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Men are socialised from a very young age that it is not ok to show emotions and be vulnerable. We hear the expressions of ‘man up’ or ‘he’s crying like a girl’ or ‘look at him mama’s boy’!! These expressions, so embedded in the Western culture, teach boys from a very young age that it’s not acceptable to show signs of weakness and emotion and to do it alone when in pain and feeling broken. Parents at times assume that giving boys physical love and attention can spoil them and not help them toughen up. Boys from a very young age are encouraged to man up and this might stall emotional growth and healthy attachment patterns.

Crying is a natural response to a range of emotions and emotional tears contain a higher level of stress hormones. Therefore crying can be a release of pent-up emotions and stress being carried out in the body. If not released in some way, stress can cause physical difficulties including heart problems, high blood pressure and strokes. Stress can also result in insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to teach men from a very young age that it is important to express emotions, both positive and negative ones and to seek help when in need.

On the other hand aggression, anger and rage can be acceptable forms of behaviour and violence can at times be an expression of the inner struggles young men face. Not surprisingly, mental health difficulties are prevalent in men, with suicide being significantly higher in men than in women. Depression, loneliness and isolation seem to be other problems that men can face on a daily basis.

Redefining masculinity

Nowadays, current western culture is slowly moving towards re-defining the modern man as emotional but strong person. It is touching to see huge names like Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi crying and showing their emotion on pitch after a great match. Education systems and parents are encouraging boys and girls alike to become more emotionally intelligent with some schools adopting mindfulness and emotional coaching as an integral part of their curriculum.

These trends can encourage men to reconsider and redefine masculinity. Slowly they can become more aware of their emotions and accept them not as a sign of weakness but as a sign of being part of the human race. Becoming more emotionally intelligent might encourage our boys to become more confident in sharing these emotions with those who love them. This can in turn help them make better and healthier connections to live a fuller and happier life.

Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on anna@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.