Tough Guys: Don’t Show That You Care

Emotions are a survival response and cause the human body to trigger the “fight or flight” response. This is a hardwired reaction, in which the body gets literally ready to attack or to flee.

Many people label feelings (fear, anger, sadness) as bad or negative states and others (joy, excitement) as good or positive. However feelings are neither good nor bad, feelings just are.

If we listen to our emotions and understand what they mean, then we can address them and their intensity will fade. But if we ignore what our emotions tell us, our feelings build up and may result in a display of destructive behavior. Emotions are part of our life and to deny them is to deny part of ourself.

Physical cues involve the way your body responds when you become emotional. For example, your heart rate may increase, you may feel tightness in your muscles, or you may feel hot and flushed. If you can learn to identify these cues when they occur in response to a provoking event, then you can take steps to soothe yourself.

Emotional cues involve other feelings that may occur concurrently. For example, you may become angry when you feel abandoned, afraid, discounted, disrespected, guilty, humiliated, impatient, insecure, jealous, or rejected. Behavioral cues involve the actions you display when you get emotional, which are observed by other people around you. For example, you may clench your fists, pace back and forth, slam a door, or raise your voice.

Cognitive cues refer to the thoughts that occur in response to an event. When people become angry, they may interpret events in certain ways. For example, you may interpret a friend’s comments as criticism, or you may interpret the actions of others as demeaning, humiliating, or controlling. Some people call these thoughts “self-talk” because they resemble a conversation you are having with yourself.

Diagnosing and treating men’s emotional problems has been an increasing concern to health organizations, clinicians, and society as a whole. Celebrities like Dwayne the Rock Johnson, Michael Phelps, Jon Hamm, and Ryan Reynolds have been vocal about their struggles with painful emotions, helping to normalize and offer comfort to others who struggle to manage their emotions. The common theme is that we all need help from time to time and it’s a sign of strength and intelligence to know when to seek support.

There are many men who pride themselves on being strong and have lived their life as a tough guy. Tough guys aren’t supposed to do a lot of things, like show fear or pain and offer compassion or vulnerability. Yet, men feel a full range of emotions, whether they are “supposed to” or not.

Some men learned that expressing any emotion other than anger was a sign of weakness. Suppressing occurs when we hold our feelings inside for fear of expressing it. Some may have been told that emotions are a sign of weakness or anger makes you tough. Many learn to deny and avoid feelings so they will not be vulnerable to emotional pain anymore. However, internalizing emotions has a negative impact on men’s health.

According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, men who suppress their emotions are 30% more likely to die prematurely than people who regularly express what they are feeling.  A study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that men who repress their emotions have an increased risk of self-harming behaviors, depression, anxiety, and aggression. To this end, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the rate of suicide is 4 times higher in men than in women.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available at 800-273-8255

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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