I went through a rough patch earlier this year and one of the things that was pivotal in my healing and growth was my choice to let my emotions flow. To become a connoisseur and student of my own emotional experience. Without overanalyzing. Just being in the moment with myself. And I learned the benefits that come from allowing all of me to show up. So here are some of the reasons why I believe it’s okay for dudes to bust out some tears every once in a while.
1. Keep your pipes clean.
Your dog dies. Your girlfriend leaves you for a taller/stronger/richer/cooler guy. You just watched Rudy. Just like you produce physical waste in your body, every day you have emotions and energy that are generated through your thoughts and experiences. But if you don’t let them flow through you, they will stay stuck in you. What you resist persists. And that just messes up all kinds of things in your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The mind-body connection has been documented enough for you to know how suppressed emotions can influence disease.
One of my teachers, Decker Cunov, tells the story of a how a gazelle acts in the wild. He watched a nature video where a gazelle is being chased for miles by a small army of lions. He narrowly escapes. It has just experienced a hell of a lot of fear, anxiety, and all the emotions that come with the “holy shit I’m about to die” thoughts. And what does it do now that it has reached safety? It pauses and vigorously shakes off all the built up energy inside until it’s all gone. You’d think it was having a seizure. But afterwards, the gazelle is clear and calm, ready to continue its stroll through the savannah. Same applies to you and I.
Emotions have been described as energy in motion. They’re meant to be felt and moved through your body. Trying to hold onto any particular emotion, even happiness, doesn’t work. Most of the time I will actually feel physically lighter after releasing. Even if it’s one emotional notch above where I was beforehand, that’s a huge win. And oftentimes I think to myself, why didn’t I just do this earlier?
Got an emotion? Feel it through. Comes up again later? Feel it some more.
2. Let people see and feel more of real you.
People want to see the full range of you. If right now you’re embarrassed to cry or show emotion in front of your woman, that’s fine. At the very least allow yourself the gift of doing it with YOU when you’re along. Then you can allow yourself to gradually open up to others. And news flash: most women will have a sense what you’re feeling anyways. So why not just own it and express yourself from a place of choice and composure?
I helped produce and co-lead the first Authentic Man Program course in DC last year. It was a huge project and a personal dream of mine to bring this powerful men’s work to Washington. And after eight months of conference calls, emails, spreadsheets and sweat, eighteen men had their lives transformed. What began as a mental vision turned into a heartfelt reality. In the acknowledgment circle at the end of the weekend, I was a standing stream of teary gratitude, joy and love. And I know that my feeling through sadder emotions over years gave me the emotional muscle memory to also feel and express my joy and gratitude. And many people told me afterwards that in my honest emotion, it was the closest they’d ever felt to me.
3. Expand your range of emotions.
If I told you to paint a picture of a flower garden, but only gave you black, blue and red paint, you’d have a limited palette to choose from. Same goes from for your emotions. If you never allow sadness, anger, frustration, you’re limiting the range of your emotional expression. I can’t tell you how many people, both men and women, have told me how they trust, appreciate and respect me more when I show up in the moment, with whatever emotions is present. It took a while to get there and I still practice letting it out even when I don’t want to. I know for a fact that feeling the excruciating heartache of losing love has only deepened and strengthened my capacity to give love. And my capacity to receive love.
4. Flex your emotional muscle.
To me, strength is not so much holding back your emotions. It’s building the personal capacity to hold space for your feelings and present moment experience. To stand fully present and unapologetically say “You know what, I’m really fucking sad today.” Not use the sadness as an excuse to play the victim. But to trust in your resilience and honor what’s showing up in the present moment.
5. Show other men and boys that it’s healthy and normal to cry.
Our culture has the story that men and boys should “suck it up and be a man” when it comes to showing any “weak” emotion like sadness. But that is bullshit. Our emotions are our emotions. Holding back tears just perpetuates the idea that we need to put on a mask in order to be accepted by others or seen as strong. And that just keeps another generation of men walking around with sadness and fear stuck inside them, embarrassed and afraid to cry.
Yes, there are times, like crisis situations or when we need need to support others, when being composed, outwardly strong and temporarily holding back emotions is necessary. Thought the point here is that it’s better to have a choice about how to handle your emotions, not just have the automatic pattern of stuffing them down.
So let’s turn the tide on this antiquated archetype. Be the example of a man who honors and respects himself enough to be present to his emotions and allows his heart and body to be where they are. Both in radiant joy and heavy sadness. And everything in between.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup
that was burned in the potter’s oven?
4 tips to open the valve again.
Jeffrey Platts is a men's coach and authentic communication expert who is passionate about helping men create amazing relationships with women. With over 20 years of personal study and transformational training, he has led nearly 200 workshops and retreats on personal growth, dating, and communication. Jeffrey's work and writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, ABC News, Authentic Man Program and the Good Men Project. He brings a rich toolbox of insights and experiences to his facilitation, integrating his adventures as DJ, amateur stand-up comedian, salsa dancer, yoga teacher and world traveler.