"Sometimes, how you ingest this idea of masculinity as projected onto you by the world could be the difference of life and death." Barry Jenkins
We're bad with emotions, well most people that is. We don't know what to do with them. We keep them bottled up. We let them out in messy ways, usually accidentally. We're all over the place. We are emotionally unstable. Why? You tell me. Maybe you don't know, or maybe you do and you're not willing to share that truth with yourself. We are socialized in a myriad of ways (family/upbringing, friends, school, religion, media, etc.) to act and to not act. That is the impact of being taught to suppress your emotions. It might not have been direct but all the times you were told to stop being sensitive, to grow a backbone, to be strong, to stop crying, to get it together, to be man up, and the list goes on and on were the negative reinforcements of an ideology that asked you to shut down a critical part of yourself. Men, in particular, are indoctrinated into a social role that demands stoicism, emptiness, and solitude instead of emoting, wholeness, and relationship. It's the reason why people have a hard time verbalizing what they're feeling, talking to others about their feelings, or experiencing feelings. It's why we hesitate to check on others or feel like we're bothering people when we need to ask for help. It's why we're unprepared to have emotion-heavy conversations, don't how to respond when presented with emotion, and are unfamiliar with the emotions that even we experience. People just freeze. People are out of practice. People are emotionally irregular. That socialization asks you jettison an integral part of yourself off in exchange for power, position, pride etc. The reality is, people who are are able to access their emotions are more powerful, able to leverage their positionality, and are not dictated by pride. Those are the people that we find inspirational, make us feel things, and get us to act. We all have the capability of being those people; in fact that is who we're meant to be.
Vulnerability is not just strength, it is survival. It by sharing our feelings in whatever capacity we feel most comfortably uncomfortable that we get to do the serious work of processing through our life experiences. It is sorting through our stories, our memories, our trauma, our loves, and everything in between that lets us trudge on with a clarity that we desperately need. Instead of being anchored to the past in restrictive ways, we get to carry it with us - our the terms that we dictate. That transmutation from submarine sized weight to a miniature keychain figurine takes a whole lot of time, emotional energy, and intentional practice. That keychain is necessary so you don't forget where your keys are - metaphorically who you are. That tiny submarine keeps you grounded. Whether we accept it or not, what happens to us, what we do/say, and who we are - are part of us. Turning your deepest darkest moments into grit, resilience, and motivation is complicated, messy, and sometimes impossible, but even the process of striving to do so is worthy of merit. How are we creating space, forging relationships, and providing outlets for not ourselves but others to do the self-work that they need to - the self-work critical to regulating emotions, unpacking experiences, and producing some semblance of closure?
What happens when you are unequipped to process through life? What are the consequences of being emotionally underdeveloped and undereduated? What is the outcome for people who never learn, never are provided/nor take the opportunity, or never reconcile their perception with the collective reality around them? We get people who are unprepared to handle life and all the things that come with it, for better or worse. Everything remains filtered, barricaded, and stored away never to be released but one person can only hold so much in before things to slip out, flow out, or burst out in ways that they may not expect. It's why people will have a conversation and suddenly are besides themselves because they are realizing that moment is the first time they are articulating something meaningful for themselves, either out loud or to someone else. It's this unintentional yet subconscious release that can bring a sense of peace or it can open the floodgates for the full weight of what cascade of emotion has been held back for far too long. Those moments are powerful, AND they should be a regular occurrence.
Sometimes those outbursts can be aggressive, violent, and mean. Whether it be hurting oneself or enacting hurt upon others. Power in place of emotion is dangerous and can be deadly. It is one of the motivations for assault, abuse, and many killings. People who are inacapble of regulating their emotions have their emotions manifest in aggressive ways. The force of keeping emotions down mean they come back out with even more force. Toxic masculinity, patriachical ideals, oppression, and the rest are dependent on suppressing emotion, but that sacrifice is too expensive to make. Your humanity is lost in the process. You lose the ability to rationalize your own feelings with your thoughts. It can and has had cataclysmic results.
We don't have to stumble into catharsis. We don't have to random bear our hearts and souls. We don't have to haphazardly vomit our most potent emotions. We can be purposeful in regularly handling what life sends our way. We can talk, write, draw, exercise, cook, sing, dance, etc. our lives out. We can get out what we need to so it no longer is something that weighs heavy on us. We can sort through our own feelings to be more decisive. We can figure ourselves out instead of having no control over what we go through.
Find, search voraciously, explore with urgency what brings you peace. Determine your outlet(s) for expressing yourself. If talking helps you figure it all out - do it. If it's journaling and reading over what you wrote - go ahead. If it is pushing yourself to the brink physically - be my guest. Anything that lets you focus on one thing - you, and you alone - for a little while, do it. You need it. You have to. You are better for it. Make time, put it on your calendar, make it a routine. Discern the people or places where you are okay with being uncomfortable, and share that - so you can unabashedly get what you need out. Sit in your discomfort. Relish in it. Learn to be embrace it. Don't run away from it, change the subject, or shut down. Hang out in the silence. Let the tears flow. Yell. Hug. Touch. Breath. Roar. Ramble. Hesitate. Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep progressing towards your break through. If we don't break through, we break down. Communicate the hard stuff, the things that you're afraid to, the awful, the terrible, the bleak, the somber. Share the little things that seem frivolous or insignificant. Be bold in your happiness, the positivity, and the gratitude. Whatever, and I mean, absolutely whatever, you are feeling share it.
The more you share, the easier it gets - that is a fact. It's like diagnosing yourself with a cold. The more you know yourself, to more you can tell what's going with you, and then act accordingly. If my stomach hurts, if I have a headache, if my throat is sore, they all point to different things. If my body feels heavy; my mood is different; my temper is short; I know I'm not okay and need to do something about. Homeostasis - returning to normal. Regulating your emotions, gets you back to normal. And if you're never done it, then you might find your emotionally regular "normal" is the you, you were meant to be the whole time. Much like anything, practice doesn't make perfect but it does make it a whole hell of a lot more comfortable. It's challenging. It's difficult. It's painful. It's scary. It's life. It is life. It is your life. It is you. It is for your self-preservation. It is for your for life, for you to keep living, and for you to live a full one that is rich with the vibrancy of all emotion. Emotions are what connect us to others. Connection to others is what life is about. People, no humans, are meant to be connected - without it, we do not survive. X