Emotional health. Is that a real thing?

I’m not really an old school guy but I’m old enough to remember the ways of being a man from years ago. Way back when, my dad wouldn’t show emotions. He was a pretty funny guy but even when he told or heard a joke that he thought was funny, he wouldn’t laugh too much. I remember his friends were all kind of the same way.

My dad didn’t show much anger either. Guys didn’t lose their cool so much back then. With anything that was happening in their lives, they remained subdued. And you can forget about my dad or most other men ever crying. The old school man could lose a child and barely shed a tear about it. They kept that shit in. Even when guys were drinking back in the day, they would try not to act drunk. Even if they were hammered.

Today’s man can be sensitive. He’s allowed to show his emotions. He can laugh hysterically, show that he is pissed, act drunk and stupid, and even cry over puppies.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

When I was fourteen, I had a cute little Cuban American girlfriend and she broke up with me. It was my first experience with love and I was a devastated little boy. The day she ended it, I had to go to work with my dad installing insulation in houses. On the way to the job, my dad was driving, and I was sitting there crying over the breakup. He and I didn’t talk about it, but after a while, my dad got disgusted with me crying so he handed me a towel and said, “wipe your face”. That was all he said to me and that was all he had to say. I got it. It was an early lesson for me to man up and I did. The hurting inside continued but the tears stopped, and I went to work and survived the heart break.

I remember being embarrassed crying in front of my dad, but I also remember how good it felt to let that extreme emotion out. I think my generation was the one that made the transition from men showing no emotion to men showing it.

EQUALITY AND PSYCHOLOGY IS THE REASON

The last fifty years has brought about a lot of equality for women in our society. It really wasn’t that long ago that women couldn’t vote and didn’t have careers. Women became more independent and started doing things that only men did before. They started doing things like wearing pants, picking up the check at a date, and working construction jobs.

This movement of equality for women were having toward men propelled a natural movement equality for men too. As some women took on male characteristics, some men took on female characteristics. The equality our society was moving to was allowing a wider range of options for not just women, but both sexes. As women were now able to drive a truck, pick up the check, and have a voice, men then were accepted when they had long hair, let women pay, and wore a splash of pink. The gravity towards gender equality brought about many allowances for men in society including the ability to show emotion.

The other reason men were permitted to show emotion is from the science of psychology. Now I don’t want to debate whether psychology is a science or not. Not here anyway. One of the many theories that have come out from the study of psychology is focused on why women live longer than men.

Statistics clearly show that women live longer than men. Women live about five years longer which doesn’t seem like much but ask yourself that when you’re seventy-five. The big question is “why”?

Way back in the days of hard labor, the answer was an easy one. Men worked physically harder than women and therefore their bodies didn’t last as long. That made sense. As science started dictating more of the reasons for things, theories about why women live longer than men grew. One of the biggest theories was that women lived longer than men because women were allowed to express their emotions more, while men were not, especially when it comes to crying. Men were therefore not allowing their bodies to let out that intense energy which in turn causes more internal inflammation which in turn causes disease, mainly cardiovascular disease.

I remember these theories well as a young buck. It was becoming O.K. to cry as a man. Hell, your health may depend upon it. This was a turning point for men showing emotion, as society was also becoming much more health conscious.

With all this equality we have now, men are outwardly emotional and can cry in public. But we are still dying earlier. Oh well. There are a ton of new studies and theories as to why women live longer but nothing is yet definitive.

SO…. IS EMOTIONAL HEALTH A REAL THING?

As the writer of this article, I’m not more or less qualified to answer that question definitively than anyone else. But as an extremely health conscious yogi of seventeen years, my opinion is an absolute “yes”. Our minds (and our bodies) are running emotional programs in the background every day and night of our lives. They are way more than just indicators for how we think about something going on in our lives. They are the drivers for what we do and want and who we are on an everyday basis. They also dictate what we are going to do and when we are going to do it.

I’m not saying the wheel has been re-invented here. The term “emotional health” is a lot like the term “climate change”. It’s a term of a fact. It can mean anything, or it can mean nothing. The reason I like the term “emotional health” is because I think we can manage the health of our emotions which will give us more of a connection to ourselves and what’s going on inside.

MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH

As a migraine sufferer, I am forced to manage my emotions. If I find myself getting extremely angry or irritated by things that don’t normally bother me, then that’s a sure sign for me that a migraine is coming. Sometimes if I can chill out and not let my mind go crazy with mad thoughts, the headache never comes. Here’s what you can do to manage your feelings.

Identify what you are feeling – So you’re a guy and don’t pay much attention to what you feel most of the time. That sounds manly and I get that. There are a lot of benefits to knowing how you feel at times in your life though. Most assholes are too cool to manage their emotions and that starts with them not knowing what they are feeling.

You can start learning how to do this when something happens, and you have a weird feeling in your stomach. When that happens, go find a place to be alone for a couple of minutes and just chill out and breathe. After you’ve settled a little mentally, ask yourself “why do I have this feeling in my stomach?” You may not be able to tell yourself what it is at first, but your mind will work on the question and eventually answer it.

The answer may be simple. “It was that thing my co-worker said to me. I don’t like what he said. I’m feeling anxious about it”. Boom you’ve done it. You now know what you are feeling. Now that you know how to access what you are feeling when something gives you that tinge in your stomach, you can learn to take a pause and go find out what you are feeling anytime.

Identify why you are feeling – This is just an extension of number one. Your co-worker said something to you that made you feel anxious which really was anger. Ask yourself “why did that make me angry? I don’t think he meant anything by it but I’m pissed about it. Why am I so pissed?” Again, the answer may not come to you immediately, but you will figure it out. And when you do, you’ll be able to analyze it and place the proper emotions to it.

Understand what you are feeling – This is the advanced part of emotional management. You’ve learned what you are feeling and what event brought you to feeling it, now understand why it made you mad instead of happy or sad or whatever. Think about why it set you off. Did it have something to do with the project you got passed on? Was it because a girl you like overheard him say it to you? Maybe you just don’t like that guy and it has nothing to do with you. Figure it out so you can place the proper emotion to it and put it to bed.

Have a drink or smoke some weed or go for a walk – If you are not feeling right and don’t know why go settle your mind somehow. Once you’ve put yourself outside your life box with a drink or two, or a walk alone in the woods, practice steps one through three above. I’m not saying go out and get hammered or smoke out like Snoop Dog Nelson. You have to stay in control of your emotions while you are thinking of them or it doesn’t really work

Talk to someone – This can be tricky but talking to the right person can be super helpful in managing your emotions. A stranger may be better than someone you know well depending on what you are feeling. Honestly, it’s not so much what the person you’re talking to says back to you, as it is you just addressing the feeling. What’s most important here is the dialog you have with your own self.

Once you’ve practiced enough to learn to understand what you are feeling and why you are feeling it, then you can control your emotions better. And that has advantages of all kinds.

My karate training taught us not to have emotion during situations of self-defense. Being angry or mad was bad because it diminished proper breathing which made you get fatigued and slow. Anger also narrowed your vision which made you vulnerable to side attacks. Fear took away technique advantages which lessened confidence and power. Managing emotions is paramount in most any life or death or stressful situation.

If you want to be less of an asshole, better at talking to women, better at your physical activities, better at your job, better at learning, better at your relationships, and most importantly, a more content and understanding man, then have better emotional health. It sounds like some dumb, over-thought, tree-hugging, vegan shit, but it’s a real thing. And you will be better off.

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