Since we were very young, we men have been conditioned into suppressing, avoiding, and coping with our emotions.
We learned from our fathers, from older boys, and from society at large how to do this, and most of this happened without our even being aware of it.
By hardening our hearts to what we didn’t want to feel, we lost touch with the most precious parts of ourselves, and now, most of us find ourselves in a position where we are run by our emotional experiences, and we don’t even know it.
BENEATH THE SURFACE
Coping is something we all do to offset the intensity of emotion we’re constantly experiencing beneath the surface of our shiny characters and neatly organized realities. When we ignore or suppress our ‘emotional bodies’, they intensify, and try to get our attentions in different ways.
Our women may nag us and harass us, labeling us “emotionally unavailable”. We may feel a deep longing for intimacy and connection, but feel overwhelmed, and like we don’t even know where to begin. We may notice we drink too much or eat too much, but that they’re some of the only ways we can ever feel “good”. Or, we may notice that we’re completely numb, and feel nothing at all.
All of this can shift. None of us is so shut down that we can never feel again. When we decide we no longer want to push away this all-important, colorful, very alive aspect of ourselves, we can slowly make progress toward reconnecting with the ocean of our own emotional experiences.
For the guys reading who think this is all a bunch of “sissy talk”, I hear you. That’s how we’ve been conditioned to feel about emotion, and for a long time, that’s how I related to mine, too. But, it’s just not true. A feeling man is, in fact, a courageous man.
THE LITTLE BOY
The reason we cope, and the reason we suppress or avoid our feelings, is because inside of each of us a little boy who is feeling so, so much that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He was never taught how to handle his emotional experience, so he does whatever he can to stop feeling so much.
He eats. Or, he fights. Or, he shuts down. Or, he hides. Or, he sets out to conquer the world.
What’s your little boy’s go to? How does he offset the intensity of his emotional experience?
Mine fights. He gets irritated and controlling, and throws tantrums. It’s like this monster takes over, and starts throwing grenades in all directions as a way of forcing everyone around him back on their heels.
It’s very effective, let me tell you.
Bringing awareness to the ways in which we cope with our emotional experiences is a crucial step in being able to rewrite our relationships to them. We start to realize that, with this newfound awareness, we are able to be there for ourselves in ways we were never able to before. We notice that, though we’re hurting, and though we’re feeling intensely, it’s much, much better to feel whatever is there than it is to ignore our feelings and cope with them instead.
There’s an incredible sense of relief to it.
WE’RE WORTH IT
This is really all it takes for a man to begin to reunite with his emotional body. Just a simple willingness to look at what’s going on, and to feel whatever is there. Then, the healing begins.
I know, it’s so much easier said than done, but, in bite sized chunks, it’s doable. It might take years, and the support of those who love us, but it’s doable.
And, aren’t we worth it? We deserve our tears. We deserve our own hearts. We deserve to feel, to enjoy intimacy, and to connect with our world in this way. There’s nothing “strong” about disconnection, as we’ve been led to believe. Somewhere along the way, some guys, who were terrified of their feelings, created this idea that “real men don’t feel”, and it caught on.
Even though that’s now an almost completely solid paradigm in this world, we now have the opportunity to break free of that old paradigm and start living something different today. We just need permission, and these words are meant to serve as that permission for any man who reads them.
Let’s let go of the clever ways we try to convince the world and ourselves that we are “strong” and that we are “fine”. We aren’t fooling anyone but ourselves, and all the while, we’re the ones who are suffering.
REMOVING THE MASK
I was the cockiest mofo for the longest time, putting my smug face on everywhere I went as a way of giving off an image of perfect confidence. But, underneath that act and that mask was an insecure guy who was in a world of turmoil. I was suffering, and I so didn’t want to acknowledge it that I actually bought my own act.
It was only when my woman—who loves me dearly and sees straight through me—showed up, that we began to tear the whole thing down. And, wow, has it been liberating! I didn’t realize how exhausting it was to keep up the act and wear the mask all day, everyday. It required an enormous amount of energy, and all because I was afraid to feel.
I eventually realized that the cockiness and the smugness was my inner child’s way of trying to get my parents’ approval, and slowly but surely, as I began to tear the act down, I began to heal. I began to feel my inherent worthiness, and that I didn’t need to be anything other than who I am to be worthy of love.
This is what’s available to each man when he commits to listening to and honoring his emotional body. He gains access to the acceptance and wisdom of his own heart, which gives him perfect permission to be who he really is. And, it’s through this process that we as men find our freedom. The freedom we’ve been so desperately trying to achieve ‘out there’ in the world.
FREE AT LAST
The freedom we’re constantly seeking isn’t ‘out there’. It’s ‘in here’, in our feeling experiences. When we no longer run away from the intensity of our own emotional experiences in the ways we’ve learned to since we were little boys, we finally find relief. We finally find healing. We finally find our precious freedom.
Let’s commit to ourselves in this way today. No matter what the status of our relationships are with our emotional bodies right now, we can take small steps in the direction of being present with our feelings today. It might be confronting and painful, but not more painful than spending one more moment abandoning ourselves.
We can do this. We can be free. We can connect with, and live from, those tender little boys and their powerfully alive hearts, once again.
Note: I recommend the book The Presence Process by Michael Brown to all readers. It has been one of the keys to reconnecting with and cleansing my emotional body in a healthy, loving, and liberating way.
Photo: Getty Images