Men in our society are portrayed as physically strong, dominant, stoic, and always in control. Women on the other hand are considered to be fragile, sensitive and expressive. Throughout the course of time we have seen men and women live up to their designated roles, for men-that of a bread-winner and protector, for women- that of a nurturer.
Owing to this mindset, men from the very beginning are taught to be strong both physically and mentally and to always be in control. Even as children, boys are not allowed to express their emotions like anger or sadness even when they are upset or hurt. Instead, they’re told not to cry because it’s not a manly thing to do. So, eventually they grow up to become emotionally confused by being unable to identify and manage their own emotions and that of those around them which implies that they have a low emotional intelligencequotient.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability or capacity of an individual to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. People who are not aware of their emotions often tend to fail at controlling them. Being conditioned from the childhood to be strong and not cry/express themselves, men tend to suppress their emotions which is one of the main causes of maladaptive behaviours like substance abuse, alcoholism, delinquency, getting into toxic relationships, self-harm etc.
Common causes of emotion suppression:
- Early childhood conditioning:as we grow up, our socialisation process takes place through the exposure to the behaviours that we see in our family, peer, elders, and we learn social conduct through the process of modelling and observation.
- Societal expectations: in our society, crying is considered to be a sign of weakness and due to this stereotype, men are discouraged to express their emotions, especially hurt or sadness through crying which lead to a long-standing legacy of unresolved emotional conflicts, if ignored for a long period of time.
- Difficult circumstances: many a times in our lives, we face certain situations that are taxing and beyond our control. In such situations, especially the ones involving family or our loved ones, men do not express how they feel, and hide their emotions in an effort to give strength to the people around them and be their support.
- Low emotional intelligence:people who are unaware of their emotions or those who fail to express them tend to suppress their emotions which in turn manifest as aggression and frustration and more often than not, is displacedby lashing out on others, becoming violent and/or indulge into maladaptive pattern of behaviour.
Studies suggest that when we’re stressed, Adrinocorticotrophic hormone levels increase in our body, and if the stress is prolonged, ACTH gets accumulated which needs to be released, if not, it causes more stress. Studies have also suggested that people who are more aware of their emotions have positive outlook towards life and are better at dealing with difficult situations, and adopt healthy coping mechanisms to better deal with stresses of life.
Healthy coping mechanisms/ emotion
Since it is ingrained in men to not display emotions openly, it’s less likely that they’ll start expressing themselves all of a sudden, however, there are few ways that can facilitate emotion expression.
- Identify and acknowledge emotions: to effectively express oneself, it’s important to first identify what we’re going through. Sometimes, we displace our frustration, and pass it off as anger when actually what we’re experiencing is a mixture of emotions like hurt, sadness, pain, anger etc. It happens because basically we are unaware of what we’re actually feeling, thereby inhibiting proper expression.
- Mindfulness: when we’re mindful, our thoughts, actions and emotions are aligned with each other and it helps us to be aware of our emotions and thoughts without associating judgment with it.
- Breathe: it always helps to take a minute to breathe and step back from the situation. It helps us to analyse the entire situation holistically along with our emotions attached to a particular incident.
- Talk to someone: keeping our emotions bottled up will eventually lead to a break-down, so it’s always advisable to reach out to our support system, to effectively deal with our day-to-day stress.
- Emotional self-regulation: when faced with a challenging situation, it always helps to take a minute to reflect on it as we usually tend to be more reactive rather than responsive which can play a significant role in how we perceive and resolve the situation.
- Work it out: physical workout is found to be helpful in relieving stress by channelizing our emotional energies in a productive manner. It also improves our mood by releasing endorphins (happy hormones) thereby alleviating negative emotions.
Several researches have been conducted on emotional intelligence and they suggest that high emotional intelligence is strongly associated with better health, both physical as well as mental (Nicola Schutte et.al). It implies that people who are aware of their emotions and can express themselves properly are better at handling them.
Although there are several studies that suggest that men and women are equally capable of emotion expression, it only differs from person to person and situation to situation. Therefore, no research indicates that emotions are gender specific, and thus discouraging men from emotion expression affects them adversely instead of benefitting them. As they deal with various aspects of life, we expect men to understand emotions displayed by others but not be in-tune with their own, which is not only unfair but also unrealistic.
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” ― William Shakespeare