By Ty H. Phillips
Anyone who was alive and not four years old in the 80’s was aware of the Cure.
One of their songs said, “and boys don’t cry..” This wasn’t a charge for men not to show emotion but a comment on how he felt we were supposed to be, or at least what we were led to believe.
Men simply didn’t cry.
It was lame and wimpy—only “Nancy boys” did it and if you were lucky like me, your father would catch you, rough you up and tell you, “if you’re gonna cry, I’ll give you something to cry about you little faggot!”
As I approach my 40th, coming up in just a few weeks, I find that I am simply an emotional person. I’ve found myself tearing up when a random song with just the right tone comes on, or when I see a commercial on television about a dad and his little girl. Disney movies usually kill me. Why they need to have so much trauma in them is beyond me, and I am sensitive in general. My feelings get hurt easily.
It’s funny for a guy who was a bouncer in a major downtown area for 10 years, has been stabbed, shot at, caught a stray bullet, competed in strongman, MMA, and powerlifting, and is typically thought to be a manly man, is actually such a big softy.
Yet, there it is. I am a big softy. I’d rather watch cartoons than war movies and I’d rather be with kids or animals than 99% of adults.
I’ve often wondered why it is that we aren’t supposed to show our emotions. Why we feel the need to hide them and cover them up. I can understand maybe in a state of war we don’t want to be running around blubbering and freaking everyone else out, but in general day to day life, what is it that makes us think showing emotion is negative? Why not empathise, emote, engage, and in general open up to our friends, partners, loved ones? Instead we walk around like stone—emotionless, intellectually stale and pretend that this is somehow not only pleasant, but actually appealing.
Personally, I find this type of persona to be one dimensional, boring and almost cowardly because we suppress, hide and pretend to be something in order to meet a social construct that leaves the vast majority of males ill, unhappy and largely depressed (yes, factual, look it up). I’ve found that slowly allowing myself to not only experience my emotions, but share them has been both cathartic for me and has actually brought most people I associate with, closer.
Friends from all walks of life who thought I was that one dimensional, stale, and boring guy, became fast friends and the best of friends when I wasn’t pretending to be cold, unfeeling and unmoved by emotional content.
So why? How did this happen to me? As with most of my writing over the past five years, it goes back to my near death experience. Prior to that, I was struggling immensely with my anger. I kept everything bottled up; I was repressed and enraged.
I was imploding slowly and steadily until eventually I collapsed.
Like most people facing death, I looked back, not with rejoicing but with regret. Time wasted, experiences denied, opportunities passed over and a lifetime of emotional repression and denial. It all came to the surface until I found myself agoraphobic, depressed, and trying to father a newborn. I was a bucket of tears and remorse in a time when I should have been happy and overjoyed.
As I looked around the world and my life, I was overwhelmed and morbidly depressed. I saw no reason for hope or growth or a world worth bringing a little girl into, especially given the state of my health and a broken relationship. What could go wrong, did.
I was faced with two decisions: lose all hope or look within.
I started studying Buddhism again and stumbled upon self compassion. I had to start there. If I could not face myself, I could not face a world that was much like me. So I wept. I wept for days. Everything that needed to come out, did. Not that it was over and left, but it was experienced, touched, seen and even talked to. I allowed myself the ability to hurt and cry, to feel and regret, to be vulnerable and open and it was more than cathartic.
I started waking up each morning with a growing, yet still fragile sense of calm. I found myself laughing, smiling, yearning to get back outside of the four walls I had enshrouded myself in. As I allowed myself to be open to my own pain and fears, I began to heal. My emotional and physical health started coming back; my smile returned and my anger left.
This isn’t to say that I still don’t carry the socially-created garbage within me. I still shake my head when I find myself tearing up over a diaper commercial, but the headshake also comes with a laugh. I feel lighter, less polluted and free.
Maybe the next time you feel this way, let a few tears flow.
You can always grunt and spit and rub your hands in the dirt afterward, but I guarantee you’ll feel better.
Editor: Dana Gornall