Over the years I have spoken to thousands of men who don’t register the importance of understanding their feelings. Any mention of feelings to some men is often met with laughter or a hardened face and raised eyebrows.
Men are scared of feelings as they simply haven’t been taught as a society to know how to be aware, understand, process and deal with thoughts and emotions that can become intrusive, can create anxiety, sadness, loneliness, despair and fear.
These feelings are often met with an urge to overwork, drink, take drugs, overuse video games or TV, seek validation outside of relationships and partake in dangerous pursuits.
Now, as always, this is not saved only for men. As women, I do believe we are given a greater opportunity to show our feelings, understand them and seek help.
Another reason why men are scared of feelings
Another reason men are scared of feelings is they were often brought up to be strong, hide emotion, deal with things on the footy field, be tough and get on with things. That a man is not to complain about health in any way. One of the many reasons men seek help at much later stages than women.
The men I know were taught to go to work no matter what. In pain, feeling sick, feeling down, or injured. It simply didn’t matter. The job was to turn up, do your job and provide for those around you.
We have only just started to teach men that we got it wrong. Many are only just starting to be more aware of how to help boys to grow with a healthy self -image that has everything to do with understanding themselves and nothing to do with how tough they are.
I do speak with some people who confuse this with men being weak.
This is still a narrative very much in circulation in society today not just for grown men, but for the next generation. Removing winners and losers from kids sport and just awarding everyone a ‘Participation’ Medal? Please.
That’s just rubbish, and that taking competition away from our youth does nothing to teach them about the importance of failing and falling on your feet.
Further to that, it’s vital that we teach all our men, of all ages, that health in all its forms (both physical and mental) comes first.
That having feelings is a human experience and how we deal with them is what makes us strong, not how we avoid them. That it’s perfectly warranted to seek professional help when you feel something in your body is not quite right and in learning how to understand your body, so when something isn’t right you know how to listen and respond to these signals.
That looking after yourself is not “girly”, needing or wanting affection is natural and that needing and wanting communication and someone who wants to listen and to know how your day is, is also an important part of life.
It has always fascinated me that as humans we need each other, we are designed to be part of a team, yet many have been taught that they need to travel the world alone, or at least partly alone.
I still speak to men and I imagine I will for some time, who don’t like asking for help, who are always happy to provide help for their loved ones, but find it very difficult to ask for any kind of help.
Whether that be someone to listen to them, someone to drive them to an appointment, someone to get something at the shops for them, or someone to give them directions (that one was a joke).
I understand that men feel great when needed, that fixing things is a confidence booster and that doing a great job is vital for recognition and significance.
Understanding why men are scared of feelings helps us to recognise, if men were to learn the skills of listening to their body, if men were to understand how to deal with and process their feelings, instead of needing to run away from them or hide from them because any feelings that are negative that come up simply don’t feel good and therefore need to be hidden, run away from or pushed down with any other means, if men were to understand that being vulnerable is one of the toughest things you can do, what would that world look like?
I see it as a world of well adjusted, happy men, knowing how to communicate and enjoy life. Knowing their body and what constitutes health and what doesn’t. When a visit to a medical professional is needed and when a day off is important.
When asking for a hug is ok (it’s always ok) and when talking things out is perfectly healthy (again, the answer is always).
If we could provide this space for men, as a partner, as a friend, as a medical professional, as a teammate, as an employer and an employee, as a community and a society, I do believe the world would be very different.
The next question is how do we educate and guide men into this space?
Watch out for the next blog for these tips.