Dying to express – The dilemma of lack of communication amongst men Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
Ever said to a man ‘how do you feel?’ and he just grunts? Or maybe he is a great talker, but only if it is about the latest sporting game… Why are women generally more expressive about their feelings than men? Is it really due to genetics or is it something about the way we as a society ask boys and men to be? Why is it that when you generally ask a man to express his deep personal feelings about something he runs a million miles? He may give you an answer that’s less than a sentence, or change the subject to avoid going there. Whilst this behaviour can be common amongst men, is it really natural for men to behave in such a way or is it more a case of how they are fostered to be growing up?
Men are naturally sensitive, and we can see this very clearly in young boys. However, the world often does not encourage boys to be sensitive but to be hard, to 'get on with it', and to not express what they are feeling. Hence boys can grow up to be men who are essentially impotent when it comes to expressing their feelings, which results in a whole host of issues for their relationships, their ability to make sound decisions, and their health. We ought to support men to express their feelings for it is natural for them to do so.
Is it possible that men are simply out of practice when it comes to expressing their feelings? It’s not for women to change men, but for a man to choose it for himself, and many men are not open to expressing more and are comfortable with life just the way it is. Men can feel terrified of expressing how they truly feel because it can seem like unknown territory compared to say fixing things, or providing for their family. But what effect does lack of expression have on men’s bodies? What are the consequences when a man bottles something up over time? We know people can have an outburst when they have not dealt with something, a day when they explode and it all comes out, albeit usually in a very reactive way. But is it possible that lack of expression affects our physical health too? Suicide rates are substantially higher amongst men than women. Could this be related to the accumulated internal tension over time of men not expressing themselves? We all know what it is like to push undealt with issues under the carpet– but has this become the default education for dealing with issues that boys and men are taught throughout life? Do we consider the devastating effect this may have over time? Using devices like ‘thrashing it out on the footy field’ or just having a beer with mates, or burying oneself in work or in a computer game doesn’t get the expression out about what is truly going on for men.
Is it possible that these devices have not helped? And are we seeing the end result of their failure in the statistics of ill mental health and wellbeing that men are generally experiencing?
If as men we think that we can just get away with continuing to go to the usual devices that have not worked we miss an opportunity to more deeply understand ourselves, our lives, and our relationships.
The bottom line is when something is left unexpressed it doesn’t magically disappear – it remains unresolved until it is fully addressed.
If the usual taught behaviours are ingrained as part of a man's normal every day coping and survival mechanisms, how then do men begin to make a change?
This topic will be continued in a soon to be released article. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.