How Men Learn to Suppress Their Emotions and What We Can Do About It

How Men Learn to Suppress Their Emotions and What We Can Do About It
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Big ups to all the guys facing challenges without support due to societal norms that discourage them from expressing their emotions and equate strength with silence. ~Alex Myles

He is on the verge of crying. He is uninjured. Nobody must use their inhaler for asthma, and no one has sprained an ankle or skinned a knee.

The other boys are teasing him about his stature.

He often acts like it doesn’t affect him. But as the coach, it’s quite noticeable.

I’ve seen him grin and attempt to brush it off. At times, he will counter with a comment of his own, touching on something they are sensitive about.

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I am aware of this particular activity. This is what I like to call “emotional arm punching.” It’s a common practice for boys to toughen themselves up emotionally, similar to how they toughen up physically by punching each other in the bicep and pretending it doesn’t hurt.

For approximately two months annually, I have the privilege of witnessing the genuine emotions these children experience. I have the opportunity to witness these emotions because they have not yet learned to suppress them. They have not learned that emotions are a sign of vulnerability. To tell you the truth, though, it is clearly starting, and this emotional arm punching—particularly with boys—is a telltale indicator.

I call this behavior emotional arm punching, and it’s common in middle school and high school athletics, playgrounds, and maybe even the Boy Scouts. Perhaps it rings a bell from your younger days? Those small emotional comments directed at your friends’ sensitive topics can really sting.

I am quite familiar with this from my personal experience. I found it difficult to remember the plays and frequently received criticism from my coaches, which made me feel inadequate.

Other players often used the coach’s evaluation of my performance to shift focus away from their own mistakes. They would target me for not remembering plays or for expressing my feelings about the coach’s comments.

In the end, I caught myself redirecting my emotional pain by throwing insults or jabs back at my teammates regarding their performance.

Now, according to the majority, this is considered a traditional milestone in our culture. You’re discovering what it means to embody masculinity. You’re discovering how to remain unaffected by emotions.

Regrettably, I can confirm from my personal experience that it doesn’t discourage children from expressing their emotions. It emphasizes the importance of keeping feelings hidden and suppressing emotions, a lesson I’ve personally learned.

Without any support to guide me in processing my emotions, I ended up suppressing my embarrassment and shame until they transformed into intense anger. That rage would eventually grow overwhelmingly strong. Yet, with nowhere to go, it would burst out of me unexpectedly, usually directed at my friends or my mom.

Children are often subjected to hurtful comments about their appearance, whether from friends or acquaintances, disguised as jokes.

What outcome are you looking for? A group of children discovers the importance of controlling their reactions. They act as if emotions don’t affect them. What about in reality? It’s especially difficult because they can’t receive any support or recognition for their emotions.

What is the significance of this? Those circles you notice on sports fields, in schools, or even at Boy Scout events will also be present at holiday parties, bowling teams, or men’s clubs when you’re older. It’s the identical individuals.

As they matured, their suppressed emotions manifested in harmful or even dangerous ways. Consider heavy alcohol consumption, displays of anger, social withdrawal, and incidents of domestic abuse.

Adults who suppressed their emotions during childhood often struggle to cope with these emotions as they resurface, as they were not taught how to manage them.

Next, accusations are leveled!

Blame occurs when our emotions become overwhelming within us. When we assign emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger a cozy residence outside of ourselves by projecting them onto others under the guise of blame,.

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Brené Brown, a world-renowned speaker, storyteller, and researcher, made the comment in her Ted Talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability” that blaming others is a coping mechanism for dealing with emotional distress.

Pointing fingers is expressing your frustration rather than addressing your feelings and the issue at hand. I had this frequently! After some time, I came to realize the impact of my actions and angry outbursts on my friends and loved ones, which led me to withdraw and struggle to form meaningful relationships.

If we desire men to become more conscious and skilled at recognizing their emotions in order to make informed decisions rather than impulsive reactions, we need to change our approach.

One of the most valuable techniques I’ve discovered for managing my emotions is what I refer to as “emotionally testifying.” It begins by establishing the habit of getting to know all of your emotions, rather than just the ones that are considered socially acceptable for men.

Identify the physical sensations of your emotions. Be brave enough to share your thoughts with close friends and family, explaining your emotions and the reasons behind them.

Being comfortable with challenging emotions helps you build confidence in sharing them. They are familiar to you, not something to fear or feel embarrassed about.

Once you feel comfortable recognizing and communicating your emotions with trusted individuals, you’ll be better equipped to handle situations where physical interactions like arm punching occur.

Instead of continuing this widely accepted yet emotionally harmful norm, you will be equipped to communicate your feelings about the situation in a genuine manner without causing harm to others.

I think it’s important for individuals to recognize and comprehend their emotions, as well as to acknowledge and validate when they have caused someone else emotional pain. If someone says something hurtful to you, it’s important not to take out those negative emotions on someone else. That does not indicate strength.

True strength lies in understanding your true emotions and engaging with your friends with sincerity and compassion.

To develop self-trust and emotional awareness, consider sharing your feelings with your friends. If you face challenges, you will bounce back and emerge stronger. Who knows? They could end up responding with genuine emotion if you take the first step. Either way, it will prevent a lot of emotional pain.

“Your MASTERY OF LIFE begins the moment you break through your prisons of self-created limitations and enter the inner worlds where creation begins.”

Dr. Jonathan Parker

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