Joe Rutland challenges men to feel outside the gender box.
Sad, mad, bad, anger and joy are what I call the “basic emotional food group” for men. But I do have a good secret (hey, a good secret!) to share with you all. Men have deep, broad, and wide emotional ranges. Men can feel exuberant, sensual, joyful, blissful, frustrated, happy, grateful, pain, excited, emotionally orgasmic and more.
So a few questions to ponder: Where the hell does this idea come from that men and their emotional spirituality, if you will, is limited to three or four emotions? Is it from our “men must work, work, work” culture? Is it from our “men should not show their emotions publicly” mentality?
Or is it all in our childhood programming, where parents have reinforced that men keep their emotions in check? “Don’t you cry, boy, or I’ll give you a whipping,” a father tells his son. “You know that your tantrum is wrong. This is shameful behavior,” a mother says to her son. (Mind you, these messages – albeit tweaked in a sense – can be given to women, too).
As an adult male, I’ve noticed that my emotional internal makeup grows broader and stronger as I get in tune with the “inner soul” of my being. This, in turn, puts me in touch with my spiritual life.
How can emotions be tied to spirituality? Let me toss this out as a hypothesis for all of us. Emotions (which, as others smarter than me have pointed out, are simply “energy in motion”) can be an inner reflection of how centered and grounded I am to the outer world. Look folks, I’m no saint and I’m never going to be honored in The Vatican, OK. That’s not too important to my emotional and spiritual well-being. What is important is that I feel my emotions—all of them—and don’t judge them too harshly.
Hey, it’s pretty cool to have names for these emotions that run through my body. You and I can share experiences that have brought our emotions to higher levels of consciousness. For instance, taking a walk in nature, going for a long run or road cycling can make me feel joyous, connected, and loved. For others, it could be gathering in a community of like-minded men and “doing your soul work.”
Let me also not leave out how important it is for many men to be connected to their church, synagogue or temple for religious and spiritual worship and activities. These all can raise a man’s emotional state to levels that bring comfort, connection, and a great sense of the Divine.
Please note, there are no hard-and-fast rules around understanding your emotional landscape. It’s a holy experience and it’s yours alone. As I am writing this piece, I’m listening to Bobby Darin sing “Pete Kelly’s Blues.” My emotions are, in this moment, joy, happiness, tenderness, compassion, and an incredible sense of awe.
Some of these are stirred by listening to Darin; others are from writing this piece with the intention and hope of helping others. Oh yeah, my narcissistic ego is in check. Not showing up on my emotional radar screen—yet I know that son of a bitch is there. Maybe you can see it and I can’t. That’s OK with me. If none of this makes a lick of sense because you can’t “feel” your emotions, then rest assured that you’re not alone. It took me until I was into my 30s before I started to feel my feelings and was able to name them.
I remember after I started doing some deep work on my own life that a confidante asked me to share my feelings with him right at the moment. I looked up at the diner’s ceiling in Houston, Texas, straining to find some feeling or emotion inside to share. I said, “Um, sadness?”
It was a question, not coming from a place of grounded certainty. There are times, even today, where I’ll be in that spot. Not for long, though. The work continues and my emotional landscape keeps growing and developing each day. This is a lifelong trip, man. Emotions are good to feel, even those that either are great or suck. Feeling them means that you are alive, damn it. Sure as hell beats the alternative.
Let me know when your first “happy tears” drops from your eyes. Share it with your family, friends and loved ones. If there aren’t any around, then share it with the big universe. Look up into the bright blue sky or star-drenched, moon-shining night.
Most important, love yourself and your emotions. You are worth it, my man.