Most of us guys from an early age are trained to mask our feelings and emote it when we are hurt or feel pain. We are immediately told, “Don’t be a punk”, “Are you a Sissy”, “Don’t be a bitch”, and “Suck it up”, if we dare show reaction. The result of this training is a continued generation of men that are emotionally inept except for being able to express anger, because what says alpha male better than thumping our chest and yelling angrily like Tarzan. Except Tarzan was a savage!
Why are men emotionally withdrawn?
If you are a man who depicts any kind of emotional range you are suspected of being gay, which is insane since no matter gender or sexual orientation we all should be striving to be emotionally balanced. Pent up feelings tend to manifest themselves through physical health symptoms or substance and alcohol abuse. Hence, even for our health it’s necessary to release these feelings in a healthy way.
Society’s training of the mentally compromised male has been so thorough that even some women, who often claim men don’t show their emotions; tend to find a man who has too much emotional range, as ‘soft’. There are many research and clinical studies that have proven this. In my work as a life coach I have several clients express that their relationships fall apart because their partner complains that they don’t listen, they are inept at expressing intimacy and they don’t support them. And usually my clients shrug it off as the other person being too ‘needy’.
How to show up in your relationships?
Whether we are involved in hetero, same sex or alternative relationships, men tend to be emotional vampires. We tend to heavily depend on the other person to fill our needs for intimacy, support and closeness while we barely reciprocate. This leads to unhealthy relationships which lead to more feelings of anger and blaming the other person of not understanding us, but how could they when we don’t understand ourselves? Even when we show up for the other person, we treat it as a chore and want store credit for it. Instead should we not show up because we care and want the other person to know we care by “being present” not just there wishing for it to be over. Usually when these relationships end we return to what is the ‘norm’, which is to get drunk, get laid and get resentful of the other person. We rarely make the decision to step back, evaluate ourselves and remedy OUR issues.
The healthiest relationships happen when both individuals are giving equally from a place of wellness. It means the flow of energy (support and caring) is balanced and no one partner is making greater sacrifices than the other but both are giving from a place of fullness.
As men, we have to take our emotional well-being into our own hands and find a healthy way to express our feelings. By no means am I suggesting we start crying at commercials or while watching The Notebook but we must escape from only allowing ourselves to display feelings and affection when participating in or watching sporting events. “Normative male alexithymia” is a term that came about because most men don’t seek help with our social anxiety and mental health issues. Or when we do, we are reluctant to fully engage and be open to talking about our issues.
Fear and Vulnerability
It is no longer feasible for us to bury our emotions until we explode in an extremely negative way. Men, unlike women, are not taught to be open to sharing feelings. Showing vulnerability is being weak. Well damn it, sometimes we ARE weak and require support. Even SUPERMAN gets weakened by Kryptonite so what of us humans? Males crave intimacy the same way females do. The difference is that we reduce it to just sexual. A hug, being held or just cuddling are treated as women’s needs, our ability to be non- sexually affectionate has been crippled.
It is easier for most guys to express love for a professional athlete than it is for a close male friend, that’s how much our perception and accepted social norms have been warped. We have to reduce it to silly terms like “bromance”, which has again a hint of inappropriateness, if two males express care and intimacy towards each other. This causes immense anxiety internally because even if we felt like expressing, we suppress that feeling out of fear of being misunderstood or incorrectly labeled.
Can emotionally unavailable men change?
Usually, we have very surface conversations with even our closest peers; rarely do we discuss deep thoughts that are causing us anxiety and personal anguish. Our deep depression is often hidden until it manifests in the most dramatic of ways, including suicide. We must find outlets to help us learn how to comfortably express the full range of our feelings. Some of those outlets are therapists, life coaches and men’s groups.
We no longer have to display our manhood by pretending to be terminator like machines with limited human expressions; we can override our programming and reclaim our emotional health. We are capable of giving love, in all its forms and receiving it, after all is that not the human experience.
Change is possible and it doesn’t occur overnight. It is a step by step process and we have to invite supporters to help. It will feel uncomfortable, after-all we are trying to hack our brains. When we get there though it will feel good, not to mention how it affects how we show up in the world and the positive effects on those around us.