I can be a very “emotional” person at times. I have strong reactions both to the good and the bad in life, both to beauty and horror. I tend to shed tears whenever I am in awe or hit between the eyes with human tragedy.
How would you describe your emotional landscape? Which emotions are you most afraid of? Has anyone ever “accused” you of being “emotional”? I can tell you this much, for a boy or man to be labeled “emotional” in this culture is practically a death sentence to his masculinity. For a woman to be labeled “emotional” is an affirmation of one of the worst stereotypes under which women have labored for centuries.
The expression of strong emotion for many men, especially in the media, seems to be limited to fighting, making love, protecting children, and sports. I wonder how many men secretly admire (or fear) Speaker of the House John Boehner for his free flow of tears whenever he is touched by events?
The limiting of men’s emotional expression comes from the archetype of the warrior. Men who have been trained in our warrior culture (extended to any potential conflict where he encounters an adversary, real or imagined) are taught to “suck it up” or “man up” (a term I find particularly repugnant). They are not to show feelings that might bring down the fighting spirit of the cohort or that might show compassion and understanding, signs of true weakness.
No doubt one needs to guard strong emotions in the midst of the “fight or flight” tension. The choice to fight, means having to bury, at least temporarily, fear, sadness, grief, and other emotions that can drain a warrior of the energy he needs in battle. An extension of this is maintaining a “game face” in the board room or work cubicle in order to gain the advantage over the opponent
But beyond actual war or serious negotiations, there is little need to bring the game face into every aspect of daily life. I recall vividly conversations I had with a number of fellow priests whenever I was trying to deal with church matters that meant a lot to me, including my leaving the ministry. Despite my passion and vulnerability, they usually responded with kind looks, “pastoral” nods, and careful listening…but with no matching emotional response. I would have at least appreciated someone telling me that they thought I was full of crap and why! It would have been better than their helpless indifference.
Which emotions do you express readily? Which ones do you hold in? How do you feel when you’re in the presence of another person’s strong emotions? How do you label yourself when and if you shed tears in public? Is anger easier for you to express than compassion and tenderness? Why? Just wondering….
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