Falling Through: One Man's Fear of Feeling


(Note:  In keeping with my latest theme of the wounded masculine, I’m pleased to share this piece by guest blogger, Rick Belden. Rick is an author and a poet who has struggled to get in touch with his feelings throughout his adult life. As you’ll see in this post, he’s learned how to use his creative imagination to heal the wounds of his childhood. Below,  I’ve included comments that were made to his original post. Please feel free to add your own. Rick and I will gladly respond. Enjoy. Jeanie)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THwo0S70cDU?feature=player_embedded&w=640&h=360]
Today’s poem on video, “falling through”, is from my upcoming book Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within.

The subject of today’s poem is grief, or more to the point, my fear of feeling and expressing my grief. Actually, fear is much too mild a word for what I feel when I get close to my grief, sadness, and pain. A far more accurate word would be terror.
The source of this terror is not a mystery. I clearly remember the words I heard countless times as a child: Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. This was not an idle threat, as I had the great misfortune to discover many times when I was unable to “control myself” in time to avoid the consequences of my own tears. Crying only brought more pain. Tears only meant more tears. Any open expression of grief, sadness, and pain was a potential threat to my very existence, and over time I learned to hold those feelings tight, deep inside myself, to survive.
This conditioning against explicit expressions of grief and sadness didn’t end with home and family. It continued in school, with teachers and coaches, on the playground, and with friends. Like every other boy, I knew that crying was the worst sin I could commit in public. On those few occasions when I was unable to avoid doing it, the shame, the isolation, and the horror I felt were beyond words.
By the time I was into my teens, I pretty much had the crying thing well under control. It just didn’t happen anymore, not around others and not when I was alone either. But I still had one more defining experience ahead of me.
When I was almost 23, I was going through a very long and difficult breakup with my first girlfriend. We’d moved across the country together when I was 19, from New York to Texas, and lived together for several years, but now we were each living in our own places for the first time, and I was finding it very difficult.
One evening she came over to visit, and as we were talking, I began to cry. I’d never cried in front of her before, not even when she’d cheated on me, but this time I simply couldn’t help myself. I missed her, I was struggling with school and finances, and I was just so damn lonely. Her response was immediate: “If you don’t stop crying, I’m leaving.” The last thing I wanted in that moment was to be left all alone, so I buttoned right up. And I stayed buttoned up for years afterward.
Those were the lessons I learned about feeling and expressing grief and sadness. I learned that crying brings pain, punishment, violence, shame, rejection, isolation, and abandonment. I learned that crying only makes things worse. I learned to fear my own grief. I learned that tears can be like death.
Many years of hard personal work have shown me that allowing myself to feel and express my sadness and grief is a healthy and necessary part of being fully human. It is liberating. It’s completely natural. It’s cleansing. It brings peace and perspective. It is a source of great strength, an answer and an antidote to anger, and a door to forgiveness.
I’ve cried, wept, sobbed, moaned, and howled through tears many, many times, and it hasn’t killed me yet. To the contrary, I always feel much better, much freer, and much more present with myself afterward. And yet that deep conditioning I described still holds some sway over me. I’m still afraid to cry.
Sometimes that fear stops me and sometimes it doesn’t. As expressed in today’s poem, the key to accessing my grief and sadness, to moving it up and out, is always right here with me in my body. The challenge is to feel the energy below the surface and let it rise even as I am feeling my fear. Maybe someday my tears can come without having to struggle through all that fear. That is my hope.
For more poetry on video, visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/rickbeldenpoet.
Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood. His book is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems. His second book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within, is currently awaiting publication. He lives in Austin, Texas.
More information, including excerpts from Rick’s books, is available at his website. His first book, “Iron Man Family Outing,” is available here.

