Are you of the camp that feels that since emotions aren’t helpful? They won’t get your kids to sleep on time. Feelings won’t complete your work assignments. They’re certainly not going to pay the bills. So does that mean there’s no real use in feeling the feelings? Here’s the situation: you want to be more productive. Are your big emotions going to do that, or just get in the way?
- My dad died–my tears aren’t going to bring him back.
- I lost my job. Feeling ashamed about cutting back and moving in with my parents is not going towards a down payment on a new apartment.
So you continue “holding it all together” and being “strong.” But are you defining strong as not letting anything get to you? Do you think not having any vulnerability is also considered a strength? Then you probably consider everything else to be weakness. Crying, feeling down, being embarrassed, shame, or guilt all must mean you’re weak.
At least by those standards.
Hiding Emotions is Just Too Much Work
You’re right, on one hand: all this isn’t productive. Crying, feeling, etc. is not going to change your situation. But once you allow yourself to feel something–especially if you’ve been pushing that something away because it’s embarrassing and painful to admit or expose yourself to–you can free yourself from it.
You can be more productive if you can get out of your own dang way. The amount of wasted energy that I see for so many men is usually overly tied up in “holding it together.” This is at the expense of their lives, their relationships, and their children and families.
This is often in the hope of holding up a standard of “being a man.” Perhaps a standard that should have died once we stopped having hunting and gathering being our only choices.
Honestly, though, this is not a common belief and I talk more about it in my weekly column Unmasking Masculinity over at The Good Men Project. It’s called How Emotions Get in the Way of Being Productive.
Would love to hear your thoughts about it there or in the comments below.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and men’s counseling for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.