Updated: Aug 20, 2021
What emotion are you feeling right now? Yes, right now. Take a minute....
The emotion you are feeling right now is your emotional feeling state. What feeling are you noticing in your body right now? That is your physical feeling state. Now, which one took you the most time to figure out? I'm going to bet (if you are a man) it was your emotional feeling state. Why? Because, as children, little boys are sent gendered messages discouraging them from feeling their emotions...especially those not deemed "manly". Sadness was discouraged. People tell little boys to stop crying, toughen up. "Don't be a sissy!" Later, it's worse..."Don't be a pussy!" Our heroes are not sad. So, as far as sadness goes, we learn to feel something else instead. Frustration...that could work.
Frustration has been described as a low burning anger or irritable feeling. Frustration is an emotional catch-all, and it's a trap. Can't be sad, because "whimps are sad"? Chuck it into frustration. Can't be angry because others say, "You're scary when you're angry!" dial the anger down (repress it!) a few notches and merge it into frustration. If you feel like you can't be true to your feeling state, be frustrated. Frustration can easily be detected by nonverbal communication. Body language, eye contact, tone of voice, volume, inflection/emphasis...all say, "something is wrong with this guy." We can visit, and even reside, in frustration for a period of time before we can no longer control it from spilling over into anger. When this happens, the anger is explosive...extreme...rage...and we behave in regrettable ways. We say things we wish we hadn't. We must apologize for our actions and words after this emotional event. Has this ever happened to you? This emotional experience feels out of control, but it is TOTALLY IN our control to prevent these events from happening.
The effect of repressed emotions on our bodies result in activation of our body's natural stress response. Cortisol is released by our adrenal gland, shutting down non-essential body functions to deal with the perceived threat. (Click here to learn more.) The long-term consequences of being constantly adrenalized are depression, anxiety, weight gain and inability to concentrate (to name a few). In addition, our relationships suffer. That confusion others feel to which I eluded above? People have no idea what the problem is with us, and they don't get close to figure it out. They guess what it is, get it wrong and keep their distance, making isolation another byproduct of repressed emotions.
If it seems a lot easier to learn to become aware of our feelings, curious about why they exist and to find ways to express them with ownership, you're right! It's healthier too! The Rule Book for Feeling Manly Emotions is bullshit. It's time to recognize that we must kick the repression habit.
Keep reading future blog posts to learn how you can be the man in touch with his feeling state.