“Real men cry” – How many times have you heard an expression like this? Have you ever put any thought in to just how wrong such expressions are? Real men do this, real men don’t do that. Enough already with this “real” man thing. The only thing that makes a man a real man is his biology. The fact that he has a penis. Not how he presents himself, not his sexual orientation and definitely not how he chooses to express his emotions.
As a global society, we are to blame for men not wanting show vulnerability and express their emotions, because for eons men have been chastised for showing their emotions, humiliated and made out as “less of a man” for doing so. How much subconscious pressure has that created? I sometimes wonder how much of an “intelligent” species we are because we imprison ourselves with these standards and norms that hold us back from reaching our full potential and highest expression of ourselves.
There are so many expectations set for men when it comes to emotionally difficult times that we sometimes forget that they too are human with the full range of emotions that humans can experience. But they are so conditioned to always “stay strong” and “take care of their families” that they reach the point where they either freeze up and become completely numb to any sort of emotions (including the warmer emotions of love and joy) or they become walking time bombs of bottled up anger and sadness that eventually explode into derailing depression – because expressing themselves as a normal human with emotions makes them weak. Is it worth it?
Imagine a world where men are allowed to openly talk about what they are feeling and going through. Not being conditioned from childhood that “boys don’t cry”, “stop being such a girl about it”, “take it like a man”, but are instead supported and protected during their vulnerable times, allowed to express their emotions in any way they feel fit to and to work through their emotions and heal the parts of them that get triggered.
How can we support men to unlearn this conditioning? How do we help them break free of this emotional prison they are in? This is probably the most difficult thing to do, so best we at least start by raising the new generation of men in an emotionally safe and supportive environment. But for the adults, we need to start with supporting them when they try to express themselves. Not to make fun of them when they try to show love and affection, making them feel shy or like a child. Appreciate the small ways they express these higher emotions. Accept it and thank them for it and slowly they will come out more and more – but if they are going to be met with shame and being made fun of for trying; I guarantee it will stop.
As for the down times, when they are struggling with sadness, depression or grief, it is important to let them express it in any way they feel fit, without validating their emotions, without telling them how much of a good job they are doing expressing themselves and definitely without telling them how they should be doing it. Babying a grown man through difficult emotions will let him retract deeper into himself. Instead, simply acknowledge that they are hurting and make them feel secure by holding space for them and allowing them to be vulnerable; allowing them to work through these emotions in their own way – even if it means just being quiet and cold. If they feel supported and loved when they internalize their lower emotions, they will eventually feel safe enough to express them externally as well. But being told they “need to let it out” is as good as cementing that emotional door shut for them.
For those men who know they struggle with expressing their emotions and want to consciously work on it, there are many avenues they can explore for help and support. Counselling with a psychotherapist is a great start for example. To have a space of no judgement, talking to a stranger who doesn’t know them or anyone they know, may allow them to just start pouring out their internal dialogue with their troubles, leading to understanding of their patterns and then being guided to navigate these feelings.
There are holistic techniques and practices that can help with emotional sensitivity and expression too; great examples are Reiki, meditation and mindfulness practices that can help them open up to themselves and learn healthy ways of expressing and managing emotions. Becoming mindful of your emotions, constantly aware of and in touch with how you are feeling, makes it a great deal easier to deal with your emotions as you understand where they come from and can therefor control where they go.
The key lies in that we need to allow men to be vulnerable without being rushed, made fun of or judged. We need to change the way we address things if we want to allow growth and evolution to take place. Let us rephrase what it is we want to portray so that we may speak life! It takes strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable and it is in true vulnerability that you open up to your highest potential and expression.