Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mastering Emotion

Working Our Way Back to You Babe: By "You" I Mean Our Authentic Emotions

Sadness
Okay, so here's a break down of the five times in a man's life that he's allowed to cry according to cultural standards:

  1. He was hit by a bus or another really heavy object resulting in major physical damage. I'm talking bone protruding from skin here (If it's not protruding, it doesn't count).
  2. His wife or child died (He can cry in private, not in public)
  3. His car or truck was totaled (He can cry in public for this one)
  4. His sports team which hasn't won in over 5 decades or has never won a championship finally won the big game/series (This definitely applies to Chicago Cubs fans)
  5. His sports team which hasn't won in over 5 decades or has never won a championship loses in game 7 (This still applies to Chicago Cubs fans)

But any other time in your life as a guy, it is not okay to cry. Which means for all the sadness, loss, and uncertainty that the average male goes through, he's locking all that stuff down inside. It's hugely debilitating. You end up carrying it around in your body.

Fear
Fear is possibly worse, but men can be afraid, try to hide it and then lie about having it. Guys do talk about facing fears (asking out a beautiful woman, facing a bully, going into a tough job interview), but it's rarely so much in a supportive way as in a "Hey, dude, man-up and do it." This isn't the worst of all ways. It's one of the ways that guys challenge each other and push each other, and at times, it can be really helpful. But to really engage with fear and to look at it and understand it, no, we don't do that. That would mean admitting weakness. To be fearful is weakness, so a lot of times, that emotion gets stuff down too.

Anger
Now as far as anger goes, we get that one. We can be as angry and irrational with it at times as we want. Men aren't necessarily deft at using it, but some guys really can get in a fight and then be friends afterward. They've worked the stuff out of their system. They probably weren't really angry with each other--just activated to anger. So they acted it out, but they probably don't know where the trigger point is, or they don't know how to clear the trigger. That's where the spiritual path can step in, so we aren't constantly getting into fights.

Doing Emotional Laundry
Men, I want to tell you how weak you are right now if you're not doing your emotional laundry. You're a house of cards, and I can control at will because you don't know yourself. That probably pisses you off and makes me sound arrogant. But that's the truth of the matter if you're a guy. If your girlfriend is really sad about something, you can't handle that. If you're really scared that you might not get a job--maybe it's your dream job--you probably just go and drink instead of facing that fear. I'll get your girlfriend and take your job because I can handle my emotions, their emotions, and I'm not afraid to win the job I want. That's the power of being in your emotions.

To get there is a shit-ton of work. I'm not going to sugar-coat this process, and I wouldn't say that I know tons of women who are masters of their emotions. A lot of women may be emotional, but oftentimes they are owned by their emotions and are not the owners of their emotions. So if it makes you feel better, gentlmen, you're not as far behind the bell curve as it may seem. Both genders have their work cut-out for them.

I think the first kick to my chest was on a hike in June of 2007. I suddenly became very present to how heavy my body was. It was surreal. I'm a fan of hiking, and I was in good shape. But I was sucking air and struggling to move forward. I knew something was shifting in me, so I kept going. This is a longer story that I've blogged about before (and I'll tell you more if you message me), but by the end of the hike, I'm terrified and bawling on top of a mountain. All this fear welled-up inside me, and it came pouring out. The return hike back to camp was immensely easier and lighter, and I got a taste of some of the repressed emotions that I would have to move through in the initial part of my spiritual awakening.

But Wait! What About the Good Emotions?
By doing the work with the heavy negative emotions stuck inside you, you're cleaning house. You're getting rid of all the acid rotting you out, and you're making room for something more. The authentic/spiritual man fills himself with kindness, compassion, and love. These are the emotions that can open the world and other people to you. It doesn't matter if it's your social life or in your work, when you have these emotions mastered, people respond to you differently. You'll find less resistance in your life, and there's a deeper flow that becomes available to you.

I can write a whole blog about love, and I know it's something that men struggle to express. Love to me is so varied and multi-faceted that it too needs a great deal of time and commitment so that you can learn what romantic love can really mean, or brotherly love, or love of someone else's success, or even love of your own failures. It's enough to say that learning how to express love will open doors in your life that you had no idea even existed.

The Power of Vulnerability
Ultimately to step into your emotions and to be a master of your emotions has nothing to do with controlling them. It has everything to do with being vulnerable. In vulnerability, we have our greatest strengths. I have found that in those moments when I am most vulnerable that people will open their deepest, darkest, or most profound truths to me. It's astonishing. In that space, you'll find the people you need to support you and help you through because a lot of your current friends and connections probably don't know what to do with their emotions either. If you go through that doorway, you can begin the work to meet your emotions, to master them, and to take one step further in becoming authentic in your emotions and at comfortable with them too.
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