Big Boys Can Cry
– Khadeeja Rana
Constricted by the society’s definitions of the ideal man, a stream of tears down his face in the face of an adversity is thought to strip a man of his masculinity. Does it make any sense? Absolutely not! Not until we understand emotions and their relation (or the lack thereof) with the “tougher” gender.
We are led to believe that men must suppress their emotions, all of them, except anger of course. It is somehow perfectly okay to show aggression and be violent, but a no-no to show sadness, tears… This is so because we are caught in a double bind, put on us by society, the “fairer” gender, and men themselves. The double bind says that we should be more in touch with our emotions (read: emotionally intelligent) and yet, at the same time, be tough, macho, Mr. Fix-It..
These role expectations, though necessary for a balanced society can often put undue emotional stress on the Mr Fix-It. Ironic as it sounds, let’s look at why:
William Pollack says in his book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myth; this stress causes higher rates of depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and substance abuse. Beyond the fog lies clarity; now we can see how myths about expressing emotion leads to emotional problems. Anything that is suppressed is bound to come out in uglier ways. Men go as far as thriving on the myth that to be a man you must pretend to “feel nothing” while its of course not possible to feel nothing.
Dr. Pollack believes that men are given an “emotional funnel” to express their feelings while they are still young. All of their emotions: sadness, fear, anxiety, and frustration are acceptable if they are skillfully translated into one emotion: Anger! That’s cause all other emotions are for women. So what turns out to be a cover-up for other emotions, such as sadness or powerlessness is anger or aggressive behaviors, which are in fact symptoms of hidden emotional urges.
Wouldn’t the world be a much nicer and kinder place, if men were allowed to experience and express emotions. Because after all emotions have no gender. They dwell in the brain stem, which regulates our involuntary functions and basic drives, such as eating, and sleeping. Emotions come from and are related to some of the most primitive and primary areas of our brains. Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence states that men and women have the same emotional capacity, but they are taught very different lessons about how to handle their emotions. Parents tend to discuss emotions more with daughters than sons. In studies of parents telling their children stories, girls are told stories more heavily laden with emotional words and situations than are boys. Mothers display a wider range of emotions when playing with their daughters than when they are playing with their sons. And even when parents talk to their children about emotions, they use more emotional descriptions with girls than with boys. Again, it all boils down to parenting.
To put a long story short, its time to stop the foolish stuff about “big boys don’t cry” and realize that there indeed is a woman in every man and vice versa. We should encourage communication rather than repression, and connection rather than disconnection. It’s time to stop complaining about men’s lack of emotional availability and aggressiveness by taking down the double bind. It is true that men have a problem expressing themselves but can we see why it is there in the first place? Let’s take off the pressure on men to be always under control, emotionally calm.. Turn the emotional funnel around and let all of the emotions come out, safely and in a healthy manner. Yes, big boys can, and should cry.