Positive Masculinity Content Writer - Rebekah Wong
I noticed that fear and shame are the most prominent reasons why we decide to repress our emotions. Past events and intolerable words can be seared into the brain and bring up feelings such as revulsion, frustration, and sorrow. An overwhelming desire to shove those feelings away and lock them up to never be processed is strong and uncontrollable. We will subconsciously shut off our authentic feelings until it is resurrected and set off like a bomb. This act of repressing can cause long-term mental health issues, which can coincide with physical health.
There are moments when a rush of volatile emotion will burn my eyes, close up my throat, and begin a rise of panic. It will seize and grip hold of me until I am a prisoner to the emotion. I am always frustrated when I feel the urge to cry. I know others will see it as a weakness. I slowly notice that I am angry with myself, was I really this sensitive? Why can’t I control my emotions better? I wish to shut down and feel nothing. I want logic to rule over the emotion. But when the emotion takes over, I lose the ability to be logical and a negative flow of thoughts seeps into my mind. I am disgusted with myself for feeling. For having emotions. I feel that everyone will lose respect for me and begin to wonder if I can deal with problems properly. Do they think I am incompetent? Lacking strength and capability?
This made me realize that if I feel this way as a woman, what must it be like for men? Men are handed the gender role to be stoic, calm, and logical. They are usually told that they must hold in their emotions or else it will cause their masculinity to be questioned. While it is more accepted for women to display feminine features such as sensitivity, it is still frowned upon for men to be expressive while also being viewed as strong and masculine as well. At a young age, sometimes boys are taught that having feelings is an issue to be dealt with, not nurtured and worked through. They are told to ‘toughen up’ and ‘deal with it.’
This made me wonder, if men repress their emotions throughout their life… What kind of repercussions does this cause?
Avoiding feeling our emotions can severely affect mental health, especially if we have a toxic line of thinking when it comes to our natural feelings. Letting ourselves stew in negativity takes a direct hit to our self-esteem. If we think we are ‘weak’ and ‘incapable’ because we need to cry, we will start to believe it. A bad self-esteem coincides with unhappiness. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, it is difficult to be happy and this may lead to depression. According to Dekin, “Over 30% of men will experience a period of depression at some point during their lifetime, and about 9% of men report having feelings of depression or anxiety every day” (para 4). It is still something to note that men hold a higher suicide rate than women. The self hate and repression of our natural emotions can turn into something ugly if not dealt with in a healthy manner.
It is also important to note that more women than men will ask for professional help. Considering that men may avoid seeking help when they are unsure how to deal with their rising feelings, they may look for it in other sources. Rather than working through something that has caused them sorrow, perhaps they will turn to drugs and alcohol instead. Substance abuse can help numb pain. The steady and high consumption of toxins will begin a spiral effect into an unhealthy life both physically and mentally.
Instead of trying to ignore the issues that are coming up it is better to face them head on. Repressed emotions become deeply buried and cause problems because they are never addressed. Keeping our feelings locked away is the problem. Not the emotions themselves.
Asking for help can be critical to paving the path to a healthier relationship with emotions. Working through emotions can be through trusted family and friends, paid therapeutic help, and/or self help. Help from a therapist can be the support we need to release the bottled up emotions. They can help us in remembering what we have repressed, and teach us how to work through our feelings. Friends and family can listen to what is causing our problems and be there for us, and self-help methods are an important way to introspect the best method to elevate our lives. To live a happier life, and to channel a stronger positive view of masculinity, there needs to be a healthier relationship with our human emotions.
Tips on Working Through our Emotions
1. Releasing the emotion in a positive way.
Emotions are energy that needs to be exuded and there are many positive ways to exude them!
Screaming into a pillow when frustrated.
Exercise. Kickboxing or running can be a great way to expend anger.
If you are sad, give yourself space to be sad. If you don’t want an audience, find time to let yourself cry and work through the mourning alone. Try not to keep the sadness buried.
2. Talk to Supportive and Trustworthy Loved Ones.
Surrounding yourself with people you can trust is critical. As social animals, it’s vital that in a time of need you have a loved one you know you can turn to. We need people who can support us and be there for us. Someone who can help spread a positive mindset.
3. The Internal Narrative that is Created. (A method of Self-help)
The narrative you create is extremely important.
Try to notice if your thoughts turn sour while feeling your emotions. Notice if you are insulting yourself, or deciding that if one thing goes wrong everything else will. Try to switch the narrative and see if thinking more positively helps. It takes time and practice, but eventually it can help.
Can Always Staying Positive Be Bad for Our Health? | HCF. 6 Aug. 2019, https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/body-mind/mental-health/downsides-to-always-being-positive#:~:text=%E2%80%9CSuppressing%20your%20emotions%2C%20whether%20it%27s,provisional%20clinical%20psychologist%20Victoria%20Tarratt
Dekin, Sam. “Men And Emotions: The Importance of Becoming Vulnerable.” Mission Harbor Behavioral Health, 25 May 2021, https://sbtreatment.com/blog/men-and-emotions-the-importance-of-becoming-vulnerable/#:~:text=From%20an%20early%20age%2C%20men,be%20said%20about%20mental%20health.
Drury, Kate, and William M. Bukowski. “Sexual Development.” Elsevier eBooks, 2013, pp. 115–44. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/gender-role#:~:text=Gender%20roles %20can%20be%20conceptualized,(especially%20toward%20other%20men).
Lcsw-R, Jill E. Daino. “Emotional Labor: The Cost of Swallowing Your Emotions.” Talkspace, Jan. 2023, https://www.talkspace.com/blog/emotional-labor/
Raypole, Crystal. “Let It Out: Dealing With Repressed Emotions.” Healthline, 31 Mar. 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/repressed-emotions#why-it-happens