Some of the messages our boys receive from a very young age
Suicide is still the biggest killer of males under 45. And when males attempt suicide, they tend to succeed. It is not a cry for help, as anyway, asking for help is one of the ‘no goes’ of being male because it is seen as a weakness.
Admittedly, many boys and men do survive this ‘conditioning’ but that doesn’t mean it is healthy. Many of those that survive it tend to be self-reliant so as not to let anyone else know what they are thinking (especially when they are emotionally uncomfortable) and bottle up their feelings until they burst out as the only emotion acceptable for males to show: anger – sometimes in the form of aggression. Anger shows you are strong, powerful and in control – all the things males are told they are meant to be. Often, if a man feels worried, humiliated or stressed, he will cover it up with anger – the bludgeon emotion!
Most boys tend to stop crying aged 7. That doesn’t mean they stop having the vulnerable and negative feelings humans have, they just try to suppress them. Healthy emotions are not suppressed. Healthy emotions are experienced, understood and processed effectively or better still, productively.
So I would argue that males need even more support with understanding their emotions to counteract this overwhelming conditioning, starting by telling them that it is OK to express how they feel. And of course, it is actually OK for men to cry.
I wrote ‘It’s OK to cry’ with boys in mind although its content will promote emotional literacy in all children. It helps all children understand that being tough, self-reliant, bottling up feelings and trying to be in control all of the time is not the healthiest way to exist.