Why Are Emotions So Hard for Us?

Cover of

Cover of WAR

Are you born to fight? Maybe – you are born to hunt. As men, we are the hunters of the hunter-gathers. We are born to provide and protect. If need be, we will fight. It is in that fight we see the worst and best of men. We see what men will do in the name of their God, nation and desires. We also see how men – and now women – will risk it all for their buddies. We see how important honor is for men.

In the hunt, all the focus in on the hunt – it needs to be or you and your tribe will starve. In the fight, all your focus needs to be on the fight or you and your buddies might die. There is no room for emotions, unrelated thoughts or concerns. The single focus of winning at any cost is rushing through your blood carrying adrenaline to give your body super-human strength. Your awareness is focused on the task at hand. You need to take action.

After the action comes release. You purge the tension with ‘the kill’. Then after you’ve won or possibly lost and the battle is over, you’re able to feel. You can feel your exhaustion and pain. You can feel the emotions that were avoided in battle.

The problem comes when there are more battles and you’re not allowed adequate downtime. You start to store the tension and unfelt emotions…you’re now in the realm of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You come home from war still wired for the fight. Still feeling that your emotions will take you out; kill you and your buddies.

Sebastian Junger in this video sent chills through my body and tears down my cheeks with his description of men in battle. Watch it, allow it to you too.

Sebastian Junger visited eastern Afghanistan in the Korangal Valley from June 2007 to June 2008. He traveled there for Vanity Fair and his experiences there form the basis of his new book War. Junger made his name with his book The Perfect Storm which was turned into the popular movie.

Junger’s report on how men deal with battle and their emotions is the best I have heard. The extreme intensity of Korangal Valley battles exemplify what occurs for all men under stress. We shut down. We get on task, we suit up to fight and we go to battle.

In our men’s groups, we are learning to slow down when it is safe so we can be focused and open at the same time. We are not meant to always be at battle or always on the hunt. We are meant to come home, come down and reconnect. The Greeks had sacred prostitutes to get the battle out of the men so they could return to their communities. They understood without external intervention a man was doomed to hold the pain and emotions in his body. The war would continue to be waged within him.

Please find the space and time to allow your emotions to be felt and expressed. You, your family and your community deserves the full you. Let the battle go, return to a place where you can be a man who not only fights and hunts – but also loves.

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