Better Manhood Skills: Controlling Your Emotions

The subset of soft skills needed for the road to better manhood continues with what some may consider very difficult for males: controlling their emotions. While we should not make generalizations about any gender’s ability to control their emotions, learning to control your emotions is a mark of a mature man. Let’s explore why.  

Men are at Risk

According to a report by The Global Initiative for Boys & Men (GIBM), the well-being outcomes for boys and men continue to trend downward. Data over the past several decades clearly shows that men are at great risk since: 

  • Males account for 60-70% of COVID-19 deaths
  • Males account for 79% of suicide deaths in the U.S.
  • Men are less likely to seek help for depression
  • Males are 93% of those incarcerated. Black men are particularly vulnerable. 
  • Men account for 70% of the homeless
  • Domestic violence against men is nearly equal to women
  • Males are predominant victims of violent crime
  • Male law enforcement makes up 96% of all law enforcement deaths and males are 95% of gun victims
  • Men die 5 years sooner than women
  • Men are 50% more likely than women to die of heart disease

GIBM has identified 5 pillars of improvement for boys and men that would make a better world for everyone: 

  1. Education
  2. Jobs
  3. Fatherhood/Parenting and Families
  4. Physical & Emotional Health
  5. and Recognizing the Male Narrative in the Public Discourse. 

Each of these areas is interrelated and collectively impacts the income, life expectancy, and family life of boys and men.

GIBM points out that there is no federal Office of Men’s Health even though there is an Office of Women’s Health. They also suggest that family court reform is necessary to ensure children have equal protection under the law in custodial rights, parental alienation, and paternity fraud. These are all very good suggestions so everyone can benefit.

But it starts when men help each other become better men.

The Emotions of Men

Emotions are influenced by our biology, upbringing, socialization, and personal experiences. While emotional maturity is a universal and complex part of our human experience, it’s not surprising that everyone – men and women, will struggle with their emotions at times. So let’s start by understanding each type of emotion and why it’s an important step of maturity for men.

I wrote previously in Men and Their Emotions that that are 8 emotions that I believe are difficult for men to manage: 

  1. Anger
  2. Fear (especially of fear of failure)
  3. Sadness
  4. Happiness
  5. Pridefulness (Ego)
  6. Guilt (Shame)
  7. Anxiety 
  8. Boredom (Aloneness)

How men and women experience express their emotions is a result of several hormonal and neurological factors. For example, some studies have suggested that these biological differences cause men may be more prone to aggressive responses when experiencing anger, while women may be more likely to seek social support or engage in nurturing behaviors. While these are generalizations, most will agree that males emote differently than females, and how people emote varies even within each gender type. To understand more, read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray.

Societal and cultural factors also contribute to the perception that men have a harder time controlling their emotions. Traditional gender norms and stereotypes have encouraged men to suppress certain emotions, like sadness or vulnerability while other viewpoints or cultures prioritize anger or stoicism. Do we become more tender, vulnerable, and stoic, or do we maintain our aggressive, competitive, and outwardly emotional side of our masculine self? This confusion just makes it more difficult for men to understand emotional expression and regulation.

