First, let me say that the title of my blog this week is from a blog written by someone else. I wanted to add my thoughts to his belief that men don’t trust women’s feelings. I’m not convinced that men don’t trust the feelings of women. It has been my experience with male clients that they don’t always understand women’s feelings.
Men have been told to deny their feelings. They’ve been told, “Get up, you’re not hurt” and “Stop your crying, that doesn’t hurt” and “Be a man” and currently (and I’m on a mission to stop this) they are told to “man-up.” What is the message that we want for men? Because the result of being denied our feelings is that we don’t understand them.
There is only one acceptable emotion for men in our society –
Remember – anger is a reaction to emotions such as fear, shame, sadness and hurt.
A short story:
Some time ago I walked into a crisis when visiting a friend. As I walked in the door, my male friend was flat on his back on the landing of the staircase. I discovered that minutes before I walked in, he had fallen down a flight of steps. His wife wanted him to go to the hospital. He refused, as he lay there unable to get up. Paramedics were called. He continued to refuse the hospital. The paramedic said:
“The number one thing that kills men is – stubbornness”
I thought to myself –
“Stubbornness is the result of emotions. In this case, it was a result of vulnerability and feelings of shame.”
I could see it and I could feel it. But he was doing what he was taught – “you’re not hurt” “man-up” and “it is shameful for men to ask for help.”
What about women and emotions?
Women question their feelings. Mostly, women are aware of their emotions but they question if their feelings are wrong. They have been told that they are being dramatic (as in drama queen) and needy.
How did this start?
Messages come early in our life. In addition to the gender messages that I mentioned, as children we were seen as ‘acting out’ when we were showing unwanted behavior. The reality was that we were ‘showing our stress’; our behavior was a response to stress.
Of course as adults, we may not like or agree with behaviors of children, but as children rarely did we experience the response of someone attempting to understand what we were going through with compassion and empathy. Our behavior was corrected. It’s not wrong to correct behavior, however, as children we need to learn to understand our emotions, express them and then learn the tools (so that we can use them as adults) to manage our pain and stress.
These messages that we receive as children and adults teach us to question our feelings or deny them altogether, and therefore not understand them in others and ourselves. We then disregard our feelings and the feelings of others.
“We are not taught how to listen, validate, and then respond to the feelings of others.”
If you are viewed as ‘acting out’ or ‘being dramatic’ or told that you are not hurt – you are not receiving compassion and empathy. How can you give what you have not received?
How can men be empathetic toward others if they are told to man-up and how can women trust their feelings if they are told that they are being dramatic?
I write this in the hope that we stop finger pointing at men or women and simply try to get to understanding.
If someone refers to you as needy, find out what this means to him or her. Do they feel helpless in trying to help you? Do they feel that you are asking them to be solely responsible for your needs? Are they feeling overwhelmed in life and unable to meet your need at the present time? When we tell women that they are needy, the feeling might be, “I don’t know what to do to help you, I feel helpless and lost”.
What is it that we feel when we tell men to man-up? Are we saying, “I need you to be strong right now because I am struggling” or “I don’t know how to respond to your vulnerability because it is unfamiliar to see this in men and it frightens me”?
So what do we do from here?
First, begin to learn how to identify your own emotions. It can helpful to look at a feelings list. You may be surprised how helpful this can be to you! Start at the beginning, learn the basic emotions. Learn to recognize them and build up from there. Don’t deny, disregard or dismiss your emotions.
Know and understand the mind-body connection. Emotions can be felt as physical pain. This does not mean that your physical pain “is in your head” as they say. It is real, don’t dismiss it. For example, we can feel pain in our back when we don’t feel supported in our life.
Feelings are complicated: We are told that our feelings are never wrong, which is true, HOWEVER, we can draw wrong conclusions based on our feelings. Sometimes we feel something that does not make any sense to us. Read my blog about emotional triggers.
And you can describe what you are going through and someone may be able to help you identify the feeling. Study emotions, express them, don’t deny them and learn to understand your emotions and the emotions of others. As always, be kind to you when doing this very challenging work.
Thanks for reading!
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section.
About commenting on my blog – I am reminded of when I taught in the College classroom. I encouraged conversation. HOWEVER, I always let my students know that I wanted them to feel emotionally safe in the classroom. The same is true for the community that I wish to create with my blog. You will be safe. I am passionate about protecting those who are willing to open themselves up and share with all of us. Everyone should feel that they can express their thoughts and opinion without the worry of being criticized, attacked and hurt. Disagreement is fine, of course, as long as it is respectful of the other person. We can all learn from one another with love and respect. I want your comments; I want to learn from you just like I learned from my students. But only when you feel ready to do so. Like I said, it took me a very long time to find the courage to blog. So I don’t want to push you, only reassure you ????
Here is my gift to you, my new e-Book! I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope it is helpful. Please let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: MCAD Library@flickr.comShare