ACCESSING YOUR EMOTIONS
IF WE LET BOYS EXPERIENCE THEIR FEELINGS, MEN WOULD BE MORE OPEN AND RELATIONSHIPS WOULD WIN
What’s the most common reason couples seek relationship counselling? You guessed it, poor communication and conflict skills.
Last week I raised the concept of the nonclinical condition, alexithymia. It is the inability to identify and express or describe your feelings.
These individuals who have difficulty accessing their inner emotional words are said to feature in 10 per cent of the population and are more likely, but not always, men.
Stereotypically, men don’t seem to express their emotions as easily, as well, or as much as women do.
Interestingly, the unbridled emotion is commonly found at the footy or the cricket when it’s completely acceptable to passionately scream and wave your arms around.
I’ve also encountered many exasperated men struggling to extract the verbal complexities of their woman’s mind.
Unfortunately, the blokes characteristically leave the relationship stuff to the women.
However love and connection is more of a learned team approach.
When it goes pear-shaped, the guy will just want to fix it and move on.
Interestingly, there is “normative male alexithymia”, which is said to be derived from socialisation that “everyone knows real men don’t cry”.
Many Aussie boys are raised being emotionally undermined with the messages of stoicism throughout media that masculinity is all bravo and grunt.
Talk emotions and you’re a weak sissy. While I believe this is improving, it explains the alarming high male suicide rate.
Thankfully, I frequently encounter the effects of this social conditioning when blokes front up for marriage therapy when the relationship features loneliness, disconnection and repetitive conflict. How do we approach this?
As we move toward encouraging a generation of expressing instead of repressing, we also can’t label men as “feelingless” gender. Emotions are in there.
We collaboratively normalise the ideal that we are all built with emotions and we can all access them.
Like any new task, it requires repetition, consistency and positive reinforcement. Then a wonderful transformation occurs.
Reversing a strongly held socialisation pattern takes time.
Men show up with the best intentions to be their woman’s hero, to take action and protect.
When women can appreciate and display admiration for these inherent traits men are more likely to be vulnerable to sharing their inner world.
Witnessing those magical moments are one of the greatest gifts for a marriage counsellor.
Joanne Wilson is a neuropsychotherapist, relationship specialist, workshop facilitator and guest speaker. Find out more about this topic on her podcast Is This Love and at www.theconfidantecounselling.com.