Menstuff® has compiled information, books and resources on the
issue of feelings in general as well as a number of specific
Men Are Sensitive Too!
I Wish I Knew Now What I Knew
Related issues: Suicide.
Books by feeling: general, anger, assertiveness, depression, fear, forgiveness, grief, joy, pain, loneliness, shame and suicide.
I Wish I Knew Now What I Knew Then
Once upon a time, long, long ago, men knew how to express their true feelings. And, women did too. That was in an era when parents took time to be with us, as children, to hold us and carry us around, on their bodies. When we were upset, we expressed it and our parents understood. When we were hungry, they could tell, and responded. When we were rambunctious, our feelings were put up front over our parents' need for quiet, or for adult conversation. Along time ago, we knew how to express these true feelings. And others knew what those feelings meant. We were understood.
As the centuries passed, the needs of the adults took priority. Adult activities, with other adults, got more attention. They invented things like cribs and strollers, and we children lost that human contact with our parents when we were very, very young.
To get attention, we had to change our "true" feelings to ones that got us noticed. Expressing how we really felt, we quickly learned, was unacceptable. So we would try different tacks. If one didn't work, we tried another, until we found the one that brought attention. Not always positive attention, but at least it was some attention.
If we were around adults who didn't respond in a healthy way to our true expressions, we had to learn different ones to feel safe, get attention, get what we need. And, if we were in a family with generations of violence in its past, we might have even learned that attention by getting hit was okay, too.
It wasn't really okay, of course, but our need for attention became so great that we told ourselves that it was. After generations of violence, we may even have confused being hit with receiving love, since our deep, deep craving for physical touch was so great and violence was our only experience with that human contact. We kept telling ourselves, "I know they love me. Maybe if only I were a better child, they wouldn't hit me."
The good news is that each of us were born with all of our true feelings intact. We knew then what our true feelings were. And, we naturally expressed them: discomfort when we were uncomfortable, anger when we weren't getting the attention we wanted, fear when we were afraid. We let the world know it.
But, then the adult messages started coming in that told us that our natural, honest expressions of our feelings didn't, in fact, reflect the way we "really" felt, after all. Messages like "Stop crying. There's nothing to be afraid of."
And, we came to believe, that we really couldn't trust our own feelings to be true. We decided we must learn, very early on, to stuff those "true" feelings, for the appropriate adult feelings.
As we grew older as boys, we quickly got new messages around feelings. If we were afraid, instead of being allowed to show our fear and release it, we got the message to "Act like a man". If we hurt or were in pain, the message was "Be tough." That meant, stuff the feeling, and act like it's not there. And, if we were sad we were told, "Big boys don't cry" or we were shamed by being called a "cry baby."
So, we quickly learned that it wasn't okay to express fear, hurt or sadness but it was okay to numb out or express anger ("Boys will be boys"). Numbness and getting mad were really our only two feeling options. After a while, we may have learned to explode in a very violent manner or to continue to maintain the deep hurt, sadness or pain. Some of us kept it long enough to allow it to eat away at us from the inside in the form of cancer, ulcers and many other diseases.
Girls growing up got a different message. Don't ever get angry. If it wasn't the message that "nice girls don't get angry" it was the threat of violence in reaction to her anger. Some threats were physical, others emotional. The girl growing up soon learned that she could displace the "true" feelings of anger with sadness or fear, which often led to acting out in a passive-aggressive way or manifesting depression, migraines, menstrual cramps, or even anorexia.
When these displaced feelings get acted out in a coupled relationship, you can see how confusing it can become. When her "true" -- deeply felt but unacknowledged -- feeling is anger but she expresses the "displaced" feeling of sadness and his "true" feeling is hurt or fear but he "displaces" it with anger, the road to intimacy becomes blocked. And that intimacy will remain blocked as long as the "true" feelings of anger, hurt and sadness are withheld or inappropriately expressed.
This can manifest in a very unhealthy scenario. I'm sure you have heard someone say, "We had a big fight last night and the sex afterwards was really great!" What's going on here? The truth is, that's the only way this couple knows to get through the layers of anger.
