Last week, in two different virtual meetings, friends of mine got very emotional. One as he read a heart wrenching note from one of his friends. Another as he processed the pain and fatigue of a family in distress. Both men apologized for displaying their sorrow, despair, and fear openly. Honestly, I was a bit taken aback. These men are steeped in the MenLiving suggestion that living emotionally is good and yet…the “conditioning” runs deep. Both of my friends are in their 50s, and despite having an evolved sense of masculinity, still find it difficult to cry openly.
Some social ‘influencers’ would say male vulnerability is overrated. Dudes are best when they are stoic. Real men do not cry. Showing emotion is a sign of weakness that leads to disrespect from both other men and women. And be sure, women don’t want to partner with men who show emotion (is that right, ladies??)! I don’t get why men showing all their emotions is such a big deal. What is the value of “sucking it up” and keeping it all inside? I don’t see it. In fact, I think it is just the opposite. I think the release of emotion through a good, deep cry purges us of painful feeling that can allow any human, man, or woman, to find some relief. This unburdening can free us to be more present and engaged. For me, this aspect of living emotionally, the cleansing, is a critical one to living fully as a human being.
As I write this, I think about the scene in Good Will Hunting when Will breaks down after Sean’s continued refrain that the abuse he endured was “not his fault.” Will’s cry is cathartic, a final breakthrough (just watched the clip again…guess what happened!) The idea that an emotional release can lead to breaking through is at the heart of living emotionally for me. While I advocate feeling all the feelings, I hold that if we can do so consciously and curiously, we can better assimilate the experiences causing the feelings leading to our greater contentment.
Let’s call a good cry an important component of our ‘emotional hygiene.’ It’s like a shower for our sympathetic nervous system and who doesn’t want a clean SNS (I am loving this analogy but too much???)?? So, when is the last time you had a good cry? If not lately, you might be a little ripe. To stay fresh, I offer you the clip above, but maybe Matt Damon doesn’t get it done for you. Find what does. Step into the tub and turn the “water” on.