I was hit with two articles the other day that may seem unrelated but certainly skirt around the same topic — communication of feelings. Connectedness. I’ve written about it before, I’m sure.
For some reason, it’s harder today. Perhaps because of the news I received about a friend’s unexpected tragic loss. Perhaps it’s the vitriolic clips from the news I cha-cha around, trying to avoid but occasionally getting pinched by one. I could say here that I’m terribly sad for my friend, afraid for my own kids, lonely for them, anxious about the world sometimes. But, what do people think about men that may say those things?
I think many of us realize that technology has not brought us closer together but isolated so many. Sociologist Sherry Turkle pointed out, “I’m more concerned about people for whom social media becomes a kind of substitute, who literally post something on Facebook and just sit there and watch whether they get 100 likes on their picture, whose self-worth and focus becomes dictated by how they are accepted, wanted, and desired by social media” (bit.ly/2aGmjdc).
“People need to share their emotions — I feel very strongly about this. I understand why people avoid conflict, but people who use this method (arguing with their child via electronic means instead of in person) end up with children who think that the things they feel aren’t OK. There’s a variant of this, which is interesting, where parents give their children robots to talk to or want their children to talk to Siri, because somehow that will be a safer place to get out their feelings.”
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How many of you are far more likely to text someone than call, let alone email, or, heaven forbid, stop by? It takes time and energy. And exposing emotion. The second article I read was from a fellow, Evan Porter, who said, as a guy, he’d never been encouraged to express emotions — other than anger or aggression. (u.pw/2aZFNpe).
So, Porter consciously made a point of sharing his feelings with strangers, anyone. It wasn’t as easy as he thought, not only because it felt awkward but also because people in general don’t give anyone the time to listen. Hmmmmm, recurring theme … always. He also realized that, many folks don’t expect a man to be open like that.
A most compelling reason to disconnect from technology and reconnect with our true selves — ESPECIALLY MALES — was found in the talk by Dr. Ryan McKelley (bit.ly/1FTFmJH): “Study after study has shown that social isolation is a risk factor for development of disease. It highlights the importance of social connection for mental and physical health, yet the stereotype is that men are less capable of emotional connection than women,” McKelley notes.
However, when hooked up scientifically to mechanical means of measuring emotional responses, the differences disappeared. “You’re such a sissy!” “Wuss!” “Man up!” “Stop acting like a girl!” (phrases that have ALWAYS rattled my cage) are taught. Men are not allowed to feel vulnerable or scared or sad or humiliated. They are allowed to cover it up with anger and violence. You know what else? Studies have shown these same people who repress the range of human emotion are less compassionate, feel less joy, and a lot of other positive things we take for granted.
And now, we are all able to just tuck emotion away in the back of the drawer, Tweet or whatever and either spread anger and hate because we are so confused or overwhelmed and have no skills to be human — or just disconnect altogether.
So, please encourage your children, especially your sons, to learn to express themselves in a healthy, constructive way, identify those feelings, share. “Big boys don’t cry” is probably one of the most destructive comments heard growing up. That’s probably one of the many things that’s led to the behavior of some of the wannabe leaders we’ve got scaring up folks today.
Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at www.ladytiedi.com.