Hey Hey Hey Boys I Think I M Getting Old Divorce Recovery and Cultural Obstacles: Debunking the Myth That Men Can’t Express Their Feelings

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Divorce Recovery and Cultural Obstacles: Debunking the Myth That Men Can’t Express Their Feelings

How it sounds: “Good.” “Bad.” “I do not know.”

How often have you thought or heard someone say, “Men can’t express their feelings?”

A guy walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey, I heard you got divorced. How are you feeling?”

The guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or “I don’t know.”

The guy’s parents call and say, “How do you feel now that you’re divorced?”

The guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or “I don’t know.”

A guy is on a date and his girlfriend asks him, “How do you feel now that you’re divorced?”

The guy says, “Great!” or “I’m angry!” or “I don’t know.”

Conclusion: Guys don’t know how to express their feelings.

In fact, it is treated as a “given” in our culture.

Why is myth important?

If it’s true that guys don’t know how to express their feelings, divorced men are really screwed and are doomed to repeat visits to divorce court.

The divorce recovery process requires divorced people, men and women, to acknowledge the trauma by fully discussing their emotional reactions to the divorce and the ex. If they cannot do this, their hopes of fully recovering from the divorce are seriously compromised.

So yes, that myth that “men can’t express their feelings” is a big deal if it turns out that it is not a myth at all, but the truth.

Where did the myth come from?

For decades, boys and men have been told to “suppress their feelings.”

Beginning at an early age, father figures, coaches, male teachers, even peers provide boys with a model of stoicism to aspire to. When they want to express their feelings, they are told to “suck it up”, “don’t complain” or “don’t be a whiner or a cunt”. The only exception is the expression of anger. It’s okay to register the fact that something made you angry.

But pity the poor man who says he feels sad, lonely, hurt, and rejected, or announces that he feels ashamed, humiliated, guilt-ridden, and ashamed. Let alone telling people that he feels joyful, peaceful, contented and giddy with excitement. Men just don’t do that.

So men are left to answer the question: “How do you feel?” with the tried and true alternatives: “good”, or “bad”, or “angry”, or “OK”, or the old faithful choice, “I don’t know”.

How is the myth perpetuated?

Our culture perpetuates it.

People watch men wonder how they feel, and people just assume that it must be true that “men can’t express their feelings.” Girlfriends and spouses view their male partner’s refusal to express their feelings as “that’s just the way men are” and let it go.

Also, in a funny way, the belief that “men can’t express their feelings” actually “solves” some communication problems for men. It prevents men from feeling pressured to reveal their feelings. If people don’t believe that men can, they don’t ask them to express their feelings.

But is it really true that men cannot express their feelings, or is there a more useful and truer explanation for their inability to try to do so?

What is really going on here?

OK, so “Good,” “Bad,” and “I don’t know” are common responses to the question “How do you feel?” The question is “Why?”

The most common explanation is that it is in their DNA. Being male, they can’t do that.

But there are other possible explanations including:

(1) Is it their desire to avoid embarrassment?

(2) Do they wish not to appear incompetent?

(3) Is it something else?

Explanation of inconvenience. Perhaps men refuse to express their feelings for fear that this will result in a raw, uncontrolled release of emotion, the display of which is incompatible with the behavior of a respectable, literate, socially appropriate man.

Or maybe men reject the possibility that others think he’s “feminized,” whatever that means to him.

Explanation of incompetence. Who wants to be thought stupid? How stupid are if your vocabulary is so limited that you cannot give a coherent, thoughtful answer to such a simple question as, “How are you feeling?” Well, that’s exactly what men are trained to do unable to make! Having only an elementary school understanding of the vocabulary of feeling words in the adult world is humiliating. No one, man or woman, wants to be seen as so incompetent..

The “something else” explanation. What I strongly suspect is going on is a combination of the two. Expressing your feelings means exposing your vulnerability to embarrassment and exposing your verbal incompetence because you only have a child’s “vocabulary of feelings”. No wonder men don’t answer the question, “How do you feel?”

How do we know it’s not true?

I have witnessed men express their feelings unhesitatingly and deeply for the past 25 years.

Using a tool I originally developed to help people resolve resistance to change, I watched men identify their feelings, discover what they were feeling, and then discuss at length and in detail why they were having those emotional reactions.

The first divorced man to use this tool identified 86 specific feelings about his post-divorce life and his ex. Most were negative, some positive. We then spent the next four hours working on each of the 86 words, exploring why that particular situation evoked each particular emotion. This answer is typical. Over 90% of men and women who use this tool identify and discuss an average of 45 to 100 emotional words.

The men I observed ranged in age from 22 to 76, from CEOs to janitors, from actors to lawyers. They showed me that men not only can, but I want tothey express their feelings as long as the circumstances were good.

So what’s the point?

It’s just a myth that men can’t express their feelings.

Men can and will talk about their feelings. However, for this they need a safe, private place. In addition, they need a non-threatening way to help them identify the names of the feelings they are experiencing.

The problem men face is not – I can’t express my feelings. An issue is “Don’t embarrass me and don’t turn out to be INCAPABLE!”

Eliminate their fear of awkwardness and vocabulary incompetence and men will be happy to express their feelings

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