"I’m fine, I don’t have time to cry, I’ll deal with it later. Suck it up."
This is what I was taught and what I thought was normal. Guys don’t cry. They aren’t emotional. That’s a moody woman thing.
The reality is all these emotions kept coming, and I kept cramming them down and shutting them up.
As I shoved them away, bit by bit, I lost the ability to cry, to feel, to articulate what I was feeling, or to connect on an emotional level with anybody around me.
I couldn't be emotional, unless it was sports. There I could be as emotional as I wanted; or at the very worse, explode into a fit of rage.
But, I was emotionally constipated, and it was isolating me.
ManAlive taught me that the feelings are real, important, and a bigger part of my well-being and life than I ever imagined. Unexpressed emotions were driving many of my unwanted behaviors. Not only that, but my inability to connect with myself inhibited my ability to connect with anybody, and that was making things worse.
Every week, I got a chance to share in group, to focus on what I was feeling, and to practice saying it. But I needed more. Decades of emotions were not going to open up in a 5-minute share once a week. It’s a good start, but I was ready and needed more.
A friend of mine at work came across an exercise by Dr. Doug Weiss in his emotional fitness book that worked great, and I wanted to share it.
It’s pretty simple. You get a list of emotions, or what's called a feeling wheel, and take three emotions each day. Connect with the emotion, try to feel it. How does your body respond? When was the first time you ever felt it? You then look your buddy straight in the eye, and tell him. It can be funky at first, but that’s the point.
Here is an example:
I feel frustrated when I don’t do well at work despite my efforts. When I’m frustrated, my chest and forehead get tight, and my muscles tense up. The first time I felt frustrated was in 3rd grade, we had just moved, and my new school had already started cursive, but my old school hadn’t. I was put in a remedial class and I felt frustrated.
I looked my friend in the eye, and did three of those in a row. It took several weeks as we worked through the list of emotions. But I had the best cry of my life a few months after we started.
There is something powerful in the sharing and connection. If you can’t share with a trusted friend, then journal it. Seriously, do three a day. Write it down just like I did above and work through all the emotions you can.
Every little bit is good.
You have to break up the years of constipation. This exercise was a powerful emotional laxative for me. Hope it helps.