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As Aerosmith say, “Sweet Emotion”

December 8, 2011

Sometimes life just hurts.

When I was growing up, it was pretty clear to me that it was not OK to cry.  Crying represented weakness or worse yet being a “sissy”.  The only time I was able to cry was when I was upset during an athletic event and that never felt good.  Where did I learn that crying was not OK?  Probably a combination of my Dad, peers and teammates.  Crying was not what real guys did.

So, here is the question:  What does it do to a boy (who later becomes a man), when a basic human expression of emotion like crying is nullified and taken away?  I think the answer is it does a lot of bad things.  Many of us men (including me), were conditioned that showing emotion was a negative thing.  Over time, we simply learn to stop expressing emotion (other than anger) to avoid the potential ridicule.  The old saying “I prefer to keep my emotions bottled up and hope they just dissolve away.” does not really work.

Boys who cannot express emotion eventually become men who cannot express emotion.  This does not mean that these boys/men do not experience hurt, disappointment and grief like everyone else.  It just means that they pick alternative ways to express their pain.  Some men turn to alcohol, while others turn to  drugs, porn or workoholism to deal with their emotions.  These tend to not be healthy outlets that destroy other relationships.  The pain remains, it just comes out on other things like our spouses and children.  This is when my son Shaan says things like, “Why are you so upset at ___________ today, yesterday it was no big deal.”  He’s right.  Most likely I am upset about something else and am taking it out on him.

This post is not really about boys and crying.  It is about being emotionally healthy men.  Here is a quick quiz to gauge your emotional health:

1.Do you tend to consistently overreact to smal issues/sleights and then apologize later?

2.Do you have road rage?

3.Are you tired and low energy alot (even when you have gotten enough sleep?)

4.Do you use words like “always” and “never” when you are angry with your spouse or kids?

5.Do you have trouble sleeping because you are worried about things?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, then you probably have some emotions that need to be dealt with.  Fear not, these emotions will come out, it is merely your choice on how you want them to surface.  If you need help there are many options that can make a difference:  talk to a trusted friend, see a counselor, hire a life coach or take a class.  Figure out what works for you, but do not be satisfied being the guy who cannot express his emotions and passes that angst onto his kids.  You are better than that!!!

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 11:35 pm

    A great post. Your words have really struck a chord with me. Teaching children to be emotionally intelligent is like the mortar for the bricks. It holds everything else together.
    growing up in a family with emotionally unavailable parents and an unspoken motto of ‘we don’t talk about our feelings’ kind of gave me a guide of what-not-to-do in my approach to parenting my own children. My brother once told my son that he was a ‘sook’ for crying and he needed to ‘toughen up’. I agree that nothing good comes from bottling up emotions ( guilty on several occasions!) My children have learnt that all feelings are valid and to be respected. We talk. We share. We discuss. We learn strategies to deal with emotions. There are still outbursts and tantrums in our home and sometimes, it is the children. Just this week, my 12 year old son graduated from primary school. I hope that as he matures we have given him a solid emotional base to deal with his high school years. Thank you for a great read and I will be following from now on.

    • December 9, 2011 4:25 am

      Thanks for your insight and kind words. Emotional intelligence is definitely not underrated. Sounds like you are doing a great job as a parent!!!

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