David Goggins’ Tears Could Save the World.
Society needs men that other men look up to to openly express their emotions…
I’m guessing if you chose to read this you might know who David Goggins is. For those that don’t, in summary, he’s considered the ‘Toughest man alive’. He is an amazing human being. His ‘learn to help yourself’ attitude towards not caring about what others think and facing one’s fears to figure out who you are is something to live up to.
Interestingly to me though, when my brother introduced me to his work on YouTube, apart from being impressed by his feats of endurance (they really are beyond imagination), my main reaction was one of disappointment. Not in David himself — he’s one man with an exceptional talent for keeping going. My sadness came from the loss of potential in men that’s perpetuated by the glorification of people like David. His ‘tough, stay hard, don’t give up, attitude’ is feeding the ‘manly’ stereotype that’s keeping men locked in our emotional cages, which massively hampers a man’s potential to change and grow. Young men, hell, ALL men, need other men to look up to and those in positions of influence could have such an effect on the world if they openly showed their emotions when they needed to.
David is just one example, so I would like to be clear that I’m not knocking him because, as he says, “he does him” and he is someone to look up to. Someone to look up to for getting back up when you think you can’t, to be driven to better yourself, to not give up so you can discover who you are in the moment and then be able to let whoever that is shine.
Learning the ability to not give up is useful at certain moments and it will help a person get through difficult times. So, in that respect, David’s work is helping a lot of people because it’s true, sometimes we just have to dig deep and crack on. However, what society needs at this point, actually society needs a lot of things at this point, so one thing it needs — and perhaps the keystone of things that would change the world — is people learning that it’s okay to show their emotions and not just push through regardless. If people, in this case men, could embrace defeat and express their pent up emotions there would be a lot less hurt in the world.
I suffer from anxiety and find it very difficult to cry. It’s a muscle reaction that my body has gained over years of practising holding back the tears because it’s not ‘manly’ to shed them. It’s a totally subconscious thing now. I’ve been on my journey of self-development for about nine years and more consciously in the last couple. I know the benefits of showing one’s emotions. Learning to be able to talk about how I feel has literally changed my life. Yet, I occasionally still get deep feelings that my brain knows could be eased with a good cry but somehow my body won’t embrace defeat and let go. I believe that if I’d grown up with men of influence demonstrating ‘visionary masculinity’ (the opposite of toxic masculinity), I feel there would be a much higher chance I’d be able to cry more easily.
My anxiety bouts no longer scare the bejesus out of me because I have faced into what’s causing them. I took a leaf from David’s book. An albeit slightly different take on the leaf but I also chose to not give up. I had to. I made the decision to practise not running away when the feeling of vulnerability reveals itself. I talked instead of trained. As a result, I have earned the confidence to sit in the discomfort of anxiety and the ability to articulate my feelings.
Over my journey, I discovered that anxiety is actually useful for me. Anxiety (or any extreme reaction) signals that I have been triggered and that something isn’t right in my life so talking, and possibly change, needs to happen. That doesn’t mean the feeling is comfortable by any stretch of the imagination. What it does mean is that I don’t keep going regardless trying to fix the feeling (which exacerbates it) so the anxiety bouts don’t last as long. My old record was three weeks, sleeping two hours a night. I lost a stone in weight and even turned a shade of grey! I’m well versed in the monster that is anxiety but now the feeling lasts a few days max and it very rarely, if ever (touch wood), gets to the spiralling/out of control phase now.
Change is happening in my life as I type this. With change comes uncertainty. With uncertainty often comes anxiety but this time it’s been different. This time when I got triggered, I could sit still, witness, and essentially live stream the feelings that were ripping through my body without rushing to suppress them as quickly as possible with exercise. I was sitting on the sofa with the usual acidic feeling under my skin and pressure behind my eyes. I felt trapped, backed into a corner and, man, I wanted to fight. I had pure caveman feelings of rage — I wanted to beat the crap out of something. I wanted destruction. I had feelings of wanting to run and keep running — like Forrest Gump on steroids!
I didn’t do any of those things but I could totally see the angle as to why some people do. I empathise massively with the feeling like there’s no escape or control. Rest assured, with a bit of work, there is.
The main thing that came up for me on the sofa though, above all of those things was that I wanted to cry. In those moments crying would feel like wringing a cloth, with all those pent up emotions flowing out of me like a river of relief and bliss.
I’ve learned that emotions are simply ‘energy in motion’ and that the first law of thermodynamics states - energy has to go somewhere. If we don’t have the capacity to let our emotions out, and crying is perhaps the quickest way to release them, they will come out in another way, often in behaviours like fighting and self-sabotage. If left without being exhumed for a long time, they can even come out in body ailments. I’ve had all of those things happen, none of which was pretty.
When a person increases their capacity to witness their ‘energy in motion’, and not suppress how they are feeling, they have more time to choose to act as opposed to react. In turn, they learn to be able to stay seated on the sofa as opposed to burying their feelings and eventually uncontrollably lashing out, verbally or otherwise. It’s a game-changing skill that I believe many more people would opt for learning if they’d grown up in a world that celebrated vulnerability over toughness. To be vulnerable is hands down one of the most courageous things a person can be so why, in 2022, is it still not seen as that by everyone?
Imagine a world where people were able to witness their emotions and choose to act instead of reacting. Men proud to be vulnerable and open about their experiences, in turn talking about what’s happening for them. The potential behind that in relationships is mind-blowing for loving connection. As another example, think about men/people in politics being able to express themselves fully and constructively having whatever they say respectfully received by whoever they are talking to because they also know how to limit their reaction to their emotions. Take a moment to ponder that…
Real strength comes from mobility. Mobility = Strength X Flexibility. Flexibility comes from being less rigid. Overly exercising literally makes a person’s muscles harder and more rigid which means their capacity to feel emotions is reduced. The ‘energy in motion’ can’t flow through a person as easily. You “callus your brain” as David would say. On the surface, this seems awesome — it’s a quick fix for anxiety caused by fear, shame, guilt, etc — but it’s also a sticking plaster. It doesn’t get to the root cause. By increasing one’s ability to sit with difficult feelings and talk about them, a person can release whatever it is that is being suppressed by their extreme exercise routines or other more harmful addictions.
David has a huge following on social media. If he could show a balance of strength and flexibility by showing endurance as well as emotion, a lot of boys and men that look up to him would see it. His influence might encourage them to feel that it’s okay to show when they’re really not okay. I know this goes against his whole ‘don’t give up’ brand but there really is a difference between giving up and embracing DEFEAT (Don’t Ever Feel Embarrassed About Talking). That’s why I believe David Goggins’ tears could save the world.
If you’d like to have a chat about anything that came up for you while reading this and/or coaching around this subject, please get in touch here.
If any people that identify as men are looking for a group to share their feelings every couple of weeks — think of it like letting the steam out of a pressure cooker — get in touch here.