But in fact, it's not necessary to have a fight to have great sex, when you can take other steps to release the repressed anger, and get in touch with the "true" feelings that are going on.
Many people are afraid, and say something like: "Getting in touch with my true feelings will change things and I won't know the outcome in relationship," or "I won't know what to expect," or "I might lose 'control'". All of these worries are founded in reality, and yet without experiencing our own "true" feelings, we're left in a very confusing world.
Getting in touch with these feelings might be scary. For most people, the scariest feeling to look at is anger. "I might explode", "I might destroy everything around me", "Others might not like me", are some of the common fears. Society has placed anger on its Great List of Taboos, calling it dangerous and unhealthy. The confusion is that anger, like love, is a feeling, not a behavior. (This is a common misconception. Many confuse the feeling with the way people behave, when these are very different things. The expression "If you loved me, then you would...," refers to an expected behavior, not the feeling of love.) So, because we so connect the feeling of anger to the behavior of violence, we have learned many different ways to cope. Unfortunately, many otherwise healthy techniques for stress reduction are in fact very unhealthy when we use them for the wrong reason, namely, as a way of calming the anger within us. Some examples of this are: diverting the mind, numbing out, getting grounded, surrounding ourselves in white light, prayer, yoga and meditation, to name a few. Other things we've used to avoid expressing anger and other feelings include substance abuse, working harder and sexual addiction.
And while there are definite benefits to yoga, meditation, grounding, prayer, when you apply them as a solution to release anger, they're just another way we try to trick the mind so we don't have to deal with this feeling. It remains locked in the body and the emotional system to come out even stronger, later, in a different, unrelated situation. So, you can see why anger needs to be expressed -- moved through the body and out of the energy system using appropriate behavior.
There are many ways to appropriately express anger without going into some form of violent behavior. Dancing energetically while shaking (keeping fists open), lets anger move through you. Where appropriate, yelling or screaming at the same time is very valuable. Where that's not appropriate, screaming into a towel or pillow helps. Even in the office, a trip to the rest room and screaming while completely covering your mouth with your hands can remove the anger's presence from your body without stuffing it.
Wringing a towel is also good if you don't see it as someone's neck, but hitting a racquetball, punching bag, pillow, bataka bat or any system that reminds and reinforces a violent message in the nervous system, is not appropriate, for two reasons. One, the fist is usually closed which doesn't allow the anger energy to escape through the hands, and second, with each hit comes the message of violence to the nervous system. We already have enough of these messages constantly bombarding us. Bringing them in in such a direct way is not healthy.
If you still feel that it's okay to hit pillows or throw things against walls, look at the message you might still be carrying from childhood. The parent's message "This is going to hurt me more than it is you," was one that the child's subconscious mind often turned into "I'm sorry I'm hurting you when you have to punish me for being bad. I really want your love." And, with that message, transferring the adult to a pillow or punching bag and hitting it might seem perfectly okay as a subconscious way of receiving love. It may require taking a hard look at why it seems okay, so that you can really get clear on what the act of hitting tells your nervous system.
What we found working with angry but non-violent people was that when they started hitting things to release the anger, it started feeling good and the distance between hitting and not hitting became compressed, the line thinner and easier to step over.
As you can see, "true" feelings have been part of you and everyone that came before you, but over time got "displaced" and denied until none of us really know how we're feeling.
So, how are you feeling right now? Fine? What does that mean, fine? Fine seems to work much better to describe the coarseness of sandpaper rather than feelings.
When a woman says "Fine", I often see in her the energy that translates into, "I'm Frustrated, Irate, Nervous, and Empty." And from a man, the translation seems to say I'm Furious, Isolated, Numb and Empty." How often we all feel "empty", looking outside for something to fill us up, give us approval, make things better. Better to "fill" our experience with all of our feelings, however unfamiliar they may seem at first, so that we may enjoy fuller relationships throughout our lives. And, while the journey inside to "true" feelings might seem scary and filled with the unknown, it is one that we all must take, if we want to live in integrity in a healthy community and in fulfilling relationship. It is possible to know now, what you knew then.
