Dear Soldiers (aka men of this universe),
The changing of guard has already happened as I write to those who lag behind. We no longer need to protect and withhold emotions. I seek to promote the kind of man we should be, one who is emotionally agile and self aware.
The world is more transparent today as we see with gender equality on the rise. We men, need to move forward and adapt to the times, it is for the better of us. Anywhere you look you see diversity, in the garden, wardrobe and schools. It is telling us that life thrives when it is diverse. So why must we silo our diverse range of emotions? Why must we be conditioned to respond in a particular way? I found no answer to these questions. It is why I put them to you, in the hope you look inwards and see that there is no script to control our emotional behaviour.
There are many paths we can take to transform our understanding of emotions and learn how to harness the power of sharing these. Lewis Howes a role model for reshaping the masculinity mask says “We aren’t able to fully heal until we start sharing the things we’re most ashamed of, the things we’re most afraid of, and the things we’re most insecure about”.
So to begin this change with those of you emotionally constricted, I’ll share a story I have not told many people. I have not told it because I was afraid about how they would react too or judge my masculinity.
When I was 22, a young man in search of meaning, I did over 6 months of travel around Europe. Before coming home I decided I would fly to America and visit my friend Melanie. We would spend 3 weeks couch surfing on the chip change we both had left. At one of the stops in Austin, Texas we were invited out by a group of friends to party. The night was fun and intoxication levels soared, next thing we know we are heading to an after party at a random house. Upon arriving at the house I became too drunk and passed out on the couch unable to make it home.
In the morning I awoke with a sensual feeling and opened my eyes to see my pants undone and slightly pulled down. In my hungover state this didn’t ring warning signs so I closed my eyes to sleep more. Soon enough as I was nodding off I felt a hand down my pants as a man who was sleeping on another couch had come over trying to sexually assault me. I awoke confused and vulnerable to what had/was happening to me and left to flee the situation.
For over 6 years I have kept this a secret to most, I felt I was relinquishing my manly powers if I told anyone. I was confused by what had happened and didn’t know how to deal with expressing the emotions I harboured.
As I never deconstructed my emotions or the situation I left myself exposed to unknown emotional scars. In any other situation of life such as our physical health or our job we have routine checks to diagnose issues. Talking to someone or to many people was it all it needed. As I write this it sounds simple, but in truth it is about having the confidence to find that one friend you feel easiest to communicate with and challenge yourself to confide in them. If that doesn’t solve the problem move on to the next person whether a friend or a professional counsellor. Realise each person you confide in will only enhance your understanding and strengthen your ability to overcome emotional challenges.
This is just one story of mine in many moments of being emotional disconnected. On a day to day basis I have struggled to stay true to my values in group mentality situations or feeling the need to act stoic at times when I shouldn’t be.
I have a lot of surfing friends and personally love the sport but my skills as a surfer are amateur. It can be a battle recognising my inability and owning up to it with friends. For me I want to please the crowd and earn a reputation I deem important but what good does this do?
In reality they don’t care, it is my monkey mind playing tricks. The false pretence I create only beats me up inside whenever surfing is brought up and I continue on a plateau squashing the passion with emotional guilt.
For me change happened through reading and I can say that there are trailblazing role models at our fingertips to provide guidance on what masculinity is today. Man Up or Good Men Project are two great examples. I encourage you to explore what masculinity is and define it for yourself. For me it has been about recognising who I am and not measuring myself against anybody but rather what I want to achieve. By opening up what I want to achieve such as improve my surfing I am allowing others to nurture me to my goals. I take every chance to question others on what I don’t know, but most importantly on what I do know. Finding points of difference is the best way we can learn to grow.
Storytelling has always played a strong part in history and Aboriginal tribes used it all the time. It was vitally important to share information as it allowed others to know how to behave and why, and to pass on knowledge about everyday life and people.
The way I tell my stories today is to express my emotional experiences in a diary each evening for 20 minutes. It prepares me to be ready for situations in the future when emotions arise and know where they come from.
Being open to yourself and others is important but being vulnerable is hard. Allowing others to comment or judge on our feelings is where we truly open up and it is important for us to recognise their words and not shut the door. It can be a simple coffee chat to ask questions you have on your mind with a close friend or connect with an online service such as Talkspace or 7 Cups.
Besides emotions, body language plays an integral part too. Allan Pease, a leading body language expert says “One thing we know about body language is it’s an outward reflection of your emotional condition, In other words, whatever emotions you’re feeling [are] likely to be revealed in a gesture, posture, movement, expression, and so on. So the art of reading body language is simply [reading] a person’s emotional condition — how they’re feeling. You then match it up with what you hear them saying in the circumstances and the context under which you see it happening. That allows you to become pretty good at [getting a feel] for what could be going on in their head.”
Context is key as body language could be determined by environmental factors such as crossing arms in cold weather. Be aware that this stills promotes negative energy in yourself and the way others perceive you.
When we share our emotions it is important to be open and receptive in our body language so that our words are connected to our emotions and our body.
If we can take a composed position amidst the coming and going of our own thoughts, to see them as feelings and thoughts rather than, that’s me. To note them without judgement or reactivity and let them come and let them go is a place we can thrive.
It is important to recognise that we automatically bring a view or frame to how we think, which determines the source of our emotions. By re-framing our perspective we can alter the meaning and thus improve our state of mind.
Break down your walls, self assembly awaits. Be the man you are because beauty is in the confidence and freedom of our actions.