What does it mean to be a healthy man who feels?
Its been a journey for me to connect with my own feelings and discover that men do feel. In my personal journey as a man, searching and connecting with my particular feeling version of the “healthy sexual masculine” my only claim to fame was that I chose to close down emotionally as I was growing up. I chose numbness over anger, expression and probably violence.
By closing down emotionally, I damaged only myself. Until I realized I could develop my own sense of self in a way that could hold me. I have 3 children in their 20’s, and each has shared with me their disappointments growing up with me as their father. I understand their pain, as it also matches mine, but for me to own what happened also brings into account the actions of their mother, who basically took my children from me. I went from being full time parent to only seeing my children 4 days a month. I screamed, bellowed protested and even went into school to sit in class with my 9 yo daughter. The end result of all this was that if I didn’t “settle down”, I would be served with a restraining order. I chose to not fight, as this would have caused more harm.
This was my baptism into how men are seen and treated as emotional beings.
No place for a man with his children
The pain of separation from relationship breakdown is a huge cost to all involved, especially for men. For it’s only recently that laws have changed giving fathers equal access to their children. During my ranting, my wife was saying “that this was the best thing for the children” and at no stage was there consideration for my relationship with them. My access to my children was discussed in private with her solicitor. I was told what access I was going to get (along with a lot of other demands..) based on a formula that was about how much money she would get if she had the kids most of the time.
My relationship breakdown shattered my exterior mask of protection. I was thrown head first into my emotional pool, of which I had no understanding, let alone any idea how to survive it. I witnessed first hand exactly how little emotionally vulnerable men are accepted, received or even understood. I was shattered, and slipped even deeper into my personal and private black hole.
During this time, I came face to face with a part of me that was closed down from about 18 months old. For the first time in 45 years, I came face to face with my own inner child. My little boy was lost, alone, confused and deeply hurting. It was a huge relief for me to realize and say..YES , men do feel, and feel so deeply…
My saving grace was that I had emotionally closed down from about 18 months of age, and it took the intense cuts of relationship breakdown and more aloneness to break open my hard exterior. From this time on, luckily for me, I was able to find and be in the company of men who held space for the darkness I had inside of me, and 12 years later I could see just how much I was carrying, and still be totally unaware.
Finding the gift
Out of all this hurt has come my gift, which also includes my second long term relationship. My pain is now my gift and is why Annette and I work as a team in relationship and sexuality counselling with not only couples, but also with individual men and women. Time and time again, I come up against the walls that men carry as result of not being seen as emotional beings. Leading men into this place is deeply healing for me as
well, to be able to create for others what I had missed out on is such a gift. This also has an impact on Annette to see this part of men and realise how much men are not seen. My firm belief of being with men as they step into their emotional selves, is that men have a depth of feeling that is breathtakingly deep. Men do feel, feel deeply, clearly and with love. So deep sometimes, that a woman has trouble seeing and understanding what it is. Because she unconsciously expects him to be the strong protector, seeing his pain and vulnerability can bring up an intense, primal fear for her. Treating any man in this place harshly because he ‘appears’ unemotional is emotional abuse and a cruelty similar to beating an animal and expecting it to still be faithful. I often believe that this simple factor is behind the dangerous increase in domestic violence and other worrying trends towards violence, domestically and across the planet.
Change is happening
In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, good men (and they are the vast majority) are starting to realize that there must be a better way and are seeking or searching for themselves. There are more support groups, articles and positive messages becoming increasingly normal. Men are realizing that this is something they can best access in themselves in the company of other men. More and more men are taking responsibility for connecting with this part of themselves and then communicating it with those around them.
It’s not about men becoming more feminine
This is about much more than connecting with their inner feminine but fully embodying what it means to be masculine and feeling fully. When a man is connecting with his inner feminine it is very different to when a woman is in hers, he doesn’t need to leave his masculine and “become” feminine. Men are naturally loving sexual beings, open, communicative and expressive in their own way. Cultural, religious and other external factors condition men away from this part of themselves, particularly their sexuality. A man feeling his sexuality is a perfectly natural and hugely important part of being masculine, yet this is where most men are deeply wounded and shamed. Connecting with their feminine is feeling this part of themselves and can look very “unfeminine” from the outside.
When a man is connecting with his feminine aspect from within his masculine, it looks different to how a woman is socialized to believe it should look. The hollywood/romance industry has created a false image of how men in relationships should look, and has left them scratching their heads wondering or walking away (an impact similar to the porn industry on woman…) This is why a man in his feelings is often missed by a woman resulting in men appearing to close down even further, but this is only happening on the outside. Women can support men in this by assuming that he IS feeling and seeking to connect from his own feeling place. Offer him an open hearted, non judgmental invitation for him to express how all this is for him –and you will probably be amazed at what you discover. Allowing him and encouraging him to communicate in his way with his words probably is all it will take.
And men, it is then your responsibility to express yourselves.