Discussing Masculinity Part Five: Doing the Emotional Work
Doing the emotional work is something most of us have to do. The thing is when it comes to men, we seem to just refuse to do the emotional work. I am a good example of this. I have an older son with a woman I met before ever meeting my wife. We were young and stupid and felt that we were invincible. Despite everything, things didn’t work out and my oldest suffered from it. Having visitation rights only makes me a part time parent if that. I never actually did the imporant parenting grunt work that almost always falls on the shoulders of women. His visits were more like dude bro weekends where we did dude bro geek stuff. So with the oldest child, I never even attempted to do the emotional work until he became an adult and he began checking me on my bullshit.
What is emotional work? We should start with a working definition. This is not written and stone and should be changed and modified as much as possible. We don’t even have to agree. Can we say that emotional work is the desire and the ability to deal with one’s emotions maturely and holistically as possible?
Still, we find ourselves in a dilemma. We are raised to pretty much become emotionless androids and the we find ourselves to be in situations where emotional work is crucial to the well beings of ourselves and our significant others. To those who will say not all men (sans the hashtag), I am generalizing because men who do the emotional work are so few to be almost insignificant. The thing about emotional work that we have to realize is that like any other work you have to put in, you learn as you go along. You can’t take any classes in it or earn any degrees. It is on the job training. The sooner we deal with it, the easier it will be as we get older.
I remember my childhood and how I actually worked to bottle up my emotions. No one was around to actually teach me how to work with my emotions and most people recommended that I shouldn’t. I cried over the smallest things and was told this was a sign of weakness. Writing was very therapeutic for me. Writing helped me process a good portion of my emotions. While it wasn’t foolproof, I still had a way of working through some things I had trouble with. I still needed to learn how to convey how I felt to people. This second part is what most people have problems with.
The idea of being hurt or vulnerable is probably the one issue we find to be the most scary. For some reason, expressing vulnerability or hurtfulness feels like being pushed off of plank by some pirates into shark infested waters. Many of us run from this idea or bat it away quickly. The thing is expressing this gives us validation as humans and can be welcomed by those who truly love us. The fear is the rejection. Rejection is something our fragile male egos can’t seem to handle. This is something we really have to explore and work through.