Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

June 5, 2011

USA: The emotions of men need a proper voice

SEATTLE, Wa / The Seattle Times / Health / June 5, 2011

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Are you a man under lots of stress? Are you hiding the fear of losing your job? Or, are you under a lot of pressure because you're comparing yourself to your successful friends?

Chances are, you aren't telling anyone about the pressure or pain.

Men are taught to silence their feelings, swallow pain, and hold the pressure inside. The truth is, however, that emotions will ooze out of you in some manner. In fact, your emotions may come gushing out.

Photograph credit: ScientificAmerican

Consider a friend of ours we'll call Jack. Jack just lost his job. Jack is panic-stricken and drinking a lot in the afternoons.

We met with Jack, after he had a huge fight with his wife, to help him get a grip on things. Jack got so angry during the argument, he threw his wife's clothes out on the lawn.

We wanted to share some coping skills with him, because Jack is one of the nicest people we know.

"I used to laugh when friends joked about having a nervous breakdown," Jack told us. "Now, I've had a breakdown and the neighbors were watching!"

We asked Jack to open up. We wanted to know how his stress was affecting him.

"I can't describe it," he said. "It's' one giant feeling flying around inside my body. Kind of like a bomb going off 24 hours a day."

Jack told us he feels fear, frustration, anger and every negative emotion anyone can name.

But, he told us, he can't deal with any emotions very well. Jack's father told him as a young boy that real men stay cool and calm at all times.

A man we'll refer to as Paul just lost his life savings recently in a business deal gone bad. Paul tried to fix his emotions in just one afternoon.

"I found stress relief with an old girlfriend in a hotel room," says Paul. "My wife's good friend, who was staying at the hotel, saw us and told my wife. I can't imagine my wife will ever forgive me."

Most of us wonder why men who are ministers, legislators and governors keep having affairs. Can't high-profile men control themselves, we wonder?

"I used to have an affair every year," says a city mayor we'll call Ronald. "Sex was my only way of relieving stress. Never mind that I was humiliating my wife and three children. Never mind that I was causing pain to both of our extended families."

Ronald says that his wife was fond of criticizing him, and this hurt. "She told me I didn't dress professionally. She told me I used incorrect grammar in my speeches," Ron emphasizes.

Ronald says every time he told his wife he was worried about something, she would tell him why he shouldn't worry.

He goes on to say that a real gift to your brother, husband or son is to let this man know his feelings do matter to you. Women should ask men, says Ronald: "Are you feeling overworked? Are you happy with your life?"

"Then," says Ronald, "when he opens up, keep your mouth shut. Don't tell your girlfriends. Men know women tell each other everything."

Men need to be more sensitive to each other, too, Ronald believes. "It will be a great liberation day for men when they can sit down and talk about private pain without shame. Until that day comes, men are basically alone, and they will act out their stress in unhealthy ways."

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