Navigating emotions, for men
As men we need to see that seeking help with our emotions is a normal and positive thing to do.
June 13, 2022
6 min read
There are a lot of competing pressures in our modern lives. As a younger man navigating single life and finding your way can be challenging. As you progress in life, balancing work and family is always tricky. Then later in life we need to continue to find joy and meaning.
Emotional challenges are a daily part of life for men, and women and are no greater or less for men or women. In this blog I'd like to talk about some of the factors and challenges that can be unique for men.
Men are not always as well equipped or perhaps willing to focus on emotions. It can be hard to understand what to do with our emotions. Focusing on emotions is commonly perceived as a weakness by men. This can be because of cultural norms, family environment or influences from friendship groups and media.
The quality of relationships with friends, family and partners are an everyday factor that supports and affects everything we do, no matter what stage of life we are at.
As a younger man I ventured out into the world to find a partner. Relationships are always challenging. Two people, no matter how compatible, will always have different opinions, desires, and priorities in life. Most of these differences can usually be resolved in a caring or even fun way. But some situations can bring deep emotions to the surface which can result in conflict and emotional turmoil.
These emotions can be very difficult to navigate, especially if you do not even understand your own emotional behaviour! We can very quickly find ourselves feeling angry, hurt, upset and isolated. Problems can quickly form between you and your partner that seem impossible to resolve.
Think about a relationship problem you have had in the past, now think about this: What if you had known how to understand that problem? It may seem like an impossible thing to do, but by focusing on our emotions and our partner's emotions, relationship ups and downs can be navigated. The outcome is often a deeper connection.
Balancing competing demands
These days, as a father with two young children, my weekly routine is all about how to balance and prioritise multiple competing demands on my time. It would be easy to focus all my energy on my work. Or perhaps instead focus all my energy on my kids, foregoing success in my career. Or perhaps focus all my energy on my own interests.
The challenge begins when I try to find a balance where all these demands are met.
I don't always get it right. There is usually not enough time in the week, and I don't always make the right choice on what should take priority. When someone's needs are not met, emotions come in to play. It could be my kids are upset at me for not spending enough time with them, or conflict with my wife because jobs at home are not being done, or my own personal feelings of stress or unhappiness due to work pressures or little time for personal interests.
Avoiding how you feel doesn't help
Emotional situations can create feelings of stress, anxiety and other types of mental pressure and upset. These emotions inevitably surface, and cause conflict and hurt feelings. How can I navigate these normal family pressures and ups and downs?
Avoiding, hiding or ignoring you you are feeling may seem like the right thing to do in the moment, but it really is just a short term fix. When these issues are left unaddressed they inevitably surface in the form of much larger conflict, or feelings or perhaps even leave me feeling isolated or depressed.
Get the emotional tools you need
Regardless of the situation or your stage in life, when you find yourself in a negative place, it can be difficult to navigate without the right emotional tools. Taking the time to focus on how you are feeling is a crucial first step. Are you perhaps feeling depressed, anxious, ignored, upset, angry, sad, depressed, defensive? Can you understand where this emotion is coming from? Do you know how to ‘reset’ back to a normal emotional state?
Spending time with a psychologist will help you to understand where your emotional responses are coming from and give you emotional tools that will help you navigate daily life, and increase the positive outcomes in your life.
In my own personal journey, a few years ago I was struggling – my emotional responses to stressful situations were causing negative behaviour, particularly with my family.
I sought therapy from a psychologist. The psychologist helped me to understand that my struggle was caused by several factors.
One factor was that sometimes my emotional needs were not being met. When this happened, I was not able to recognise it, I would just feel angry and withdrawn, which led to a cycle of depression. I was unable to recognise this situation, or it's causes, and it was a very deep emotional hole that was hard to climb out of.
There was no quick fix - I have had to learn how to identify why I am feeling upset, and express that in appropriate ways. It didn't go very smoothly at first. But with time I have learned how to express my emotions well, which has led me to a place where I better able to understand how I feel, and how to express it.
This sounds selfish but it isn't. Making sure I am having my emotional needs met does not take anything away from the people I love or make them less happy. In fact, when I’m in a happy place emotionally my mood and emotions are much more smoothly regulated, and I now have a lot more happiness to give to the people around me.
It's not just OK, it's essential
Men, we need to shift to a new norm: Not only is it OK to focus on and talk about our emotions, but it is also crucial for our own happiness, which is in turn crucial for the happiness of the people we love.
As men we need to see that seeking help with our emotions is normal and positive
Take some time right now to think about a relationship or situation in your life that is not going well. What if I told you that in a few weeks from now you could be on a path to being in a better place with that relationship or situation? Seeing a psychologist may seem extreme, but it's not. It's a lot more common than you think.
How can Myndful help?
Mistakes, conflict, and bumps in the road are normal. There are some quick fixes but mostly it's a journey we are on each day. A qualified psychologist can equip you with the tools you need to navigate the bumps and put you on a path to a more positive life.
Roger is experienced in people leadership and mentoring.