Practices to Help Your Emotions

Like any skill, emotional intelligence and regulation can be developed and mastered with discipline and practice. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Self-awareness: The first step in emotional regulation is understanding and recognizing your emotions. Pay attention to how you feel and why you might be feeling that way. Journaling can be a helpful tool for increasing self-awareness.
  • Identify triggers: Identify the specific situations, people, or thoughts that trigger strong emotions. Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can work on managing your responses to them. This is part of your Behavior Management
  • Practice empathy: Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Developing empathy can improve your understanding of your own emotions and help you relate to others’ emotions more effectively.
  • Improve communication skills: Improve your ability to communicate your feelings and needs assertively and effectively. Healthy communication can help prevent emotional outbursts and misunderstandings. See my post on learning to Be a Good Communicator) for more. 
  • Mindfulness and meditation: These practices can help you stay present and calm in the face of strong emotions. Mindfulness can teach you to observe your emotions without judgment and create a mental space between the stimulus and your response.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can all contribute to emotional stability. Physical health and emotional health are closely linked.
  • Stress management: Develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. This might include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or engaging in hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
  • Challenge negative thinking: Sometimes, our emotions are influenced by irrational or negative thought patterns. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques can help you identify and challenge these thought patterns.
  • Practice emotional regulation techniques: Techniques like emotional distancing (taking a step back mentally from the situation), reframing (changing the way you perceive a situation), and positive self-talk can help you regulate your emotions more effectively.
  • Set realistic expectations: Understand that it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions, and it’s okay to have “bad” days. Avoid being overly critical of yourself.
  • Seek support: Don’t be afraid to talk to friends, family members, or a mental health professional about your emotions. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be a great way to process and regulate them.
  • Get professional help: If you find that your emotions are severely impacting your daily life, relationships, or overall well-being, consider speaking to a mental health professional. They can help you learn to share your emotions and concerns with others. They will also provide guidance, support, and specific strategies tailored to your needs.

Remember, any skill takes time and practice to develop. The goal is not to stifle your emotions or to see a complete change overnight. You must continually improve yourself in a healthy and constructive way by developing emotional intelligence and regulating your emotions. The result can be a healthier and more fulfilling life that also benefits your families, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and society as a whole. 

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GodBuddy Focus 

Men of God learn to temper their emotions by integrating their faith or spirituality into their entire being and lifestyle. In addition to the aforementioned practices, here are specific spiritual disciplines that can help you find inner peace and guidance during times of emotional turmoil.

  • Prayer and Meditation: Many religious traditions include practices of prayer and meditation. Some religious traditions incorporate mindfulness and contemplative practices. These can help you become more aware of your emotions and responses and develop greater emotional self-control.
  • Study Scripture: Depending on your religious beliefs, reading and studying sacred texts can provide you with wisdom and guidance for handling emotions. Many religious texts offer insights into coping with various emotional challenges and provide examples of individuals who faced similar struggles.
  • Support of Close Friends: Of course, I believe every man needs GodBuddies which are deeper, authentic friendships. They bring a sense of community, along with encouragement, and accountability. 
  • Seek Spiritual Counseling: Consider speaking with a spiritual advisor, priest, minister, or counselor who is well-versed in the teachings of your faith. They can provide guidance and support tailored to your religious beliefs.
  • Understand Forgiveness and Compassion: Embrace principles of forgiveness and compassion as taught by your faith. These can help you let go of negative emotions such as anger and resentment and promote emotional healing. Learn to be easy on yourself and others.
  • Practice Self-reflection and Confession: Regular self-reflection, confession, and repentance can be integral parts of many religious practices. Acknowledging and taking responsibility for your emotions and actions can help you regulate them better.
  • Express Gratitude: Expressing gratitude for the blessings in your life can help shift your focus away from negative emotions and cultivate a more positive mindset.
  • Serve Others: Engaging in acts of service and charity can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This helps you manage your emotions by focusing on the needs of others.

Recognizing and regulating your emotional tendencies is critical to becoming a mature adult man. These disciplines and practices help you slow down and reflect. They help connect more deeply with your faith. They help you seek divine help that can be calming and centering.

It is also important to remember that our ultimate role model for manhood, Jesus Christ, expressed His emotions often. Jesus often wept, especially when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). He expressed anger (Matthew 23:33; John 2:13-17), exhaustion (Mark 6:31), frustration (Matthew 17:14-20), agony (Luke 22:39-45) and compassion (John 19:25-27). But He was always in control of His emotions. 

As men, we must have mastery and control over our emotions. We must not neglect or suppress our emotions but know how to express them appropriately and in proper proportions. Controlling your emotions is a mark of a mature man.

For discussion:

  • How well did your parents show their emotions? 
  • What is your view of the cultural expectations for men and their emotions? 
  • What emotions do you struggle with? Do you suppress some or overly express others? 

[Feature Image by Tengyart on Unsplash]

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