One of my favorite movies is The Pursuit of Happyness, featuring Will Smith. The movie surrounds a single father trying to build a life of security for his son. Based on a true story, the movie portrays the emotions of a father fighting for his own life and fighting for a future for his son. In one of the most emotional scenes in all of film, the father is left without a place to stay for the night, so he and his son find an empty bathroom in the train station. While the boy is sleeping, someone tries to get in the bathroom. The father covers his son’s ears and puts his foot against the door to keep the person from entering. At the same time, the father is weeping as the weight of his current situation is sitting on his chest. I immediately put myself in this scene and begin to process what emotions I would be feeling if that was my son and I was putting my foot against the door. Men have emotions too. Somewhere along the masculine journey, many of us, were told to stop crying, suck it up and show no emotions.
Even if we do our best to hide our emotions, this doesn’t stop us from feeling them. As boys, we are taught how to poorly handle our emotions, therefore as adults we are left not knowing what to do.
If you find yourself angry, sad or excited during your day and you cannot seem to pinpoint why, you may need some help processing these emotions and feelings. Here are three questions to ask yourself when you have emotions but are not sure what to do about them. These questions can help you process your emotions in a healthy way.
1. What am I feeling?
Honestly asking yourself, ‘what am I feeling’ not only lets you identify your emotions, it will challenge you to accept them. A few weeks ago, I got real short with my kids and anger began to come out of my mouth. Seeing my frustration, my wife simply asked me, “are you frustrated?” My quick response was, “NO! I am fine.” However, this was not true; I was frustrated and angry, but it wasn’t until I stopped and recognized it, that I was able to do something about it. The hardest part of asking this question, is oftentimes you are feeling something that is not visible to the world around you. Your mind is spinning and you feel fear or anxiety about the world but no one sees it. It is in these moments, where this question is most important. You must stop, ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Next, write it down. “I am feeling….. (fill in the blank.)” Verbalizing and externalizing your feelings allows you to process them in a healthier way. After you determine what you are feeling, you can ask yourself the next question.
2. Where is this coming from?
Oftentimes, my anger with my kids comes from outside frustrations. Therefore, I must identify where the emotions are coming from and call it what it is. In doing this, we can acknowledge that we have feelings, and we know why. This doesn’t justify irrational behavior in response to our emotions, but it should reset our focus on managing emotions properly. I cannot continue to yell at my kids because I had a hard day of work. It is simply not fair. Being willing to ask yourself where emotional reactions may be coming from helps avoid them in the future.
First, we identify that we are feeling anxiety in question one, now we excavate the source of this emotion. You may be able to identify the sources and make corrections on your own or you may need to take your emotions to questions number three.
3. Who do I tell?
If you find yourself asking question three, because of external emotions displayed in an unhealthy way, you may need to apologize to someone. Saying I’m sorry doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human and may be as simple as going to your spouse or kids and saying, “I had a hard day at work and I took it out on you, please forgive me.” Even after asking forgiveness form those you have mistreated, you may continue to internalize and suppress emotions until you tell someone more about it. Confide in your spouse, close friend or mentor. Consider finding a professional counselor. Don’t believe the stigma, that is often attached to masculinity, that men don’t need to see a counselor. In the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond, the crude grandfather would often say, “some head doctor won’t help.” Here is a secret you must know. Most counselors will tell you straight up that they do not have all the answers, they simply want to help you process your thoughts so that you can find your own answer.
Yes, men have emotions too. Emotions are healthy and part of our everyday life. Begin asking your self good questions to help process your thoughts and feelings in a more responsible and healthy way.