It is not unusual for me to be sitting across from a man in my therapy office as he relays to me the story about when he first learned that it was not okay for boys to cry. It is usually a very powerful moment. I have heard men of all ages and backgrounds tell this story. And though the characters and contexts are different, the take away message is always the same. It is not safe for men to show emotions.
One of the more powerful moments came in my work with a man in his 70’s as he recalled with tears in his eyes that incident 70 years earlier when his father told him to stop crying. That event was 70 years ago and it had a profound shaping affect on that man’s understanding of masculinity and what defines it.
I am super passionate about helping men identify their feelings. Because if a man can identify them, understand them, name them…have words and language for them…he often begins to not only understand himself better, but so do those people in relationship with him. He begins to own his own story in the words of Brene Brown in Rising Strong. And once he can begin to identify his feelings then we are off and running. He then learns to be able to connect those feelings to the negative coping behaviors that he has probably, and automatically, operated out of most of his life. And it’s this awareness that I know eventually leads to powerful change for that man. For without the awareness, one cannot change.
I’ve seen men’s lives changed in this process and it has changed my life as well. So it’s important to me to help you better understand why men have a hard time connecting to their emotions, and what role you may play in that for good or bad.
In this episode I explore:
- our culture’s pressure on men to not cry and to just “be a man.”
- how boys are as equally expressive as young girls…but then why that changes.
- how a man can begin the process of identifying and connecting to his feelings/emotions
- what role the people in men’s lives have in either perpetuating the belief that it’s not okay for men to cry…or in helping create a safe place for men to be vulnerable.
- how to create a safe space for men to be vulnerable.
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Two Words You Should Never Tell a Boy (blog post)
What it Means to be a Man: God’s Design for Us in a World Full of Extremes by Rhett Smith
I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terence Real