Good luck on your journey! Let's meet at the crossroads. - Gordon
Satisfied Men Live Longer
In a study of more than 22,000 adults in Finland, investigators found that men who reported high levels of satisfaction with their lives were more likely to be alive 20 years later. There was no association between life satisfaction and mortality for women, however.
"It seems to me that the coping abilities of women with distress and dissatisfaction may be better than in men," the study's lead author, Dr. Heli Koivumaa-Honkanen, from the University of Turku in Finland.
For example, men who feel dissatisfied might cope with their feelings by abusing alcohol, smoking and not exercising while women might talk to friends or seek professional help, she added.
Life satisfaction refers to a sense of general well-being and takes into account a person's interest in life and their feelings of happiness and loneliness, the authors explain.
Dissatisfied men were more than twice as likely to die of all causes than those who were satisfied with life, and more than three times as likely to die of a disease, the report indicates. Men who drank heavily were at even higher risk.
Marriage, exercise, high social class, not smoking and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol diminished the risks somewhat, but the association between feeling satisfied and living longer remained.
"Perhaps the coping capacity ... is not adequate in those men who are less able to create a stable intimate partnership or earn their living," Koivumma-Honkanen suggested.
She added that it is not clear if these men had risky health behaviors already or whether they developed these behaviors later in life.
The team also found that men were less satisfied than women overall. And men were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, according to the report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Koivumma-Honkanen said the study findings underscore the importance of feeling satisfied -- particularly for men.
"It is not enough for a human being to earn money and be in physically good condition. One should respect mental health as well," she said.
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology 2000;Suzanne
Internet Makes Men Happy, Survey Says
The "Happiness Index" study also demonstrates that, collectively, women's happiest activity is spending time with family, an opinion shared by just 45-percent of men. While we are certainly in no position to criticize these Aussie Web-lovers (we do run a blog, after all), we believe we'd be remiss not to criticize the apparently pitiful number of family men Down Under. Then again, we're not sure if the stats would be that much better here in the states... Is playing online games really more satisfying than spending time with your children?
For all those kids out there that find themselves in this sort of
predicament, fear not. If you hip your daddy to some of these new
widgets, he might just be grateful enough to play a game of catch
Forgiveness As Salve for Sin
From South Africa to the White House, from the Vatican to the Diocese of Oakland, everyone seems to be talking about forgiveness. Tomorrow, Roman Catholic Bishop John Cummins of Oakland will lead priests and nuns in an unprecedented liturgy in which they will stand before the victims of priestly sex abuse and seek God's forgiveness for their sins of church leaders. That ceremony comes two weeks after Pope John Paul II presided over a historic prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where the pontiff apologized for almost 2,000 years of church wrongdoing against Jews, women and other groups.
But this tidal wave of repentance goes far beyond the Catholic Church. Nearly everywhere you look -- in courtrooms, the corridors of political power and the halls of academia -- forgiveness is hot. "This decade we are entering is going to be an age of reconciliation,'" said psychologist Everett Worthington, executive director of the Campaign for Forgiveness Research. "Forgiveness," Worthington said, "can do more than save your soul. It can save your life. We know that feeling hostile over a long period of time can contribute to heart disease. Not forgiving is stressful, and our immune systems do not work as well when we are under stress.'"
The campaign, financed primarily by the John Templeton Foundation, has handed out $6 million for 32 studies on the psychological, spiritual and physical benefits of forgiving. Two of its research projects are under way at Stanford University. Worthington, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, traces the academic and popular interest in forgiveness back to a 1984 book by theologian Lewis Smedes, Forgive and Forget.
South Africa's Example: During the 1990s, the world watched the power of forgiveness working through the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined injustices committed during that nation's apartheid era. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, along with former President Jimmy Carter, are among the five co-chairs of the forgiveness campaign. Worthington said another U.S. president has helped put forgiveness in the public spotlight. "Bill Clinton has done more for forgiveness research than anyone else in America,'" he quipped.
Forgiveness is also at the center of "Jubilee 2000,'" a broad interfaith campaign that includes calling on international bankers and wealthier nations to forgive the crushing debts of Third World countries.
