Breaking Stereotypes

“I disappear when I don’t feel like I am myself. I go to a place to fix things to remind myself that I am in control. That, I am awake.” He said.

Fresh off the bat we can agree that most of us wouldn’t know how to deal with such a statement if it was presented to us on a platter, let alone how to decipher it. It’s confusing. It’s heavy. It’s raw. We tend to shy away from raw emotions. Why? I have no idea. What I do know is that just like numerous experiences in life, so are our individual emotions. Each is unique and specific to an individual. Some we can relate with and others we cannot. Overall, you are never alone. Take this to the bank.

Unfortunately, most men have grown up and are growing up while being fed the narrative that it’s not a masculine thing for a man to show his emotions. A real man doesn’t cry. A real one doesn’t show the world his weakness. There are many boxes men aren’t permitted to fit into or dare to subscribe to. We also know only too well that, some, if not most of our sons, nephews, cousins, and grandsons, will be fed such narratives in the spirit of the continuity of life.

As you look around and catch snippets, or are part of conversations indirectly or directly, you get to see the bigger picture that society is not “equipped to deal with” men’s emotions because we don’t “know how to.” It’s in our homes, classes, work and even religious spaces. Just to mention a few areas.

The big question is how then do/should we deal with the men’s emotions? I ask this because we see men-to-men relationships whereby fellow men become dismissive of each other’s emotions. A very basic example is when one is going through a breakup. What we see as the first response is “Let’s go drink.” Getting drunk is a temporary fix and if not careful, can lead down the path to other things. 

On other occasions, the said “boys” result in hooking their friend up with either a one-night stand or yet another temporary solution. The bitter pill to swallow, temporary solutions are just that, temporary. Most men have been seen to offer temporary solutions and when the “support” stops, heck, the morning after, the days after when reality finally hits home and hits hard, then one gets acquainted with the brevity of the matter thus, my opening statement. 

Empathy(noun): is the capacity to understand or feel what another being is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position– and dare I add, without any form of judgement. 

There are 3 types of empathy. 

  • Cognitive empathy: This is understanding how the other person feels and what they possibly might be thinking.
  • Emotional empathy: This is when you can feel and deeply relate to what the other person is feeling, and it also manifests itself physically as if the feelings are contagious. 
  • Compassionate empathy: This is when you are moved to help, in whatever way, when someone shares their emotions.

Based on the three, we mostly show compassionate empathy, right? I commend us for doing so. Here’s a small challenge, how about we try and combine all three? In equal and healthy measures? How about the next time one of us comes and opens up, we don’t rush to help them musk the feelings? Instead, we say:

 “How would you like for me to be there for you?”-cognitive empathy.

“I can only imagine how this must be for you. Would you like to talk/share more on this?”-emotional empathy.

“Is there something I can do or help you do that can make this easier for you?”- compassionate empathy.

This is the beginning of our intentions to unlearn. To re-learn and to actively learn how to break the already existing stereotypes. Practice with yourself by being gentler and kinder. Practice mindfulness. Practice with baby steps…

It gets better and you get stronger. 

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