Creative Commons License The Poetry on video: “falling through” by Rick Belden, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
(Jeanie again:  You know how I love synchronicities! As I was scheduling this post I received an e-mail with a link to another dialogue about gender.  Do you think someone’s trying to tell us something?  Check it out here: http://beyondawakeningseries.com/blog/terry-patten/farrel2-12b/)

6 thoughts on “Poetry on video: “falling through””

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention poetry, dreams, and the body » Blog Archive » Poetry on video: “falling through” — Topsy.com
  2. Rick, you are a very brave man and you I’m sure you touch the lives of countless souls. You offer men the chance to be in reality and speak the truth about life and humanity. What a great gift to give!
    It’s people like you that make a difference and change the world. I am a mother of two  young boys and what I wish for them most is to grow up as authentic beings, using all the emotional gifts we have as humans, and fully experience life, love, loss, etc… As a therapist I witness daily adults struggling to recapture their true nature that was taken away in childhood, and overcome the fear, anger and suffering that was left.
    I hope your work brings you good fortune!

  3. Ellen: Wow. Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I’ll freely confess that I don’t feel all that brave a lot of the time, but I do my best to persevere, not only for my own sake, but the sake of others: those who’ve been hurt in similar ways, those close to them, and those like your boys who are coming along behind us. I want a better world for everyone and I believe it is within our potential to have it, if enough of us are willing to work through our own dark corners.
    Still waiting on that good fortune. I’m ready for a big dose of it, and soon!
    Patricia: As always, I appreciate your encouragement and support. Thank you. I still have a few more vids queued up and ready to post. I’ll probably make some more of them at some point. There are certainly lots of poems left. Might try some other types of material as well.

  4. Once again your poetry has touched my heart and soul. Rick with your clear, strong & beautiful voice you express the deepest emotions and experience many of us share. As an advocate for men & boys you shine, as a friend and support for us all you stand tall. Thank you. @sheepfoldcarer.

    • Wow, Kath, thank you very much. I like this one a lot myself for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s one of my better examples of writing from the body: tuning in, following the physical sensations, and letting the images and words come through. This is one of the purest forms of expression I know.

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12 Responses

  1. What a wonderful post, thank you!☀ Very raw, very honest, authentic and definitely from the heart. I can imagine how much courage it took to write this. I truly feel sorry for the men who have suffered this wounding, and I’m so appreciate of those like RIck who have taken steps to bravely work on their healing. A rarity but it starts with one wounded man at a time. Thank you Rick for doing your part in helping in the healing of the collective wounded masculine. Much Blessings, Peace & Joy, Love & Light, Namaste… ♥♥♥Nadine Marie♥♥♥

    1. Hi Nadine Marie,
      You’re welcome. I agree about the courage it takes to write something like this. And of course, before he could do that he had to have the courage to allow himself to fully feel it. Rick, and men like him, are a new brand of Spirit Warrior who give me hope for healing the devastating one-sidedness that’s been tearing our world apart for much too long. Thanks for writing. Jeanie

      1. Jean, thanks again for sharing my work here with your readers. I appreciate your recognition and support of my efforts.

    2. Thank you for your comment, Nadine Marie. I know that many other men are doing similar work on their own wounds, and I hope what I’ve shared gives some of them a little help staying with it.

  2. A very dynamic expression of the depth of emotion most men are rarely encouraged to acess. Thank you for your example. HopeBegins is attempting to help redefine masculinity and help men and boys discover what Men Can Be……join us on FaceBook and Twitter

  3. I, for one, am very glad to have you here sharing with men and women, (especially our younger men), how to be a really strong man and feel your emotions so you can receive their wisdom and share it with the world, which needs men like you!!

    1. Thank you, loumath. I think the widespread avoidance of emotional pain, and the accompanying general lack of knowledge about how to be with it productively, is one of the biggest problems we face today. It is particularly problematic for men, who’ve typically been conditioned and socialized since boyhood (some would say since infancy) to deny a whole constellation of natural human feelings.
      For many boys, accepting this conditioning is literally a matter of survival, as it was for me. For nearly all boys and men, failure to accept this conditioning puts them at risk of being banished from the tribe. No one has to tell us this in so many words; it is made obvious to us by our deep immersion in a system of attitudes, behaviors, rewards, and punishments throughout our lives. We receive this information not only from other boys and men, but from girls and women as well.
      I’m glad you’ve found what I’ve shared useful and I hope others will, too. Young men, as you said, can use all the help they can get these days, but as current suicide rates show, men in the middle and upper age ranges are also very much at risk. There is an enormous backlog of unacknowledged pain in men and it does no one any good to behave as if it’s not there.

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