Should men never show emotional vulnerability?

Should men never show emotional vulnerability?

Should men never show emotional vulnerability?

HEALTH

2019-11-21

4  Mins Read

4 ways to help them relieve stress and anxiety

Every November, there are activities worldwide held in response to the charity event “Movember”, aiming to draw public attention to men’s health, particularly mental health. Data from around the world shows that men’s suicide rate is higher than that of women. In Hong Kong, 955 suicide cases were reported in 2018, of which 2/3 were men¹, indicating that we can’t ignore men’s mental health any longer.

Men tend to suppress their emotions. Stereotyped by society?

Affected by traditional gender stereotypes, most men are taught since childhood not to shed tears easily, or they can bleed but not cry. For instance, the parents would ask their little boy not to cry after he falls over in pain, and praise him if he gets up holding back his tears. Tears are seen as a sign of weakness and therefore, many men refrain from showing their emotional vulnerability or even hide their suppressed emotions unknowingly.

Nowhere to vent suppressed emotions

Clinical reports show that most men seeking psychological counseling couldn’t control their suppressed emotions, or they’ve exhibited problems such as depression, marital breakdown and addictive behaviour. In addition, they only focus on narrating the events and fail to verbally express their negative emotions, like stress, agony and hard feelings. Even if the clinical psychologist assists them in reflecting their feelings, some patients choose to escape, from avoiding or talking briefly about their feelings to changing the subject totally. They simply can’t accept the weak side of themselves and may not realise deep down in their heart they actually long for others to care about, listen to or value them. As a result, they can’t tell what they really need.

Excessive escapism easily leads to addiction?

More men than women tend to escape from emotional pain points and this sometimes gives rise to addictive behaviour, of which alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling are most common. There once was a man who experienced sleepless nights after the death of his family member and started taking sleeping pills. The effectiveness of the pills only encouraged him to increase the dose from 1 pill to over 50 pills a day, developing drug abuse. But addictive behaviour is merely an indication on the outside and we have to find out the cause on the inside step by step.

Releasing our emotions helps?

Many girls would comfort their troubled besties by saying “Tell me what happened and you’ll feel better.” However, men are more result-oriented and would prefer keeping the problem to themselves if speaking out brings them no solution. In fact, there are other ways to release our emotions besides sharing how we feel.

Some men would exercise alone or have a beer or even watch a football game with friends to unwind. Although their problems are not discussed during these activities, they can still find a way out for their emotions or get support from others. Some other men would drown themselves in work which is not a bad idea if their concentration on work helps them forget their negative emotions or even brings along success and appreciation. But if this is the way to escape from their feelings, they should face up to the problem as in the long run, they might lack sleep, exercise and social life, or even acquire unhealthy eating habits from not making time for themselves and people around them. Ultimately, keeping a well-balanced life helps improve our mental health and we should do more exercise and mindfulness practice as well as reach out to nature in our spare time.

4 ways to take care of troubled men

You may have heard that “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. These 2 genders do handle emotions differently – women like to speak it out and men would prefer keeping it to themselves. As a partner or friend, how should you show your care? Here are 4 ways for reference:

  1. Observe carefully
    A man tends not to tell how he feels but he would look different when he is troubled. You should observe carefully the signals or responses he has when he is in low spirits in order to offer proper support at the right time.
  2. Trust
    When he looks different or doesn’t look well, don’t suspect that you are the cause. It’s very likely that he is going through some difficulties and needs help.
  3. Be curious
    Always be curious about and show concern in the problem he is facing so as to give him your support. Don’t think that he is looking at you with a scowl.
  4. Accompany
    Sometimes he may not want to talk and being by his side is already a way of support. You should keep in mind that it’s important for him to know that there are people supporting him, what really happened to him comes secondary.

It may be more than difficult for men to face up to their emotional problems and needs. Let’s give them more time, be patient and empathetic to their feelings and show our support at the right time, so as to help them untie the knot.

Beatrice Ng-Kessler
Clinical Psychologist

Remarks:

¹ The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong Annual Report 2018:
https://sbhk.org.hk/images/small/SBHK_Annual%20Report2018_Final_1.pdf