This article was first published on the Good Men Project.
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For decades, we were told that we need to become more emotional. To do that we need to connect with and develop our feminine aspects. This is like telling a man that he needs to wear a dress to go out. No matter how beautiful the dress is, I doubt it will look good on him. I certainly doubt he will enjoy wearing it.
All this comes from the fact that when men started leaving the family to go to work 10,000 years ago, women stepped up to train the boys how to be emotional. 200 years ago when we left the farm for the factory, there was very little male role model left. About all we had as masculine archetype was the macho model. We know how well that worked.
It was only natural that women, the emotional experts of our culture, adapted their model for men. When men were emotionally disconnected, they said to us, do it as we do it. Some of us got good at being, not effeminate, but an emotionally sensitive man.
We see men around us diligently working at connecting to their feminine sides, only to have women becoming more upset. We don’t understand it. We’re doing what she wants, but she’s not happy. Many of the women start to realize, you’re trying to do what she wants, but it’s not working.
Years ago when I was working in Boulder, CO I was in the center of the expanding New Age movement. Like most men in Boulder at the time, I was discovering my emotions. Many of my teachers were women. Some were therapists I studied with, others were lovers. My reading consisted of books like How to Be a Sensitive Man.
After a life frozen emotions, I felt set free. Feeling and expressing was my mantra. I found women were more attractive to me. They told me they felt safe with me. I thought found the key to women. I was proud… and arrogant how I had something other men didn’t have.
After a few years of relating to women as a sensitive man I began to see that something was missing. The passion would die off. We were good friends, but the charge that keeps a relationship exciting was gone.
One day it hit me. These women were as much a version of my mother as they were my lover. I set it up so they were in a subtle way taking care of me. I wasn’t standing up. It’s wasn’t standing up against. It was standing for.
Sure I could be vulnerable. I believed being vulnerable was all that was required. When the relationship would deteriorate, I would fix it by being more vulnerable. I had the feminine model down. I was teaching it at that point.
Slowly I started standing up to and for the feminine. That was as hard as developing my vulnerability. To my amazement, women responded positively. Rather than getting mad or rejecting me; they were turned on.
Once I realized what occurred I was pissed that no one taught me this earlier. I also felt like I now had the key the magic kingdom. It was working in men’s groups that I honed this skill. When I was able to stand up to and with other men, I immediately had more presence with women. It was as if the masculine training gave mes the elixir women wanted.
The Solution Lies with Men
No new therapy is going to fix this problem. No new shaming of men will get them to be emotional.
The solution comes from men. For the last 200 years, men have not had a brotherhood once they left school or the military. It’s that brotherhood that taught men for thousands of years. That brotherhood can still teach men today.
You would think, how can men who know nothing about emotions teach other men about emotions. That would be a concern if emotional development was an academic pursuit. It’s not.
For men, emotions are an active endeavor.
With our genome being 99.9% the same as it was 10,000 years ago in the tribe, men still have the instinctual wisdom of Masculine Emotional Intelligence. That wisdom comes out when men are interacting authentically with other men, much like 10,000 years ago.
Over 20 years of working with hundreds of men, we learned how to facilitate men developing skills they never had. Through many refinements, we created a set of “Principle and Core Skills” We use these to teach mean to feel their emotions, and guide them to teach other men as well.
The teaching is less about educating and more about experiencing ways to use your innate masculine skills to build a connection. One such skill is Assertive Vulnerability, your ability to stay open when you take a stance for something you care about.
The feminine model teaches us to be vulnerable. That is good. It doesn’t teach us to stand up while being vulnerable. When you master this, both men and women trust you. The next time you are interacting with a person, and you feel emotions building, Don’t repress them. Don’t disconnect. Don’t attack. Don’t collapse.
- Feel what is happening.
- Your body is always responding, start to allow it to talk to you. Listen to where you are getting tense. What does that tension what to do: run, fight or freeze? Whatever you feel is good—just feel it.
- Listen to what the other person is saying.
- The more accepting you are of your experience, the more present you will be to hear others. Listen with your body. Notice when another speaks, what is your immediate response? You don’t need to take action. You do need to be aware.
- From your response, not your thoughts, respond. Risk being vulnerable and assertive.
- Let his or her words impact you.
- Notice if you are pushed away or drawn closer. Ask yourself what you want. All actions start with a want. Be clear on your wants. You may have an immediate want and a long term want. You may have a selfish want and a generous want.
- The more aware and accepting you are of your own experience, the more room it creates for you and the other person to have a full experience. You have more ways to connect.
As you are staying connected to best of your ability to your own experience—speak what you want. The model we were raised in, teaches us to speak our feelings. Now, speak to express your desires and needs, which might be a better relationship with that person.
Try this out. Start looking at how you usually you respond to situations. Imagine what it would be like if you had more emotional tools to work with. Imagine if you had other men to practice using those tools with.
Let us know in the comments how you do.