Relationship Fitness

P22 E5: Feeling Safe Enough to Cry

In our society, the notion of men crying remains stigmatized. The deeply ingrained beliefs about masculinity often equate emotional expression with weakness. However, crying is a powerful emotional release that can foster genuine empathy and deeper connections in relationships. Understanding the barriers men face and finding ways to overcome them is crucial for emotional health and relationship fulfillment.

The Function of Crying

Crying serves as a release mechanism for grief, sadness, and other pent-up emotions. For men, societal expectations often dictate that they should suppress these emotions, leading to profound wounds of shame. Many men go through life without addressing or processing these emotions, opting instead to “get on with it” by channeling their energy into sports, aggression, or shutting down emotionally. This suppression prevents the necessary emotional release and healing.

Overcoming Societal and Personal Barriers

Men face several obstacles when it comes to expressing emotions. Societal conditioning teaches men to be tough and emotionally resilient, often discouraging vulnerability. Additionally, personal beliefs and protector parts—psychological mechanisms developed to shield vulnerabilities—further prevent emotional openness. Recognizing and addressing these barriers is essential.

  1. Recognizing Emotional Unavailability:

Men often have strong protector parts that prevent them from accessing and expressing their emotions. Acknowledging emotional unavailability without self-judgment is the first step. Understand that these protectors have been working hard for years and that change is possible, even if it happens incrementally.

  1. Challenging False Beliefs:

Beliefs shape behavior. Men often see themselves as rational problem-solvers, and expressing emotions can seem contrary to this self-image. However, being emotional does not mean being overwhelmed by emotions. It can be as simple as describing what you are experiencing moment to moment.

  1. Embracing Self-Awareness:

Carve out time for introspection and reflection. Explore your emotions, thoughts, and reactions with curiosity, recognizing that none are inherently good or bad. This practice helps in making space for emotional expression and understanding.

  1. Understanding Empathy Differences:

Research shows that women tend to recognize facial expressions of emotions better than men. Empathy involves both recognizing another’s emotions and expressing sympathy. Men may appear less empathic due to differences in emotional expression. Tuning into your emotions with empathy and curiosity can bridge this gap.

Normalizing Vulnerability

Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness in men, but it is a strength that fosters connection and growth in relationships. When men allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable, it deepens the bond with their partners. Emotional attunement and empathy are essential skills for nurturing a fulfilling relationship. It is okay to feel and express emotions; doing so does not diminish masculinity but rather enhances humanity.

Reframing the Role of Protector

One common concern is that showing vulnerability might undermine a man’s role as a protector. However, expressing emotions does not equate to being unable to protect. In fact, when a man feels safe enough to cry, it signifies a step towards emotional healing. Partners often appreciate and respect this display of genuine emotion. It shows that the man trusts his partner enough to be vulnerable, which can strengthen the relationship.

Real-World Examples

In therapy, men who have not cried since childhood often experience transformative moments when they feel safe enough to cry. For instance, a tough, emotionally shut-down man in law enforcement transformed his relationship by allowing himself to express his emotions. This shift from emotional suppression to openness helped him and his wife rebuild their connection, moving from the brink of divorce to planning a loving future together.

Conclusion

Feeling safe enough to cry is essential for emotional health and relationship fulfillment. Men must overcome societal and personal barriers to embrace vulnerability. Recognizing emotional unavailability, challenging false beliefs, embracing self-awareness, and understanding empathy differences are crucial steps. By normalizing vulnerability and reframing the role of protector, men can foster deeper connections and stronger relationships. Crying is not a sign of weakness but a powerful tool for emotional release and growth.

Listen to the Episode

Dr. Rivka Edery is a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. With over 15 years of hands-on experience, Dr. Edery is a steadfast beacon of support for those on the path to healing from trauma. Her unwavering dedication to the field of psychology is underscored by her remarkable accomplishments, clinical expertise, and profound philosophical perspective.

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