Friday, September 19, 2008

Men, their Caves, their Emotions and a whole lot of Internet searches!

I have been taking note again recently about how people come to visit my little piece of Cyber Space. My Stats counter records what link or search people enter this blog from. It has continued to surprise me how many people search on the following terms. This is over the space of about two weeks:

men and their cave
men and their caves
men and their caves
emotional support pgce
men and their caves=men and their cave
can men learn to show emotion
men in their cave
womans emotion men god
men emotions hurt

Well you get the idea and the theme here. So if you have stumbled upon my blog searching with the above then welcome and stick around, make yourself at home and hopefully something of what I have shared can help you on your quest.

This article I wrote about a year ago shows much the same thing as far as searches go. This must only be a fraction of the amount of searches done on the subject. I am not about to suggest that over the course of a year anything should have changed about Men's Emotions. However I wanted to give some further thoughts as to why this is such an issue in today's society . I dealt with this nearly two years ago, here and in some depth, but would like to revisit it a little if I may.

So the perception is that men do not either have emotions or simply won't share them. This is clearly nonsense as everyone has emotions. Women just don't understand this male behaviour of retreating into themselves and not wanting to talk about it or show emotion. Or the very different way men deal with emotional pain.

Some Possible Reasons behind the issue!

Back in January my one post mentioned a little saying that was given to me on a fridge magnet, which was:

How many roads must a man travel down before he admits he is lost?

Despite the obvious connotations of men never asking for directions what does this really say about us humans and men in particular?

The classic observation that men never ask for directions says much about the psychological makeup of today's men. I believe the reason why we, as I include myself in this, don't ask for help easily is this in built voice that whispers, or shouts, in our ear that 'to be a man':

  • 'We should know where we are going and how to get there'
  • 'we should know how to repair a puncture'
  • 'we should know how to do DIY'
  • 'we should know how to deal with family crisis'
  • 'we should be able to provide for and protect our families'
  • 'we should be able to father children'
  • 'we shouldn't show emotion openly, unless for football, as it is a sign of weakness'
  • 'we must not cry'
  • 'we must not admit we failed or can't do it'

Recognise any of those? I realise some of these are trite and some are very stereotypical views. However I guarantee they are all thoughts that take hold at some time or another. Look at what type of statements they are. Men are by and large goal orientated people. The pressures of upbringing, society and I believe, design all contribute to this behaviour. I am in no way saying this is necessarily wrong either. We are far by and large more goal orientated than women.

So we bluff our way through life hiding behind this facade of perceived manliness. Blagging our way in conversations we know nothing about. Pretending to be strong when inside we are cowering in fear of failure and weakness. In our marriages and relationships with the opposite sex we are at our most pressured and vulnerable to being found out.

Think about it, when watching a film with your partner. Say a 'Pride and Prejudice' or some heroic film like 'Gladiator'. Women love the strong, heroic, 'manly' types who would sweep them off their feet in passionate desire. I watch those films and it has a twofold effect on me. I identify with those characters and feel a deep tug in my soul to stand up and be counted, feeling inspired to be more. On the other hand I think how can I ever match up to that? More often than not the effect is to retreat inside in fear.

Men retreat and women talk when trying to cope with uncomfortable emotions. Sharing feelings is not natural to men for some of the reasons above and because we feel the need to deal with stuff by ourselves. We are solution orientated: Problem > analysis > solution. This is why a man wants to fix a situation when a woman presents it to him.

The Root Cause

The big problem lies when we place our sense of worth and security on these thoughts, beliefs and ultimately the subsequent goals. We believe that to be a man we should be able to do X and when that X is blocked, removed or underachieved it can have a devastating effect on a mans soul. I use the term soul as the effect goes much deeper than just impacting the emotions.

In every human, man or woman is a need to feel a sense of security, worth and significance. If we have been told when growing up, either directly or indirectly, that being a man means X, Y or Z then that is what we will pursue as one of our goals in life and that goal being expressed through the lenses of masculinity. Men's makeup leans us towards pursuing goals that fill the needs of worth and significance. Women tend towards goals of security. We all need all three to be fulfilled but the two sexes prioritise them differently. This is important for women to realise when trying to understand male behaviour and vice versa.

As I said if we place our need for worth, significance or security in something or someone then there will always be a sense of anxiety since it is uncertain if that something or someone can satisfy that need. Men live with an anxiety that they cannot fulfil their role as men because the goals we believe we need to pursue to satisfy those needs are misplaced. If you think your need for worth and significance is found in your job, your performance in bed, how you provide for your family, your chosen sport, to name a few then those things can be undermined and taken away.

The solution

I have found that there were many things I used to look to and do that brought me a sense of worth and significance. But none of them could ever fully satisfy. I believe as Christian that only in God can we find those needs fulfilled. He created us and put them there in the first place. He is the only one able to do it. The wonderful thing about it is that it takes away the striving and massive emotional effort that is required to satisfy those needs yourself. I find my worth, significance and security in my relationship with Christ. Nothing can take that away! Sure I still have many misplaced dependencies in my life but as I grow and seek God those things are revealed, challenged and gradually changed.

My wife would say I still don't show emotions enough. I still retreat into my cave and stay there for a while figuring things out rather than risk the open minefield of sharing. Of course I have deep, passionate emotions that bubble around inside and I express them as the man I am. Don't pressure us men too much with expectation of grand expressions of emotion.

How many roads must a man travel down before he admits he is lost?

Please don't carry on through your life without considering if you are lost, trying everything you can think of to find satisfaction in a world that can only provide muddy pools that have no lasting worth.

We are all lost without God and the saving grace of the cross of Christ. Apart from Him there is no life. Only a wearisome struggle from one source of unsatisfying excitement to another.

Only in Christ can we be set free to be the true men and women we were created by God to be. Only by placing all our core needs in him and being truly satisfied can we give to others without fear and express ourselves fully. The masks can only be laid at the cross, there is nowhere else. You cannot remove it yourself!

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Now that is Security! That is who you can be!

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