One of the most deeply held beliefs of some men is vulnerability is weakness.
Consequently, they dismiss and disapprove of their own, (and maybe their partner’s), vulnerability.
They also miss out on the most powerful aspects of human relationships because vulnerability enhances love, empathy and acceptance.
Too many men find themselves isolated in their relationship when the get stuck in this limiting belief system.
Where does this limiting belief come from?
Boys are often taught by parents, unconsciously and sometimes explicitly, to hide their feelings. It’s how the big boys don’t cry mantra develops. This belief can be perpetuated by teachers, friends, society and popular media.
Whilst I believe we are getting better at teaching emotional acceptance to boys/men there are still many men who have learnt to mask their emotional lives.
It’s not that their vulnerability is absent, it’s just well hidden.
When boys grow into men relating emotionally the only way they know, which is to dismiss or disapprove of their feelings the hiding or masking of their emotions becomes a vicious cycle.
I’ve discovered through my own experience and consulting with thousands of men the following 21 ways in which men hide.
Men who are largely emotionally dismissive are certainly warm and loving guys. However, emotional self-care has some distinct limits in relation to being open to expressing negative emotions.
1. Ignore their feelings
2. Believe it’s important only to be positive and not dwell on negatives
3. Become highly intolerant towards feeling sad, angry, scared etc.
4. Distract themselves from their emotions
5. Dismiss sadness as weakness.
6. Control or hide anger
7. Hide all their feelings.
8. View their feelings as trivial
9. Want their negative emotions to disappear quickly
10. Insist their emotions need fixing
11. Minimize their feelings by downplaying including joking and laughing
Men who are emotionally disapproving tend to have a harsher more strict emotional landscape. It may be they grew up in an environment where emotions were punished as bad behaviour.
They are more likely to:
12. Judge and criticise their emotions
13. Restrict their emotional expression
14. View emotions as behaviour that needs to be controlled
15. See sadness as being manipulative
16. Highly disapprove of their anger
17. Believe negative emotions are unhealthy parts of themselves
18. Believe showing emotions is weak and that they must be tough to survive
19. Not show their own emotions unless very angry or depressed.
20. Control all negative emotions
21. Believe negative emotions are unproductive and a waste of time
These 21 responses to emotion have significant negative effects on men and their relationships. There are behaviours and patterns of thinking and communicating that can emerge within relationships forming the basis of major conflict.
It’s when some men:
Believe something is wrong with them because of what they feel
Act out their feelings with destructive behaviour
Suffer with low self esteem and confidence when their coping mechanisms backfire
Suffer with depression and anxiety as they push down their emotions
Use excessive alcohol or drugs to manage
Avoid all conflict
Lose their sexual appetite
Withdraw and disconnect from their partner
Behave with aggression or anger toward their partner.
Become ambivalent toward relationship commitment
Relationships can become surface level, lack depth, intimacy and get stuck in negative
patterns of relating. These relationships have:
Partners who portray a strong sense of independence and self sufficiency
Partners who don’t seem to need anybody.
Partners who push each other away
Partners who feel alone, isolated and unsupported
Men need to find better ways to understand their vulnerability. The opportunity is to learn to accept and share their thoughts and feelings at their own pace and time.
Men become stronger and their relationships improve dramatically when they face their pain and create a better view of their emotions.