06 Apr The Value of a Man Part II
In Part I of this series, we looked at the unique strengths of a man. He seems to have the ability to do things that are right and noble even when he doesn’t feel like it. This makes him a good protector, servant leader and servant of God even when things are tough. God knew what He was doing in the design of man.
However, we also said there is an enemy who sees a man’s strength and is out to exploit and pervert this strength. The ability that man has to separate himself from his feelings can be good in some settings but can also be limiting in his ability to form deep and meaningful relationships.
The greatest challenge we see men have in relationships is inadequate processing and management of emotions. A common message we hear from women is “he seems to be distant and angry a lot” and “I don’t know what is happening”. The one seemingly acceptable male emotion we see expressed in our culture is anger. When we see men get mad on TV or the movies they yell, hit things or shoot people.
Anger however is a secondary emotion that was never intended to be acted on. The primary emotion is usually hurt, sad, offended, insecure, lonely etc… But we don’t have examples of how to express these. We never saw John Wayne and Clint Eastwood sitting around a campfire sharing how intimidated they feel about the upcoming battle. We just watched them spit in the fire and seeth with anger as they prepared for revenge at sunrise. Little boys have been told all their life to stop crying, be a big boy, dust yourself off and get back in the game. We have reinforced the natural hard wiring of having less connections with the emotional right hemisphere of the brain.
This has left two options when emotions are swirling in a man. He either blows up and expresses anger outwardly toward anyone in his path or he pulls back in isolation and stares at late night television. The enemy plays havoc with this. Relationships are limited because of our lack of openness and self awareness and others feel rejected and hurt by our responses. Everyone suffers.
This then leaves a man wide open for the need to medicate his pain. (Which he doesn’t even know where it comes from). He just feels angry and misunderstood. So he is tempted to look to drugs and alcohol, illicit sex, work, money, gambling, hobbies to cover the pain.
When we recognize that we are under attack and it is not that the rest of the world is just a bunch of jerks and disrespectful people, we can devise a battle plan to deal with this challenge.
The key to processing and managing emotions effectively is to learn how to identify primary emotions and resolve those as they come up. I will give men a list of emotions with a variety of levels under general categories like sad, scared, confused and weak. (I have attached a sample of this) Then, we begin to look at situations where they were angry and try to identify what the primary emotion is that is buliding into anger.
For example: I am feeling anxious about an upcoming project and I find myself isolating and shutting down at home. My isolation and coldness may cause my wife to feel uncared for and my children to be hurt when I snip at them for interrupting my work. The more I get hurt feelings from my wife and tears from my kids, the more I begin to feel misunderstood and disrespected. My anger increases and you can use your imagination where this will end up.
If I can learn to share with God, a trusted friend or my wife my primary emotion of anxiety and deal with it on that level instead of letting it build untill I isolate and shut down there is hope of building emotional intimacy in relationships.
Brent Sharpe MS, LMFT, LPC