Meanwhile, legal scholars are looking at what effect forgiveness -- or the reluctance of people to apologize -- has on the mountain of civil lawsuits burying the courts. Worthington said a task force in Washington, D.C. is studying whether a doctor's apology could be excluded as inadmissible evidence in medical liability cases. "Doctors who make medical mistakes say they can't apologize because of liability problems," Worthington said. "But one study showed that two-thirds of patients said they wouldn't sue if doctors weren't so arrogant and would just apologize."
Much of the research on forgiveness confirms what many of the world's religious traditions have been saying for centuries: Confession, forgiveness and repentance are good for the soul.
St. Peter's Ceremony: Earlier this month, Pope John Paul II made headlines around the world with a mea culpa proclaimed at Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. Yesterday, during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, the pope said the Roman Catholic Church is "deeply saddened'" by Christian persecution of Jews throughout history. San Francisco Archbishop William Levada said the pope is leading a worldwide Catholic initiative that seeks "atonement for sins and of reparation for past faults . . . committed in the name of the church through these past two millennia of Christianity. Only by asking pardon for our own sins do we dare to beg pardon for another's," said Levada, writing in today's issue of the weekly Catholic San Francisco newspaper.
Not everyone is happy with the papal confession or his regrets uttered yesterday at the Holocaust memorial. Many Jewish leaders had hoped the pope would have specifically apologized for the public silence of Pope Pius XII during the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II. In his column today, Levada said the critics "in the religious community and the media are trying to 'demonize' Pius XII. It would be interesting to apply the criteria which some now suggest in regard to Pius to the activities -- or 'silence' -- of American government officials and policies, or of Jewish agencies and leaders in the United States during the same period," the archbishop writes.
Victims of Sexual Abuse: Another group that has sought a more specific apology from church leaders are the victims of sexual abuse by priests. They will get just that in an extraordinary reconciliation service to be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Leona Lodge, 4444 Mountain Blvd., in Oakland. Victims of sexual abuse are invited to attend the service, which will be presided over by Cummins, the spiritual leader of Catholics in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. "We, as a church, were often negligent and did not respond to victims of sexual abuse appropriately," Cummins said. "The Diocese of Oakland has resolved not to repeat the evils of the past." In recent years, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Diocese of Santa Rosa and other church jurisdictions around the world have been scandalized by continuing revelations about the sexual abuse of children and teenagers by Catholic clergy. Terri Light, West Coast director of SNAP, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, praised Cummins and Sister Barbara Flannery, the chancellor of the Oakland Diocese, for "taking care of victims and being sure perpetrators are held accountable. This will help us heal," Light said of tomorrow's service.
The ceremony will include responsive readings. For example, victims of sexual abuse will read, "We were treated as if we were the ones who had brought shame and embarrassment on the church." Church leaders will respond, "We were ashamed and afraid to know the horrible truth.. . . Even though the signs were right there before us, we did not recognize them."
East Bay's Leadership: Light said she hopes the church in San Francisco and Santa Rosa will learn a lesson from their East Bay brethren. "We have a huge contingent coming over from San Francisco and Santa Rosa," Light said. "There is particular sensitivity in the Oakland Diocese. In San Francisco, they feel so dark. The church needs to be guided by its mission, not by its lawyers and insurance agents."
Levada will lead a penance service at 10 a.m. April 8 at St.
Mary's Cathedral, timed to coincide with a National Day of Atonement
called by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Two days
earlier, the archbishop will gather his clergy at the National Shrine
of St. Francis in North Beach and "pray for atonement for the past
sins of priests." Maurice Healy, spokesman for the San Francisco
Archdiocese, said people should not expect the pope or the archbishop
to make specific apologies. "People are missing the point. This is a
prayer, and its offered on behalf of all the members of the church,"
Healy said. "We don't want to get into an argument over why this is
on the list and why that's not on the list. It's not a recitation of
specific offenses, but that doesn't mean its any less sincere."
