One of the consistent themes of our mens group has been emotions and the need for men, and Asian American men in particular, to grow in expressing them and processing them.
One of the reasons that men may not be good at expressing or processing emotions is crappy songs like the above. But more seriously, in my men’s group, Craig talked about some of the Japanese cultural elements that discouraged emotional expression. He writes:
Culturally, Japanese American men did not wear their feelings on their sleeves. There were Japanese words like, “Gaman” (Be strong. Don’t show pain or disappointment.) and “Shikata Ga Nai” (It can’t be helped. It must be done.) that encouraged men (& women) to suppress or ignore emotions like sadness, anger or fear. So, these emotions come to be seen as “bad” or to be avoided or covered up.
There are similar elements in Korean culture as well. When I cried as a child, my parents would stare at me and yell “DOOK!” which basically means “stop” but I’ve never heard that word used in a context other when ordering a child to stop crying. My dad always exhorted me not to be too loud or excited, he would tell me constantly, “Be cool. No silly billy.” Not that this is ethically wrong, but it does demonstrate a cultural bias against expressing your feelings.
I’ve compiled some of the various truths that have come up and will try to share some of my personal experiences with them. I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks… I’m curious what you all think.
We all experience various emotions as we progress and respond to life’s circumstances.
This may seem obvious, but to be honest, I think explicitly thinking about this concept is a helpful starting point for me. We like to think that we are rational, logically, thoughtful people, in total control… especially us guys. But in reality we are not. We are far from it. We are emotional creates to the core. We are blown and tossed by the winds and waves of our feelings. Some are just better at hiding and justifying it than others.
What are the types of emotions that control us?
Some are fleeting emotions triggered by daily life. Here’s an example from my daily life: OH CRAP, my fly is open! How long has it been open?!?!! Oh crap, how many people saw my fly open? I am embarrassed. I am mad at myself for being so stupid and not zipping up my fly. Strong emotions, but probably gone in a few hours.
Others are enduring emotions that have roots in our past, like the emotions of sadness, embarrassment at being made fun of as a kid for being overweight. There were so many experiences I had to face as a kid, the name calling, being picked last in sports, rejections by girls, the self-consciousness thoughts about my body whenever I went swimming. These types of emotions are deep and long lasting. I can still remember quite vividly what it felt like to get picked on as a kid, even though some of those memories were from 10 or 15 years ago.
Whether they are fleeting or enduring, emotions are POWERFUL. They can elicit physical responses. After realizing my fly was open, I immediately start to breath heavily, I have the urge to groan in frustration. When I missed a flight a few months ago, I was so mad I screamed and punched the wall. It was so stupid and it hurt my hand, but I wasn’t in control. My emotions took over. Emotions can enslave us, control our behavior and cause us to make foolish mistakes that fly in the face of reason.
Here’s another real personal example: My self-consciousness about my weight has triggered irrational behavior on opposite sides of the spectrum. On one irrational extreme, I spend WAY to much energy thinking about my appearance. What to wear, what not to wear, what will make my body look thinner, what kind of haircut to get. A waste of time (and money I might add). But on the other irrational extreme, my emotions cause me to not care. Rather than deal with the frustration and pain, I’ll just eat what I want, when I want it and throw caution to the wind.
Taco bell created this campaign to prey upon my emotional vulnerability. I was like a lamb helplessly being led to the slaughterhouse of baja deliciousness.
Emotions can cause us to hurt ourselves, damage our relationships with others and miss out on opportunities in our lives. I can’t tell you how many times my self-consciousness was purely in my head and I projected my own frustration and self-loathing onto others. I assumed other people were making fun of me when they weren’t. I misinterpreted their actions and unfairly judged them. Can you relate?
I’ll keep it short for now. I haven’t been blogging often, but if you do read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Over the next few weeks, I’ll write more about this topic, and I think there will be some dialogue on my men’s group blog, <http://theslantedview.wordpress.com/> Check it out!