“Little boys and little girls start off with similar psychological profiles. They are equally emotional, expressive, and dependent, equally desirous of physical affection. At the youngest ages, both boys and girls are more like a stereotypical girl. If any differences exist, little boys are, in fact, slightly more sensitive and expressive than little girls. They cry more easily, seem more easily frustrated, appear more upset when a caregiver leaves the room. Until the age of four or five, both boys and girls rest comfortably in what one researcher has called ‘the expressive-affiliative mode.’ Studies indicate that girls are permitted to remain in that mode while boys are subtly–or forcibly–pushed out of it.” Terence Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, pp. 123.
That quote is from one of the best books I have ever read on masculinity, especially as it pertains to the issue of depression and anger in men.
In fact, it was this book that led me to start paying more attention to the “messages” that men I was working with in therapy had started receiving early on as a little boy.
Messages like “Grow up.” “Don’t be a wuss.” “Be a man.” “Stop crying.”
Those early experiences informed a young boy on whether or not it was safe to express themselves and to be vulnerable. If it was not, then that boy had to find other ways to express how he was feeling…often in very unhealthy ways.
This also led me to start paying closer attention to the differing “messages” I was sending my son vs. my daughter as it pertains to emotional vulnerability. It was eye opening.
I write more about this topic in my upcoming book, What it Means to be a Man: God’s Design for Us in a World Full of Extremes.