This series will discuss men’s emotional expression as well as help seeking behavior. Through four posts, we will explore factors that contribute an often restrictive emotional expression among men, ways in which men can begin to identify and express emotions, as well as strategies to manage these emotions. It is important to acknowledge the intersection of social and cultural identities and how these interplay with socialization. In this first post, I briefly discuss the impact of gender socialization on emotional expression among men.
Society places high demands on men to display lower emotional expression and more emotional control. Throughout the lifespan, boys and men receive messages such as “man up,” “boys don’t cry” and about which emotions are “okay” to express and how to express these emotions. This can lead to standards of masculinity that may be hard to reach. Because of socialization, men may not be able to identify and describe their emotions, which can lead to emotional suppression, and/or only expressing emotions that have been communicated to be “acceptable.” Boys and men more often show emotions and behaviors such as anger and aggression, and may not know how to communicate other vulnerable emotions, such as sadness, embarrassment, or fear. This socialization along with a general stigma associated with mental health can lead to hesitance from men to seek help.
Therapy can become a space where men are able to identify and express emotions that may be tucked away. Through discussion and working to identify strategies, men can learn ways to mange emotions and cope with them in healthy ways.
In the next post, I will offer ways in which men can begin to identify and express their emotions.