A great deal of my life has been an exercise in not feeling. As a little boy on the school bus I clamped down my feelings. To cry, to show my pain, was to invite more of the teasing and cruelty that came from the big kids. If you show feeling as an adolescent male (except for bravado or aggression) you are bait. To feel the fear and other emotions in a work place can make you incapable of work, so you push them down and get on with it. Life is tough and unfair for women, too, but they are allowed to show their emotions. Not so boys and men; in the end, we almost cease to feel.
We get like the windshield on a car. Tough and strong, and yes, the rain and dust splatter off. But we are inherently brittle, not truly tough and malleable like metal. A large enough emotional rock can shatter us like glass. We cannot be undented, or welded back together then. I think that to be truly manly is to find our feelings so we really feel them. Then we become tough and malleable, not hard and brittle.
Not knowing our feelings has another consequence. Dave's driving interstate one day (true story) and picks up a blowfly. It's buzzing around the windscreen and refusing to be herded out the side window. So eventually he goes "thump" to flatten it against the glass. And at the next town has to explain how come he's put his fist through his own windshield. If we don't let ourselves feel, the feelings catch us unawares inside and blow out over whoever is around us.
27 Kinds of Snow
Common mythology has it that Inuit people have 27 different words for snow. I'm guessing that since I have just one word for snow (being a hot-country Aussie), I couldn't get anywhere near distinguishing the 27 different kinds of snow. If we don't have the words, we won't see the snow.
It's similar with emotions. Men get angry. We're either angry or not angry. One word. But if we only knew, we feel aggressive, 'aggro', antagonistic, anxious, alarmed, alienated and abandoned, to name only some of the 'a' words that can boil over into anger or even rage. Knowing we are anxious, or being able to feel alienated can help us deal with our feelings before they launch themselves out in anger.
So a good approach to dealing with our feelings and learning the emotional language of our partners is to actually learn the words. We are inclined to say we feel frightened, fearful, anxious, scared or afraid as though these words are all interchangeable and the same. Are they? Leaning the language can begin to alert us to the shades of emotion and make us more able to hear others... and more able to feel for ourselves.
July 1 2001
Would you like to comment?
Click to add feedback