This is where it all begins. Little boys are taught not to cry. To push their emotions deep down within. When we do this, we are severing a part of us that we desperately need. Without it, we become toxic to ourselves & to everyone around us. We don’t learn how to feel & deal with emotions. We feel weak. This makes us even more angry in the long run. I am not going to address all the symptoms of T.M. but more so the root cause as I have experienced it.
I recall an early memory of being very upset & crying my eyes out. You know that deep kind of sobs that cause your whole body to convulse & words come out in chunks. Snot starts running. You get the idea. The fact I was four & this memory stands so clear & I still feel the emotions give contrast to the trauma of this little boy. I’m the baby of eight siblings, so I can take some ribbing. I recall sobbing & looking for some comforting arms to hold me only to be met with ridicule. “Shut up, you little cry baby, titty baby, cry, baby! Be a big boy. Big boys don’t cry. Cry, baby!”
My world tilted. I beg them to stop. I said “Momma, please stop!” only to be met with more ridicule. That’s right, it was my own mother teaching me this painful lesson. Look, it was a different world & this woman had raised nine monsters, so on the one hand I understand & can offer her some grace.
From that day on I would feel tremendous shame if I felt the urge to cry. This followed me my whole life. As a man, I would seek not to feel those kinds of emotions because I was incapable of holding them. To feel without serious emotional distress. In blocking emotions, it severs us from our spiritual nature. We become toxic to ourselves & others as well. We are not taught how to process emotions like anger. In my family, we were taught by example to push it down & then inevitably you wind up exploding all over the very person you are trying to protect from the anger. Then the shame replaces the anger, driving us even deeper. The truth is anger is a natural emotion. It can be a lifesaver in the right situations. It’s okay to feel anger, to hold it, but then we must release it so as not to harm ourselves or others.
Men come into adulthood ill-prepared when they never learned to feel, hold & process emotions. When we become aware & comfortable with feelings, we then begin to embrace our emotional nature. This can be very stressful for us. I recall when I opened these flood gates, I was not prepared for the tsunami of emotions long-buried that followed. It was a torrent to be certain. Fortunately, I was able to spend a lot of time alone during this stage. To be that emotionally unstable in front of people would have added even more stress. I felt like a wreck. It was like everything was an endless series of those damn Hallmark commercials. You know the ones I’m talking about. Yet in time, I allowed the emotions to flow & stayed the course. I began to feel comfortable with them. I made friends with this long lost part of my psyche. I started to feel empowered by them. I realized a greater sense of authenticity in my life. Being authentic is merely being our true self, no matter where the chips fall. You can not experience lasting joy or happiness without being fully authentic. A new sense of compassion & empathy for every living creature began to emerge as time passed. More emotions to feel & understand. By now I am enjoying this journey. I feel a connection to people that I had not before. In the past, it seemed like there was a little something between myself & other humans. Like a veil or something almost. Perhaps the walls I had built were finally crumbling. Love is the one thing that connects us as human beings. Embrace it.
Sociopaths/Psychopaths are generally not born but created through childhood trauma. The brain development is halted. The brain must communicate with other parts of the brain. Otherwise, all sorts of challenges erupt. Particularly the brain does not learn to talk to the frontal lobe, where empathy & compassion are located. The child does not develop the higher emotions of love & empathy for themselves or others. They often develop N.P.D. (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) or other personality disorders as well. Not every child, but about 25% statistically. Sociopaths & Psychopaths have a distinct disconnection from empathy & compassion. They lack the ability to feel for others. They can not love. You may have known someone as a kid that would torture animals & the like. This is a strong indication of a Sociopath or Psychopath in the making they are unable to connect to their compassion & empathy.
I literally cringe when I am in public & I see parents telling their little boys, to be a “big boy, to be a man. Big boys don’t cry, etc.” I understand why they do it. It is what they were taught & who wants to be in Walmart with a screaming kid? But what if we only took the time to think about our actions? Actions we all inherited. Perhaps we could break the cycle. Sometimes merely being aware can change the cycles & change our world.
I have only scratched the surface of toxic masculinity. The truth is when we think of T.M., what generally comes to mind are assholes that abuse women & children. The typical Sociopath/Psychopaths. But T.M. affects most men. It does not manifest to such extremes, but in my case, it affected my everyday life under the surface. It affected my joy, my happiness. It prevented me from feeling complete in myself. It makes us feel dysfunctional. It makes us ashamed of our feelings. Like there is something wrong with us & that creates fear & anger like an under-current. It is there grinding away at our authenticity.
Men also feel other men will think they are gay or a Wussy if they demonstrate emotion to other men. From my generation, our Fathers were not capable of expressing love for their male children as easily as they could for their daughters. Even so, with the girls, it was still stunted. Many daughters grow up groomed for emotionally unavailable men because of this. We inadvertently curse our children, too, play a role that was never meant for them.
We should nurture our little ones, maybe in ways we weren’t taught. It is okay to feel all emotions. Hold the little ones & teach them how to release them. There is no shame in emotions. They just need to understand how to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Now I tell the men in my life how I feel about them. How grateful I am to have them in my life. How much I love them. Sure, some of them squirm & avoid eye contact. I find it funny & often will grab them & hug them tightly, all the while they are feeling awkward. In time, they too feel comfortable expressing their emotions with me. It’s like Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
We’re not going to change the world by remaining stuck in the ruts of the past. We must, as a collective, blaze new trails. Won’t you please join me in raising our awareness & healing our world, one little boy at a time?