In my previous post, I talked about how socialization can create unattainable standards of masculinity that often result in men making efforts to suppress emotions and/or only express emotions that have been considered “acceptable” such as anger and aggression. Many men may attempt to ignore their emotions in hopes that their feelings of hurt, pain, sadness, etc. will go away. The reality is that our efforts to ignore emotions do not make them go away. These emotions that are being ignored begin to stack and grow over time. Though it may initially seem that the emotions have gone away, as this pile of emotions grows larger, they may begin to show up in ways that may make them more difficult to manage. Because of this, it is important to develop skills to identify emotions as they are experienced and learn ways to manage these feelings.
Identifying emotions can be difficult, especially if emotions were not explicitly discussed while growing up. Just like other skills, this is something that can be developed over time. Remaining patient and reducing self-judgment throughout this process will go a long way. Many clients might not have the language to describe what they are feeling. In therapy, handouts with facial expressions and/ or lists of emotions may help clients put words to what they may be experiencing. Journaling is also a helpful tool to track what emotions and thoughts come up throughout the day/week. Because of socialization, men may be hesitant to journal. I believe it is important to do something that feels natural, but also be willing to challenge yourself. Journaling does not have to be in a notebook of some kind. Typing thoughts into the notes app on a phone or recording voice memos are creative ways to track thoughts and emotions. These methods allow you to return to the experiences and reflect on underlying emotions. Being able to recognize the emotions that you are experiencing will be incredibly helpful as you work to manage these emotions.
In the next post, I will discuss ways to manage emotions now that you have been able to recognize them.