I had an interesting
discussion on the Postmasculine.com blog that I thought I would bring over here. The question is, do men really need to get in touch with their emotions? I’ve edited and copied the discussion, and my comments are at the bottom.
There is a Bro Code. It is a good thing. Stop apologizing for being a man. Inevitably when there’s talk about men needing to change it always involves making them more feminine. It’s always about softening us up just a little more.
We are not chicks. We should not be chicks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a man. We don’t need to be more sensitive and become more in-touch with our feelings. We need to be men and let women be women.
To which another poster replied:
BigLifer You seem to equate “emotionally aware” with weakness or femininity. Emotionally aware means being aware of your emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to start watching romantic comedies while painting your nails. It means that you are aware of what is going on inside of you.
If you are human, then you have emotions. Every person (even… *gasp* … men) sometimes feel weak, afraid, ashamed or sad. I think even uber-masculine men thumping their chests like you can’t deny that. But… now you argue that it is wrong or unmanly to be aware of or in touch with those feelings.
However, repressing emotions isn’t strength.
Denial isn’t strength.
Hiding isn’t strength.
Shame isn’t strength.
In fact, if anything is immature, insincere and weak, I would say it’s lack of awareness, denial and repression of your emotions. Someone who can’t own up to his actual feelings is not in any way strong. Someone who can be vulnerable and face reality is, in my opinion. And no feeling is more toxic than shame, while that is precisely what you feel men should feel, and what men with beliefs like yours often DO feel (leading, among other things, to high suicide rates. But hey, it would be feminine to talk about feelings, right?)…
I think part of the disagreement here is over what we mean by “Getting in touch with your emotions”. I think “getting in touch with your emotions” means (or ought to mean), listening to your emotions, understanding them, training them so they are appropriate and cultivating emotional health. It does not mean letting your emotions control you, nor does it means brutally repressing your emotions and simply silencing them.
Now, I think men tend to err too much on the side of silencing their emotions, when they err, and women tend to err on the side of being swept away by their emotions. But emotionally healthy people of both genders tend to behave more or less similarly – they are aware and accepting of their emotions but don’t get swept away by them.
A good analogy is to think of your emotional mind like a dog. A healthy emotional mind is like a well trained dog, it barks when there’s an intruder, it growls when there’s danger, it’s playful at playtime and most of the time it’s relaxed and calm and does it’s own thing. A repressed dog is silent and a bit withdrawn and sometimes explodes, and an emotional dog is yappy and excitable and needy and annoying. If you want a well trained dog, you have to listen to your dog and understand it, but you can’t let it run your household.
You don’t want to be the repressed dog, but the solution isn’t to say “make your dog more like the yappy dog”. Both dogs should strive to be the well-trained dog. And that’s why I disagree when people suggest men should be more “feminine” in their approach to emotions – I see no evidence that the average female is in better mental health than the average man.
From the outside, at least, a person with well disciplined emotions looks a lot more like a person that is repressed than a person who is overly emotional. A man with disciplined emotions can cry and be vulnerable, but he usually doesn’t, and it’s not because he’s repressing himself, it’s because he really has his act together.
So yes, men should get in “touch” with their emotions, but that doesn’t mean being swept away by them or acting in a typically “feminine” way, it means looking inside yourself, allowing yourself to hear whatever it is that your emotions are telling you, and then talking about them if necessary, or not talking about them if you don’t want to. There’s nothing unmanly about taking or expressing your emotions – if you want to.
If there’s a problem with the ideal of the stoic man, it’s that men try to imitate the behaviours of the stoic man without having the underlying beliefs and practices of the stoic man. Understanding Epectetus and the Buddha are, I think, necessary. (I recommend you start with this for Epectetus, and this for the Buddha)
So what do you think? Do men really need to get more in touch with their emotions? Should they be more “feminine” in their approach?