When men aren’t raised to use emotion in their personal process, they develop other methods of managing emotions. Not because they just can’t be bothered to process their emotions but because they were, one way or the other, conditioned not to.
There are so many effects of this conditioning or form of self-protection that present frequently in my private coaching practice.
Here is a list of just some of the negative ways this protection or way of managing impacts men:
- Being perceived as less emotional
- Being perceived as unaffected by difficult experiences
- A built-in feeling of shame associated with feelings that were previously shut down or rejected
- A reaction of denying and separating self from emotions
- Partners who unconsciously override them as a man with this history will minimize their actual feelings
- They are cut off from parts of themselves which limits the courage needed to be authentic
- An inability to self -regulate in a helpful manner
- Over or under reacting to emotional situations, for example suppressing needs followed by an outburst in behavior.
Men who have been conditioned or who self-protect in this way require a partner who has a high level of emotional intelligence and the ability to separate themselves from their partners feelings and needs.
Most partners intend to be helpful, however they can easily overlook their own investment in the man in their life’s way of managing emotion.
It is not uncommon in my coaching practice for a partner to say ” I want him to share his feelings more with me” and then become reactive when his feelings don’t match their ideal feelings for him.
We do this unconsciously, however that doesn’t take away from the impact or what it reinforces within our relationships.
To be more helpful, partners of men need to be reflective and aware of the contribution they make to the unwritten rule of emotion and masculinity.
For instance, if your male partner struggles to express or clarify emotion, berating or critiquing their way of expressing can reinforce that they can’t “do” emotion effectively which further feeds their sense of shame.
Learn to understand that emotion is always present, with or without awareness, and become focused on your own emotions and reactions during engagement with the men in your life.
Appreciate the efforts he makes and the unique way he goes about managing his emotions. Respect that, to date, this was his only way of managing.
Take responsibility for your own needs and the way you go about getting them met, rather than reinforcing stereotypes.
Look at your own bias in relation to beliefs how about how men should be or what are appropriate emotions for men.
Watch how you react to the expression of emotion to the men in your life.
A large proportion of men are struggling with their emotions and sense of self and it didn’t happen in isolation. It is because it is reinforced, what I imagine is on a daily basis and by very well intentioned people, through a lack of understanding or awareness. Often the partners of these men fall into that bracket too.
As a side note, when men struggle with emotion it is not just their own emotions they struggle with but the expression of emotions that may require something of them, something they aren’t comfortable providing. In this, the relating becomes challenging because when you share emotion that he isn’t comfortable with he also has to manage that.
It is too easy to blame, judge or critique if he isn’t doing it the way you need and expect. It is much harder to look at your own contribution to the dynamic and take responsibility for that. I am not suggesting that you need to put up with an emotionally absent partner, but I am suggesting you bring an appreciation and respect to the way your partner does their best with any given situation. And if that doesn’t suffice, then your next option is to look at what you need from the situation and how you can request that in a more effective way.
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