Half A Life

Too many guys of all ages don’t have about half the information we need in order to achieve success in life. You could say we live half a life.

The part that we have is the thinking part. That's the half that deals with facts, figures, procedures, and information. Largely, we men do really well when we're dealing with this kind of factual stuff—really well.

The part we don't get is the emotional part. How do all the things that happen to us make us feel? You could say that many of us lost this half before we ever got it. Something in us—something urgently important—never gets life at all. It remains asleep, as good as dead. There are reasons for this but the smart, successful guys will get this information. And the sooner you get it, the easier your life.

Don't get the wrong idea. This is not touchy-feely stuff. Many of us don't much like that (although some of us do like it). This is about learning a skill and developing a process that most of us never got a chance to do.

The key to success here is honesty, or maybe a better word is accuracy: On a one-to-ten scale, how well do you manage your emotional life? A lot of us look at that question and really have no idea what to answer. If that’s you, read on! Some of us do really well with our feelings (8-10); some of us do really lousy (0-3); most of us are on the high or low end of muddling through (4-7). We get to a certain point, especially if it involves strong emotions—fear, anger, love—and then we get stuck. “Now what?!” we seem to say to ourselves.

Women are generally understood to be better at feelings than men. Experience tells us that. What’s important to understand is that in order to live a complete human life, both men and women must have developed skills in both thinking and feeling. We must have intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence.

Furthermore, women’s brains are wired differently from ours, and that makes them not better equipped, but differently equipped, to handle the emotional life.

So the first thing to understand when it come to a man’s feeling life and how we handle it, is that we are not deficient in some way, faulty from birth, somehow damaged goods, even though we are often perceived that way, by others as well as by ourselves. Our problem comes not from some essential flaw, but from a lack of recognition of our particular way to do feelings and our lack of training and encouragement in the way that is natural for us.

The lack of recognition and encouragement of a man’s way to do feelings is deeply ingrained in our cultural assumptions, so much so that the “unfeeling male” is a stereotype, a cultural joke, often accepted by both men and women.

So there is nothing wrong with the way men do feelings, if–and it’s a big “if”–we are given the chance to know and affirm the way that is natural to us, the way nature has equipped us to do feelings, so that our half-life can become the whole life we long for.

© 2008, David Kundtz

Related information: Issues, Feeling Books: anger, assertiveness, depression, fear, forgiveness, general, grief, joy, loneliness, shame

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We know too much and feel too little. At least we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs. - Bertrand Russell


David Kundtz is a licensed family therapist in Berkeley, California. He presents seminars, workshops, retreats, and conference presentations in the areas of men's emotional health, stress management, and spirituality. He is the author of Managing Feelings:  An owner's manual for men and has recently completed a second book, Nothing's Wrong: A Man's Guide to Managing His Feelings. He makes his home in Kensington, California and in Vancouver, British Columbia. You may contact David at E-Mail or visit his web site at www.stopping.com

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