our children are made to feel and respond to both. Both are appropriate, depending on the moment. What is this moment asking?
Accept the feelings and consider them without choosing. Simply watch.
Your watching of your emotions, shaped with a fitness based on the best for your children can be helped by these types of questions:
1. When your child thinks of you, what do you want her/him to feel?
2. What emotion do you feel when you think of your father? What would you like to feel toward him?
3. Complete this statement: When I take my last breath I intend to say “I have lived a life that has been______.
4. Stop, notice your breathing, and breathe in and out the word you choose to describe the life you deem worthwhile.
5. a choice for another emotional current to run through our thoughts and bodies.
1. The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect 2006 p116
2. Ibid, p11
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