Name a man who wasn’t indoctrinated to believe he shouldn’t have feelings - that he should ignore them. I’m not sure he exists. Even men who have learned not to ignore their emotions, had to learn not to ignore their emotions.
Think of the ways we use the word “emotional.” It’s never positive. The word itself is met with resistance. Most males spend their entire lives resisting their emotions. And, the resistance is exhausting.
One morning in late 2018, I walked into my therapist’s office and plopped down on her sofa, releasing the type of sigh one often does when they arrive home after a long day’s work.
“This is exhausting,” I said.
“What is exhausting,” she asked.
I was talking about experiencing emotional discomfort. I was at a place in my life when it was time to stop avoiding the pain of the losses and disappointments I had endured. Like most men, I had trained myself to avoid the emotional distress and just keep going. I pretended it wasn’t there. Of course, I wasn’t pretending all the time. By this point, I had spent years working on personal growth and emotional well being. I knew all the facts.
I knew how much it hurt to be a little boy whose parents were much older than those of his peers. I knew what it was like to be the recipient of relentless insults and cruelty from an older brother with whom I was dying to connect. I knew the terror of picking up a drink, over and over again, after telling myself I was done with it forever, over and over again. I knew the disappointment of a father, divorced from his son’s mother after spending his entire life promising himself he would never put a child through that.
I knew pain.
That morning, in that office, Dr. Donna Marks, who by this time I had come to respect and trust, said something that seemed to me a revelation.
“It’s not the pain that’s exhausting,” she said. “It’s your resistance to it that’s exhausting.”
Yes, I knew all the facts. I knew the sources of all the pain. But, I had been avoiding the pain itself my entire life. I had been engaged in a perpetual cycle of distraction. When I hurt I drank, or I watched TV, or I pursued a woman, or I spent, or I obsessed, or I worked, or I played guitar, or I talked, or I did something else rather than be present with the pain, and feel it until it passed.
I never just felt it, because I was taught not to feel it.
Consider all the times you’ve seen this take place in a television show or a film. A man or a woman learns of the death of a loved one, or that their spouse is having an affair, and the moment the gravity of the situation begins to set in, they reach for the liquor. Or, the person there to deliver the troubling news offers them a drink, insisting they will need it, even before telling them why.
This is how we handle painful emotions in our society. We avoid them. We resist them. We blot them out.
As a culture, we are all more or less estranged from our emotions. And, this is particularly true with men. We emerge from the womb, crying out in tears to announce ourselves and our arrival to the world. Then, as males, we are essentially taught that we should never cry again. And, although the messages we get about this have gradually become slightly more healthy, the expression of all emotions, especially sadness, is still taboo.
Again, most males spend their entire lives resisting their emotions. The resistance exhausts us.
And, we wonder why men are lost.
Men are lost, because men are numb, because men are exhausted, because men pretend not to experience emotions.
Think about it. Our emotions invariably color our life experience, in good ways and bad. Like it or not, they are essential to who we are as human beings. If we are avoiding our emotions, we are avoiding ourselves. If we are at odds with our emotions, we are at odds with ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time we, collectively, make peace with emotions. When more of us are at peace with our emotions, more of us will be at peace with ourselves.
Thanks for reading. Please share it with someone who’ll appreciate it.
Much more to come.
Have a great weekend,
Yes I agree