Tag Archives: emotions

I do my crying in the rain

As a young boy I was used to the phrase “big boys don’t cry”, it was supposed to be a motivation for me to hold back my tears when I felt it necessary to let it rain. And then I got older and became a “big boy” and then the phrase changed to “strong men don’t cry”.
The show of emotions among men has long been seen as a sign of weakness, from the early civilizations of Egypt and Greece to the Romans and the Persians even to the Chinese and Aztec empires of old, the man has been trained and taught to be stoic and emotionless. In the African society where I live it is almost a taboo for a man to cry and in some African cultures it is even abominable to be seen playing and laughing with your children or wife. So children grow up feeling unloved by their fathers and struggle to understand why. So it becomes absolutely impossible for him to show love because he never saw it shown, he never saw his dad express a positive emotion so he can’t comprehend the need to express it.
To say that the African society is male centric is just stating the obvious, across the plains of Africa are many cultures that have transition rituals into manhood. Teenage boys most of the time have to go through these rites of passage to be seen as men in the particular culture in question. The requirements vary from circumcision to living apart from your family for a while. It goes from the mundane to the scary and dangerous. All tailored to turn the mind into a vault from which emotions cannot leak out consciously or unconsciously.
There is an absolute human type, the masculine…
Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands,
such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones…He believes he apprehends objectivity.
Simone de Beauvoir

The result of these indoctrinations are both positive and negative but does not take into consideration the fragile psyche of some of these boys who in the name of transition become unhinged for life.
But today my focus is not on the vast psychological disadvantages of gender stereotyping but on the one flaw that is largely unnoticed when these boys become men; their inability to have appropriate emotional responses and have proper emotional connections.
At some time in history it might have been necessary to teach a boy that crying is not a masculine past time, but in the affairs of today, the ability of an individual to own his emotions and express them freely and appropriately gives him an edge in life. Ever wonder why the rate of hypertension and strokes are spiking among Africans, or why the African male has a shorter life span than that of the woman?
The stereotype that a crying man is a woman or less of a man has made a lot of men learn to bottle up their emotions , positive emotions at that and have no problems manifesting the negative ones. So a man that will find it difficult to laugh with his wife, who wants to appear serious all the time so that he can maintain a semblance of authority, has no qualms in beating the wife or the child into oblivion because he has to be the man. His inability to express his positive emotions gives the “dark side” a lot of playing ground.
In movie terms since his dark energy has no good energy to balance it out, the dark runs wild because there is no counterbalanced effect of the good energy.
I know psychologists will have a beautiful name to give this malady, but in a way it is not more than a systematically cultivated emotional apathy.
Today the savvy man finds a way to let out these emotions, even though some women may also term him emotional, but all the same he finds a way to rejuvenate himself and be human.
To feel is to be human, to agree that you feel makes you even more human and to express that feeling put you on top of the species.
As a man you have to liberate yourself from the same shackles that held your father down, I am not talking of economic chains or political ones but of emotional restrictions that have made us servant to our negative emotions.
I am learning everyday on how to express how I feel, to play and laugh and roll on the floor. I don’t want my kids to ever question my love for them or my wife to think I cant share in her pain. I want to be able to cry with my family when the time calls for it and laugh when it’s necessary. I don’t want my kids to keep difficulties and challenges from me because I look unapproachable.
I may sound selfish, but that’s just me I don’t want to cry in the rain anymore, I want the people I love to see me express my feelings and own those feelings. I know its a long tortuous journey, but moving is better than stagnation.

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Fractured Images

The earth’s about five thousand million years old. Who can afford to live in the past?

                                                           Harold Pinter

She has never felt like this before, what is this feeling that she can’t explain? Could this be love, she asks in her mind. And then she remembers and smiles.

This is how her life has been since they met, around him she always felt no need to pretend or to put up facades to protect who she is. With him she was happy being herself. Whenever she hears his voice her heart skips a beat, whenever they are together she yearns to be free like the wind. But in all her happiness she holds back never giving in fully. She is tied down by a haunting memory of decades ago, the memory of an incident that drove her to build walls round her heart. Walls that were meant to keep her from getting hurt. Since the day that memory came into existence she has trusted no man and with good reason too.

Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.

                                                     Christina Rossetti

So now even in her joy and happiness, she is expecting to wake up and find out it’s just a dream. But she hangs on as if on tenterhooks wanting to believe and hoping it’s not a dream.

She can’t remember the last time she had a clear thought since meeting him, her mind is all muddled up and she wonders if she has not lost it. But then if only this feeling can continue she can give her mind for it. In the little moment of “sanity” she gets, she wonders what this feeling is that could break down barriers that are decades strong and still standing. As she begins to get lost in the feeling, the memory comes back more vivid than ever almost in high definition reminding her of what she has suffered and the pain she went through.

She knows the memory was forged in pain and her heart only seeks to protect her; but she must make a decision, either to jump or to stay.

Afraid of tomorrow unknown, guided only by a past experienced she looks at the world through a broken window. So the image she sees is always fractured, fractured by an experience forever etched in her memory. After what seems like an eternity of deliberation, she decides on a course of action.

She decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown, into this vortex of feelings she doesn’t understand she decides to give herself. She decides that her past will no longer define her; she has to live to shame the memory that haunts her and has kept her in chains for decades. She decides to love him as much as he loved her and to open her heart fully to his embrace. And since she took that decision, she has never had course to worry and has never looked back.

Dedicated to all sexually abused women who are finding it hard to give their hearts fully to another.

Life Masks

I once met a dear fellow who was selling medical equipments and on this faithful day he was promoting a medical device that could detect cervical cancer using light and reflective spectroscopy through a method called biophotonics.  It was interesting because the device primarily makes its diagnosis based on the interaction of this particular light form with the different layers of cells in the cervix. So cancer signs hidden in the deepest layers of the cervix beyond physical sight can be located and analyzed by this device.  And that led to my musing, what life will be like if such a device existed but only to reveal our true emotions?

We live in a world where we make a lot of effort to hide exactly what we feel, everybody does it and quite frankly it even has some positive value. But my concern is the loss of who we are that has arisen as a result of these masks that we wear from place to place. At the work place you are a different person, when you live work driving home you are different, at home or in the country club you are still different. It’s almost like we have created for ourselves an emotional persona of who to be at any place and at any time.

Like I said it helps in some ways but becomes a burden when these emotional personas start to overlap. When I cannot verbalize my anger in the work place because I don’t want to be seen as crude and intolerant, with overlapping of these emotional personas I will get home and not be able to converse or discuss something at home that is obviously making me mad.

“Get mad, and then get over it.”

                                                    Colin Powell

With this way of life we internalize a lot of things that have no part being on our insides, so I am angry and in order not to show it, I let it simmer within me, I am disappointed with a task instead of expressing that, I show a happy face and push the disappointment down to the basement as it were. I am disillusioned in my home but because I don’t want my wife to think that her effort at  helping me build a home is not paying off, I swallow the disillusionment and I smile broadly when I come home.

In her book “Her blue body, everything we know” the American author and poet Alice Walker said that, “tears left unshed turn to poison in the ducts”. True enough psychological events have long been recognized as trigger factors for some of our physical ailments. Women have long known that emotional instability affects their menstrual periods, doctors have long proved that physical and emotional stress are predisposing factors for hypertension, anger and intense emotional reactions has been known to cause relapse in peptic ulcer disease patients, men and women have been known to have congestive cardiac failure (heart attack) in response to sudden and intense emotions and the list is endless.

“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his

passions has never overcome them.”

                                                                                                                    Carl Gustav Jung

When this “poison in the ducts” do not manifest as physical ailments, they may manifest in the way we react to people and situations. Disproportionate punishments are meted out to children who commit an offence. The emotions thought to be forever buried sip out intermittently when we least expect it to. You take your wife to a restaurant smiling and joking and a waiter brings you mineral water instead of the bottled water you ordered and you absolutely blow a fuse. You find you cannot genuinely express some emotions anymore because you have lost the spontaneity of expression that makes emotions beautiful. Now you have to will them into being in the façade that have become your life.

You have lost sight of who you are and sometimes you are even afraid to find out because for you, the mask allows you to have a flawless performance on the stage of life so why “change a winning team”. On the outside we exert supreme and absolute emotional control but on the inside we let these emotions run wild with unimpeded freedom because in reality we can only do so much to have control over our internal and external milieu and so we end up having dark hearts and minds but happy faces.

“Outside, among your fellows, among strangers,

you must preserve appearances, a hundred things

you cannot do, but inside, the terrible freedom!”

                                                                                                         Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what’s the way out? In as much as it’s beautiful and wise to have some bit of emotional masking, there is a more important need  to have a way of letting out these bottled up and toxic emotions cause if we don’t,  we may drown in them. Some people do well with therapists others do well by themselves and yet others achieve “release” by talking with a very close friend. Whatever the means, the important thing is to acknowledge and understand the harm these “unshed tears” are causing and are capable of causing in your life. When you achieve that then the next and all important step is to find a way to liberate the emotions of yesterday clogging up your emotional ducts of today, so that you can liberate your glorious emotions from the shackles that have long held them down.

It is a harder journey for deeply introspective individuals because on their own most times they can find the cause of the malaise, if they put their minds to it. But to take the needed step to solve it becomes difficult. For them; it is difficult to understand that the solutions to some problems lie outside of the mind and that the finder of the problem does not necessarily become the solver of the problem, so they labor alone and despair when they don’t succeed.

At the other end is the extremely extroverted group of individuals who do not even acknowledge situations that will bring out “normal negative” emotional responses that every human being will expect, these are the extremely cheerful who live in absolute denial of the fact that they are “mono-emotional”. For them happiness whether real or imagined is the only emotion worth showing, every other emotion or situation that will warrant them is shoved aside and remains unacknowledged.

For them and others who may want  to embark on this  journey to remove the masks that have prevented them from being who they really are emotionally and sentimentally, I say have hope and never stop working towards living the life you were meant to live.

Improbable as it is, unlikely as it is;

we are being set up as a beacon of hope for the world.

                                                                                                        Archbishop Desmond Tutu