Men and Emotions

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The myth that men do not show emotions is becoming so dominant that everyone seems to be rolling with it, but this is far from the truth, except that we are redefining emotions to mean just fear and sadness or grief. Emotions generally have different descriptions, but we can say that they are a dynamic feedback mechanism that builds up from our experiences, actions, and physiology; this feedback is instrumental to our survival as humans.

A psychologist named Paul Eckman suggested that there are six basic emotions, and they include: fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, and sadness. There are numerous other emotions, but he suggested these basic ones because they are universal to all human cultures.

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There are two vital elements to consider as far as emotions are concerned: the experience of the emotion and the response. The experience is predominantly subjective to the individual, and its intensity varies from individual to individual. On the other hand, emotional responses help other people perceive our feelings. It also helps us respond more accurately to the triggers of our emotions (do not forget that emotions are mostly feedback; there are triggers). The response we are focusing on here is primarily behavioral, or some might call it “expressive,” and there are a lot of factors that contribute to the response we choose. The key when providing an emotional response is that it is socially acceptable.

Men typically show emotions like disgust, anger, surprise, and happiness without a doubt, and they might do this in a socially acceptable manner. However, it is somewhat socially unacceptable for men to openly display fear, sadness, or any of their variants — this is where the myths build up. There are typical responses to each of the basic emotions. For example, when one is happy, they tend to wear a smile, they might dance, they might goof around joyfully; remember that the intensity varies, but a smile seems to be enough to show happiness. When one is sad, they mostly cry and slip on that look that makes everyone pity you somehow. The typical responses to fear and sadness are behavioral patterns that also portray weakness. Historically, this does not sound consistent with the male identity, and it does not even fit in with what is currently a socially acceptable response for men. The result of this is that men are encouraged to hide and avoid these two emotions, and this pattern does no good to the man or society.

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Humans have defined what societal standards look like since time immemorial, and we have not lost the capability to do this restructuring. The idea of weakness for a human being has gone through several shifts, and there are still more shifts to come. We can agree that a momentary and honest display of what you are going through should never become the definition of the entirety of a man.

Furthermore, no law in human psychology states that every human being needs to express emotions in a certain way. However, every human needs to be aware of their feelings, so rather than avoiding or hiding them, we can make an effort to acknowledge them. We should know their names, tell the people who are close to us about how we feel and allow ourselves to process them however we choose, provided it is socially acceptable.

By learning to acknowledge our emotions, we become better able to manage our triggers. We get a better understanding of ourselves and other humans. Ultimately, we help other people understand us better too.

Written by: Ibukunoluwa Afe, Contributor on MaleMatters
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