They say ” Men don’t cry”
But I have quite wondered – Why?
How do you bottle it all up?
When a close one bids good bye?
What happens to these bottled up tears in you?
Would they some day burst out as anger
Or soak your heart, leaving you unreasonably blue?
I am someone who would have tears rolling down my cheeks watching a deeply emotional scene in a theater or watching my favorite team win. I can remember crying my soul out during the funeral of a close one. Have I felt weak and vulnerable? Vulnerable – yes, but never weak. Tears to me are a very human way of letting it all out. I think it’s one of those rare freedom that women are entitled to in the society – the freedom to be emotionally expressive and a freedom that in most cultures are curtailed for men due to the whole social conditioning to “Man Up”.
Early on boys are introduced to the “Man Box” (phrase coined by Tony Porter ) – and expected to fit in. Not so surprisingly, the number one rule of the man box is not to express emotions in the open.
Researches have demonstrated that men are far less likely to cry than women – a finding that has been replicated across thirty-five countries and four continents. Research also suggests that boys express a wider range of emotions than girls do as infants, but boys are typically discouraged from showing their emotions as they grow older due to traditional ideas about masculinity. Crying frequency between boys and girls shows little difference until the age of eleven or twelve, after which girls overtake boys.
Vulnerability is Courage
In our society today, it takes more courage to feel bad, and let people know how we feel, than to pretend everything is all right. Exposing our vulnerability is courage – the courage to authentically self express.
It takes courage and strength to be sensitive to things and even more strength and courage to own up to it or be vocal about it. Robots, the only things with a perfect lack of emotional capacity, are easily controlled, and I suddenly realized that’s why the military often trains people to suppress their emotions.
Vulnerability deepens Human Connections
Emotional crying appears to be a uniquely human behavior. Tears show others that we’re vulnerable, and vulnerability is critical to human connection. Research has shown that when people see others crying, they clearly recognize it as a reliable signal of sadness or distress and that typically results in feelings of connectedness and responses of sympathy and a willingness to help from others.
“Tears are of extreme relevance for human nature” – says Ad Vingerhoet a Clinical Psychologists who has spent more than 20 years studying when and why we cry.
Vulnerability creates Intimacy
We all need a certain level of trust in a relationship to feel safe enough to be emotionally vulnerable. And when you can emotionally express in front of someone without being judged, it becomes an important milestone in that relationship.
I consider it as an honor and privilege if someone trusts me enough to display their deepest anxiety and feelings.
Researchers have found that when catharsis (the process of relieving strong feelings) occurred with another person who was sharing their tears, those relationships became closer thereafter.
The perils of suppressing emotional self expression
Feelings are meant to be felt, not ignored. – what’s wrong with suppressing one’s own naturally occurring capacities for emotional expression? It’s been observed that men are less likely than women to get help when they’re suffering from depression. Alcoholism and substance abuse are also higher among men as compared to women across the world. In most cases, the “suppressed tears” gets manifested as frustration, anger or even violence. So if the tears aren’t let out, the chances are they get manifested in men in a way that are more socially accepted expressions of masculinity.
So if the tears aren’t let out, the chances are they get manifested in men in a way that are more socially accepted expressions of masculinity.
To get a better perspective, I did a quick dipstick survey among men and here is what they had to say:
And here is what women had to say about men expressing their emotions:
“Even though I grew up in a society where men crying were considered a dent to their masculinity, I have never thought of it that way probably because as a family my dad and brother are good at expressing emotions if they are sad. Crying is a natural and healthy way to let go/get over something/someone/grief so why differentiate between men and women.”
“Haven’t come across such a situation in my life, isn’t that itself sad – that the men in my life don’t openly express their feelings of sorrow?”
“I would think they are human. I would feel more connected to them because they trusted me enough to share their real emotions and let them be seen.”
None of them thought emotional expression by men was due to the lack of courage, rather it felt more like an act of courage and a proof of trust/intimacy.
So to all men out there – give yourself the permission to express your feelings and let your close relationships be a safe space for your authentic self to be seen and expressed – allowing love, intimacy and trust to grow.