Big Boys Don’t Cry

(and other myths about men and emotions)

Who is it that gets choked up at sad movies?
Who is it that gets so swept away by excitement that they hug a complete
stranger?
Who falls apart when a relationship ends?

Men do. Granted, said film is likely to be about sport, the exuberance explodes
in stadiums, and the break-up may be their idea. A man’s emotional life is,
surprisingly, as complex and rich as a woman’s, but often remains a mystery- to
him and to her. Both men and women sigh, cry, rejoice, rage and pout: they just
process and express emotions differently.
"Emotions live in the background of a man’s life and the foreground of a
woman’s".

Why are men so emotionally clueless? Blame the male brain.
Men are hard-wired differently. The left brain, home of logic, and the right,
the seat of emotions is greater in women.
"Women have the equivalent of an interstate highway, so they move readily
between the right and left brains. For men, the connection is like a meandering
country lane."
This is why men are consistently less accurate in interpreting unspoken
messages in gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Men also react
intensely to emotions- and forget them faster. In an experiment, students of
both sexes were shown photos of traumatic or upsetting images. More regions of
the female brain were stimulated than the males. Several weeks later, the women also recalled more
detail about the pictures than the men did. In similar ways, the researches
speculated a woman may continue stewing over something her partner has long
forgotten.

"Showing emotion is a no-can-do among men." Boys learn this lesson
early. By 12 months of age, they make less eye contact than girls and pay more
attention to moving objects than human faces. Mums and Dads talk less about
feelings (except anger) to sons than daughters, and boys’ vocabularies include
fewer "feeling words". In the playground, if not at home, boys learn
to choke back tears and show no fear. Their faces, once as openly emotional as
those of girls, become less expressive.

The more they conform to social stereotypes, the harder it is to break out. As
adults, men use fewer words, but women talk to draw others closer.
"Women talk to clear their heads, but men think before they talk."
"If they didn’t, they’d risk saying something stupid and being humiliated,
or offending another man and getting beaten up. They’re safer not saying
anything."

And now, dear readers, let me ask you this.
What lurks behind a man’s silent, stoic mask?

Vulnerability. Most men are far more insecure than they like to admit- or their
wives ever guess. "Inside ever man is a secret fear that he lacks
competence and courage, that he’s not as manly as he should be." "A
man knows he is supposed to take a bullet for his family. A man knows he is
supposed to fix whatever gets broken."

"In one breath, women tell us to be emotionally open. In the next, she
wants us to be her rock." Men don’t have a road map or a role model to
show us how to be both emotional and strong. It confuses us.

"If you don’t develop all of yourself in some way, if you don’t learn how
to work with your emotions, you’re a shadow figure, a small truncated version
of yourself. It’s only a matter of time until the house of cards that you are
falls apart."

*Interesting note. There’s a 95% tear factor when a group of men watch Field
of Dreams
. Sport is the archetypal bond between men and their fathers, for
most men, that’s the most primitive, important relationship in their lives.
**IN: Women talk, but "We men express so much of our emotion
physically."

In short, men are emotional, and disclose weakness and build trust. They just
do it differently. "Men are still taught not to expose their anxieties and
that opening up emotionally is unmanly. So men find other ways to fill the same
requirement of establishing trust." Men often know one another’s deepest
feelings through the efficient expression of a look or a nod- not by talking.

***

"Friendship is one of the major avenues of self-exploration" in life.
We are wired to use our friends as mirrors for our own growth.

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2 thoughts on “Big Boys Don’t Cry

  1. Liam, Baron of Hoskuldstadir says:

    What does it mean?
     
    Does it mean that men are mysterious, or conversely, emotionally transparent? Do men lose power as a result of exposing what they feel? Is it emasculating to express emotion?
     
    Simultaneously, is the person (man or woman) infinitely powerful when their own emotions are either hidden or disguised?

  2. Alex says:

    Very interesting john…

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