(Editor: The next step is for the "Sisters" to atone for all of
the physical and emotional abuse of children under their care in
Catholic Schools around the world. And, this is at least a first
How Do I Not Trust Thee: Jealousy
A Suspicious Letter
Diane left some letters on the kitchen counter for me to mail, as she always does, and as I walked down the steps I quickly looked through them, as I always do. Among the endless bills was a hand-addressed envelope to a man at an address I didn't recognize in another state.
I thought for a second about asking Diane who he was, but I didn't want to appear, y'know, suspicious. So instead I went down to my office and acted suspicious, searching the name and address on the Internet. I finally found him on a government scientific Web site. And while I tried not to jump to any conclusions, I couldn't get my mind to stop considering the possibility...
Is my wife cheating on me with an algae researcher?
I wrote down the name and address on a Post-it (easier to eat if I had to destroy the evidence), mailed the mail, and went about my business. For the next two days I thought about how to bring this up to Diane. Then I got an e-mail. It was from the researcher. Oh my god. I clicked it open and there was just one sentence:
"Did you get the swizzle sticks yet?"
That mystery letter? A check Diane had written for something I forgot that I'd bought on eBay.
Okay, I'm an idiot. I'm also a jealous guy. Always have been. Probably always will be. If nearly 20 years of marriage to a woman who loves and completes me hasn't cured me, nothing will.
Jealousy is one of the few emotions that husbands have always been expected to express. Unfortunately, most of us express it really badly -- often for absolutely no good reason, and sometimes with disastrous consequences. It might be the only emotion that wives wish husbands would suppress.
After the swizzle stick episode, I started asking my basketball buddies about jealousy -- what Shakespeare called "the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on." (I didn't mention Shakespeare specifically because I didn't want anyone to throw the ball at my head. It was bad enough I was asking them to admit they actually had feelings.)
I was most interested to hear from one guy because I knew he and his wife had just entered a scenario rife with betrayal possibilities. After many years of being home with their kids, his wife took a job at a small company with a lot of younger single people. I was at a party recently where I saw her with some of her new male colleagues. They flocked around her, almost flirtatiously, I thought. It actually made me feel a little jealous on my buddy's behalf.
So I was amused by the way my friend denied the role of jealousy in his marriage. "Not as big a deal now as it was 20 years ago," he said, "but I've always had more to be jealous about than my wife, because she is a first-class flirt." Then he added, a bit irritably, as if the facts were irrefutably in his favor: "Look, her coworkers are all much younger and/or gay. And the one person she is hanging out with lots is 10 years younger, with a pregnant wife."
Oh, okay. Good thing you're not feeling threatened. And, of course, guys never cheat on their pregnant wives.
Why I'm a Jealous Guy
How he stays calm I don't know. I get jealous over much less. I'm not what experts call "morbidly jealous" -- I don't get aggressive or have much of a temper. But I do feel more jealous than any happily married man should. And it comes out in all kinds of little ways I'm embarrassed to admit. Besides occasionally checking out the mail (or, okay, the cell phone bill), I definitely do the "husbandly hover." I pay a little too much attention to whom Diane talks with at parties, remaining far enough away to be inconspicuous but close enough to stealthily intercede in any conversation that seems suspiciously long.
Why do husbands do this kind of stuff? During our first few years together I believed my actions were well-founded responses to something real -- perhaps a carryover from fighting off other suitors to win Diane's hand. Like many husbands, I felt I had married someone way better than I deserved and needed to diligently protect myself against losing her. I still feel that way and can see how Diane attracts people: She's smart and disarmingly funny and, at 50, still turns heads (sometimes all the way around) in just a T-shirt and jeans.
But I have also come to understand that most of my jealousy is unfounded and unprovoked -- something I brought into the marriage, like that ugly brown sleeper sofa.
According to social scientists, husbands and wives are jealous in different ways: Supposedly, men care more about sexual fidelity and women care more about emotional fidelity. And, in a more important sociological indicator -- bad movie dialogue -- it is usually "did you sleep with him?" versus "do you love her?"
