I can remember precisely the moment I realised how difficult it must be for men to release emotionally.
As someone who often advocates the empowerment of women in a male dominated world, that may appear an odd comment at first, and I can just hear the indignation in the voices of fellow females.
'Hard to be a man?! Try carrying a child for 9 months and giving birth!' That's just one of the many comments I've heard in conversations based on the battle of the sexes.
There are hardships for both genders, and this is no battle of the sexes; so hear me out if you will.
I could feel the lump in my throat and tears brimming in my eyes; I had just received a lovely, supportive message in response to something I wrote and I was being given a glimpse into someone else's world and how they were improving it. It was what I can only describe as a heart-opening moment of connection between like-minds.
That to me sounds normal; I can understand a moment like that the way I understand English; but it turns out not everyone can.
"That's not good" commented a male friend when I relayed my emotional reaction to said moment.
As I tried to explain why I had felt tearful, and that in fact it was more than good, he followed with, "Oh, you mean like after goosebumps?"
I could have chosen to become frustrated with his lack of understanding, but he was genuinely trying to understand, so instead I felt a little sad.
Many men grow up believing that it's not OK to cry; it's weak, it's wrong, it's for girls...whatever you do, do not cry if you want to be seen as a 'real' man!
Peers, society, family and friends all play a major part in the development of this idea that men shouldn't cry, and it seems an awful lot of pressure. I have watched men squirm with obvious discomfort while another man cries in their proximity, for it's as though a mirror of their worst fears is being held up in front of them; the ugliness of this so called weakness being exposed in all its rawness.
Dr. Judith Orloff writes that
'Tears are your body's release valve for stress, sadness, grief, anxiety and frustration.'
I fully concur, as I have visibly seen the benefits both professionally and personally. Working with clients in hypnotherapy sessions that cover deeply rooted issues, I have witnessed progress when a little tear is shed; it's a sure fire sign that the healing process is beginning.
Tears can lift the weight off of shoulders, and that which seemed so frustrating suddenly develops a new, lighter outlook where moving forwards with clarity is possible.
I will add to Orloff's statement that not only are tears a release valve, but also a moment of happiness or connection. In the case of the supportive response I received, I connected empathetically to the persons' situation.
In my attempt to be fair and consider both sides in the 'to cry or not to cry' debate, I looked into the pros and cons of crying, and the only cons that came up were blotchy skin, snot and strange facial expressions.
No, crying and the acceptance of it; the unashamed allowing of its release in the knowledge that you are cleansing yourself from your internal struggle, is a pro of pure power and growth. So with anyone that believes it is weak to cry, I would argue that not being able to use such a beneficial tool through such a natural channel is, in fact, the real weakness that needs working on. It can seriously stunt emotional development to never use it, which is as vital as looking out for your physical and mental health because it allows you to exercise better control of your behaviours, and allows for more fulfillment in all areas of life.
Of course if there's no urge to cry, don't cry, but generally it is fought back; you can see it in the shrugs, the jaw-clenching, the pent-up aggressive energy and the jokes that cover serious moments. The adam's apple is a great pointer too; a literal lump in the throat bobbing about in its urgency to hold back anything that may cause us all to possibly point, stare, laugh or recoil at this so called 'disgrace' of a man.
How much are men missing out on in terms of healing? How much aggression is mounting in them? I see no reason other than peer pressure and conditioning that man should not be allowed the freedom to express through tears.
I can only imagine the discomfort of battling between what they really feel, and what they have been taught they should be feeling.
The power of a releasing cry is greatly underrated. It can be as releasing as a full belly laugh and can be even more effective than medicine to an illness.
In crying, a man is not vulnerable or weak; he is strong enough to be honest and real in front of anyone.