Denver counselor Gideon Killion explains why men should view their emotions as useful tools.
If it’s difficult for you to talk about feelings, you’re not alone.
In working with male clients in my Denver counseling practice, I’ve noticed a pattern around how men interact with their emotions. In short, we tend to think of feelings as inconvenient. We often try to minimize or ignore them.
I’ve seen this pattern with my male friends as well. At times, I’ve even seen it in myself.
The world tells men that we need to get better at understanding our feelings so that we can be more open to our loved ones. But that’s not the only reason.
In my experience, ignoring our emotions means we can miss out on important information about what’s working well (or not working) in our lives.
Why Is This Emotion Stuff So Hard?
It’s not surprising that most men find it difficult to navigate emotional terrain. In fact, there are lots of reasons why it can be really tricky.
- Some emotions are nuanced and complex. We can have conflicting emotions that come from different parts of ourselves. Sometimes these mixed emotions are hard to untangle, and all we know for sure is that strong feelings are painful. So we look for a way to distract or numb ourselves.
- We’ve been trained to hide emotional reactions. Society teaches us that showing emotion is weak, especially vulnerable feelings like sadness. As kids, we may have been bullied for showing our feelings. Or maybe we were told that we should “toughen up” or “be strong.” So we learned to turn those emotions into anger or other acceptable responses.
- We judge emotions as positive or negative. No one wants to experience “negative” emotions. The name implies that we’re bad if we feel them. But negative emotions can lead us toward needed change.
- Some emotions show up as sensations, not words. It can be tricky to identify emotions when they show up in the form of body sensations. For example, if you have a lump in your throat, you may not realize that this could indicate sorrow or regret. A recurring physical pain, such as a headache or backache, may also be related to emotions. Some men develop physical pain through unexpressed feelings of hurt, anger, fear, or sadness.
Why Wrestling with Emotions is Worth It
Even when emotions are messy and uncomfortable, it’s usually worth it to sort through them. That’s because there is often useful information waiting there. Emotions are messages from the parts of our brains that we don’t directly control. These messages tell us what matters most to us so we can prioritize what’s important. When we crack the code of our emotions, we can make choices that are in line with our needs and wants.
For example, we often feel a tension between duty and desire. This can leave us feeling as if we’re trapped in an unsolvable equation. The trapped feeling shows up as anger, sadness, anxiety, or shame. These emotions are clues that we need to resolve the tension by making a change.
It’s okay to take a step back from overwhelming emotions. You can give yourself the space to sort through what you’re feeling. It’s only harmful if you choose to stay disconnected or distracted as a long-term tactic.
The bottom line
Emotions are useful data that can lead us toward more fulfilling lives. If you’re interested in making your emotions work for you, I can help you do that through counseling or coaching at one of my Denver offices. Get in touch and we’ll set up a free consultation.