Now, I've always been troubled by this notion that men care more about possessing women than loving them, treating them like toys that nobody else can play with, while women will overlook sexual indiscretions as long as he loves her best. So I'm glad to report that recent studies show jealousy is becoming a more equal-opportunity obsession. Men are now scoring as more emotionally jealous than ever before, and women as more sexually jealous. Our worst relationship fears have all begun to even out. This could mean men are learning to love more or that women have finally wised up about the old "I slept with her but it didn't mean anything" line, or both.
As for us, I consider myself lucky that after 20 years together my wife is still kind of flattered by how possessive I can be. Even now Diane recalls as "funny and cute" how, during our courtship, I used to show up "coincidentally" at restaurants where she was dining with friends. ("Funny and cute?" a friend of ours gasped when she later heard about my extreme wooing. "He was a stalker!")
When I recently fessed up to Diane about the algae researcher incident, she found it "hilariously touching." I guess that's because she appreciates the upside of jealousy in a marriage. And no matter how many times she has to deal with me waiting up for her like some '60s sitcom dad on the few nights she goes out with the girls, I can think of only one thing worse for our relationship.
And that would be if I stopped being so jealous.
Source: By Stephen Fried. Originally published in
Ladies' Home Journal, September 2006. lifestyle.msn.com/Relationships/CouplesandMarriage/ArticleLHJ.aspx?cp-documentid=939560
Taming The Jealous Mistress
I have reflected on my life over the past 10 years since starting my career in Medicine. For the most part I have given up the luxury of weekends off and 9 hour work days. I cannot even count the times I left the house at 600 AM, only to return exhausted at 900 PM, for 6 days straight. I used to think medical school was rough-only to find Residency 30-grit rougher. Not only is Medicine the ultimate time monger, but our work also involves great personal sacrifice caring for others in need. It is very difficult to place into words how mentally and emotionally draining this care can be particularly in the Emergency Department. Day in and day out we work in a fast paced pressure cooker. Here, our patients do not care about the type of day we are having; a dying patient need not to know that you are having marital problems, or that your kid is failing school. Many physicians have to completely compartmentalize their life from their work-your normal life gets shoved to the dark recesses of your mind for 12 hours. When leaving work after a draining shift-the reality of medicine, and the stress of your day dissipates, only to be met by your lifes real problems. As many physicians with problems outside of work admit-whether it is marital, drug or alcohol abuse, they just do not have the energy to deal with their real problems. They either turn to something else, or dig in deeper to their career. Everything about her is seductive: the time, the pressure, the stress, and the commitment.
I think this is where the notion that Medicine is like a jealous mistress begins and ends. I have come to realize that I, or any other physician, cannot blame our career on our lifes troubles. Sure the job demands much more than the average, but it is our choices which ultimately determine our happiness. I am reminded of a quote by the late John Candy: Like your work, Love your wife. Amen. I recently have had many new aspiring physicians ask me how do you balance work and home life? It is not easy. But priorities are paramount. I vowed early on that my wife and children will always be paramount-they are my number one, and my job will never replace them. I tell newer colleagues if they want to be surgeons, if they want to do research, if they want to be leaders of their chosen profession, that is wonderful .but these aspirations will require great sacrifice. Just do not sacrifice what is truly important-the ones who love you. Very few, tread in these waters and maintain the harmony between work and family life they or their families expect.
Medicine can be like a jealous mistress if you are not
careful Sean. He was right, you do have to be careful, but we
are in control of our own destiny. We choose our own priorities, and
these dictate the life will lead. After a grueling 12 hour day in the
Emergency Room-after the stress, the chaos, the heartache, and
triumph-I know at the end of it all, my wife and child are waiting.
Everything else melts away. The mistress once again gets the
Know Fear: What am I afraid to say I'm afraid of? - Gordon Clay
The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper. - Aristotle
It is said that if you ask a man how he feels, he'll tell you what he thinks. Please honor that. What I think is important to me and often telling you that will teach me what I feel. Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? by Kenneth Byers
If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances. Julia Sorel 1926-
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretence of keeping it alive. - Havelock Ellis
"Happiness is an illusion; only suffering is real." Voltaire
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