Expressing emotions

19 May, 2016

Men can struggle. Generally speaking, behind our stereotypical poker face lives a vulnerable chap. Often our boyhood experiences with both male and female role models (from our family, community and media culture) teach us that showing our feelings will most likely get us into trouble – sometimes big trouble (shamed, abused, attacked etc.).

As we grow into manhood the fact that we've been essentially trained to deny our fears, worries, and limitations, as well as our needs, wants and desires, means most of us are emotionally “repressed” and to varying degrees leading lives of “quiet desperation”. 

If we do not express our emotions we not only make our lives more difficult. This lack of expression also negatively impacts – and can even wreck – relationships with partners, children, family and colleagues. When we struggle to manage our own emotions, it is challenging for us to read and empathise with another person’s changing moods.
So generally what happens is we channel our frustration either externally into anger and aggression or sulking and playing the blame game, or we internalise (swallow) our difficult feelings. Then we are likely to either abuse ourselves (binge drink, drug, engage in risky behaviours) or become depressed. That’s the bad news in a nutshell.
The good news is, over time and with practice, we can learn to recognise and respond better to the changing emotions that come and go through our bodies like never-ending ocean waves. And just because we have a feeling about something doesn't mean we have to react to that feeling –especially by reacting in ways that make a mess of ourselves and our important relationships. 

By increasing our emotional smarts through self-help books, personal counselling or by attending a community education course such as Anger Management, we can empower ourselves by learning strategies to respond to our difficult emotions in ways that make us “safe” men.