Men have been given a head-start on emotional mastery even if we don’t realize it.
We get a bad rap as men. Emotionally devoid, emotionally distance, emotionless — well you know as well as I do what people think of men. We get trained from birth to be this way regardless of whether we want to to or not and everyone now considers it a problem.
Yet if we are trained to be this then we aren’t deficient, quite the opposite in fact. We train to regulate and manage our emotions; we are quite competent at this. It enables us to squish spiders, get up in the night to check a noise, ask girls out and face rejection, do dangerous jobs, kill for our country, and die for those we love. Oh yes we are competent alright, contrary to society’s belief in us, but why did we stop our apprenticeship at just one tool. When all you have is a hammer though then all emotions start to look like nails. Hang on, I’m feeling, BAM, BAM, BAM, there, nailed that sucker down. This competency is great and all in the middle of the night when you are wondering what that noise is downstairs, not so good in other situations when we are trying to engender trust and honest communication.
We could learn how to use the vice, take the time to notice what we are feeling and grasp it tight. Hold it so we can look it, admire its beauty in how it links memory and thought to create experience and action. Take the time to separate it into its component parts; that grey line running through the middle, fear, this causes me to hesitate; that red line, that’s anger at myself for listening to my doubts yet look at the golden core, can you feel it, that’s my pride in being capable. You can master the vice if you wish but it takes practice. You have to pause your thinking, look to what you feel, what it makes you want to do, what memories it evokes. It take a lot of practice to grasp these quicksilver feelings, time and time again you will miss catching your emotions, but master this skill and the world of introspection is at your command, held still in a vice.
Why not pick up the plane and master this. You can’t beat dents out with a hammer, to truly smooth things out you need a plane. We all have things we do instinctively because of the way we feel; we sabotage ourselves when we are ashamed, we fight or run when afraid and we get excited when joyous. To a large degree we use our thoughts to justify the things we already feel, like when we are angry we don’t listen because we justify it as propaganda from an enemy, but if we weren’t angry at the other person would we justify not listening the same way. Shave the roughness out of these thoughts, when thinking of the things that made you angry temper anger with the feelings when that person has been helpful. Your memories are intimately linked to your feelings, when you remember the past you remember how you feel. Master the skill of consciously choosing to remember the duality of both good and bad memories, follow the feelings connected to these memories. You can’t justify your anger at volume 11 whilst at the same time remembering this person is also sometimes good. It takes lots of patience and many failures to master the plane, you won’t want to do this though, you want your joy, pain, love, rage or whatever emotion you have to be pure, but pure emotions lead to some very rough decisions.
What about the chisel, a most useful tool to master. While holding your emotions in a vice and smoothing them out is a useful talent sometimes you will want more. Thoughts, feelings, memories, feelings, thoughts and around and around it goes. There are times when you will want to choose a feeling and use it to color the way you see the world, interact with the world, and shape the very world around you. You can choose this if you train hard. You can choose to be the rain at a party, or the rainbow. You can choose to enter a negotiation as a partner, or a hostile combatant. You can choose to chisel away the feelings you don’t want and bring forth the emotion you do want. “Thought”, think of the emotion you are after. “Feel” the emotion as it is by itself. “Remember” similar situations where you have felt this feeling. “Feel” this emotion belonging to that memory. “Thought”, let that feeling influence your thoughts. Back and forth, let it cut around the heart and remove that which isn’t needed. Master the chisel and the world is yours to change.
We are men and we can be masters. We have already been trained in the hammer, useful, but we can be masters of more. We don’t need to simply spit out what our emotions in a mess at our feet and expect someone to pick them up. No, we can be masters. We can take our emotions, hold them still, smooth them out and cut a creation of the emotional person we want to be. We can create our own profile and we won’t need to speak to the world to tell them what we feel. What we create with the skills we have mastered will permeate our every action and word. Feelings, actions and words will always be in alignment and there will be no confusion as to your emotional state.
Photo: Flickr/Neil Turner
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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