In my recent posts about the role of feelings and emotions in gender relationships, I raised the questions, What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?
In the last post, “Falling Through: One Man’s Fear of Feeling,” author and poet Rick Belden shared a powerful poem about emotions. He wrote “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.” For Rick, “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 reinforces Episcopal priest Matthew Fox’s observation that men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.
My question, “What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?” elicited the observation from katsoutar that between men and women, “the term ‘emotional’ seems most used to describe weepy, passive emotion, i.e. women cry too much, men, not enough.” In response, Amy Campion shared the research finding that, “women’s tears contain a chemical substance that though undetectable consciously, has the power to reduce a man’s testosterone when inhaled.” Lorrie Beauchamp added that this dampening effect reduces men’s sexual attraction and increases their empathic response. As she said, “a true-to-stereotype male would not want his testosterone messed with in this way, which might explain why men get annoyed by tears, and why tears become part of manipulative behavior in children and women.”
Biology, culture, and individual personalities feed into this dynamic. Both genders inherit physical traits that predispose them to predictable responses to certain situations and emotions, and some cultures and institutions reinforce these to stereotypical extremes. Many individuals take advantage of this for self-serving reasons, thus exacerbating the gender gap. We all know of children and women who manipulate men with tears. And we know of men who manipulate women with silence or subtle threats of violence.
We can see how in the early stages of our species’ development the survival of small, isolated groups was best served by empathic females and stoic males. Both had everything to lose if women were emotionally unavailable to their vulnerable children and men were too emotional to protect their tribes from marauding saber-toothed tigers. But history has consistently proven these abilities to be present in both genders. There have always been gentle men who feel deeply and cry without shame, brave women who let nothing compromise their goals to protect their loved ones and fight for what is right.
Both genders can bring more consciousness and balance to their work and relationships. Unfortunately, the least aware are most resistant to change. Worse, too often they are in positions of power. Our hope lies in the commitment of a majority who can overcome our lethargy and become the change we want to see. Spirit Warriors of both genders abound in today’s world, and it’s never been easier or more necessary to enlist their help in bringing us to greater psychological awareness. For anyone who wants to understand their feelings, I highly recommend The Language of Emotions, by Karla McLaren.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Thanks for this series of blogs about emotions. Important to this weepy woman who is also tough and disciplined. I was married to a man who freely expressed emotion with me (guys who are brought up by Italian women may an advantage in the world of emotion), although he was a warrior in the world. Without him to carry the warrior archetype, I’m learning to “let nothing compromise my goals.” When I’m afraid or feel defeated, I remember Vic’s stance: Be afraid, but don’t let it stop the creative flow. I’m happy to say my sons are both fine feelers. They complain when their female partners won’t talk through issues or share emotions. I’ve done something right!
Congratulations for the fine award and recognition you’ve received. Also for the new website. Go Jeanie!
Best to you,
Thank you, Elaine. I’m thrilled to know there are two more young men in the world today who can feel and express their emotions! Brava to you and bravo to Vic! Your partnership was fruitful and a blessing to the world! Love, Jeanie
Just came across your Blog whilst googling something about archetypes. Very interesting post about emotions and how the two genders deal with them. I’m married to someone who bottles most things up and now he’s reaching fifty it’s like a pressure cooker – steam just can’t help escaping. Also the English thing of brushing everything under the carpet – grrr. Deal with it, try and sort it out and move on I say. I have encouraged my children to feel their emotions, talk about them and cry too (funnily my boys are better at it than my daughter!).
Love your Blog by the way. Will carry on reading some of the older posts. Also – I studied Yeats at school and did not get on with his stuff but I think I’ll go and look at it again – thanks for the idea. xx
Hi Simmy. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. The English thing— too familiar. It’s kind of an American thing too! And it runs in my family as well. Appreciate your comment and glad to hear from you. By the way, I didn’t get Yeats early on either, but with some Jungian background behind me it’s making much more sense! Enjoy your revisit of his particular brand of magic! Best, Jeanie