The most frequently asked question I receive from women about men (next to “why do men cheat”) is, “do men have emotions?” To that I say unequivocally, “OF COURSE WE HAVE EMOTIONS, WE’RE HUMAN AREN’T WE!?” I’m “showing” emotion right now. (Text in all caps means I’m yelling- GRRRR!) Some of you ladies are probably thinking, “men, human? That’s debatable.” Touché.
The most common rebuttal from the ladies to an admission of masculine emotions is, “then why don’t men show it?” Ah-Ha! Now you’re asking the correct question; not if men have emotions but why don’t we show emotion (which I assume women mean routinely). Anyone who knows me personally would confirm that I am a rather emotional guy. It is the reason, I believe, that I am able to write the way that I do. So this is a topic of which I feel more than qualified to have an opinion. In my response I’ll speak directly to the ladies for a moment in hopes that everyone else will be listening.
Ladies let’s talk about this objectively for a moment. First off, what is emotion? Why is it that what upsets a person today didn’t upset him or her when a similar situation happened a year, month, or even a week ago? Why is it ladies that when your girlfriends say or do a particular thing it never bothers you but when your man does the same exact thing it’s like, the end of the world? I’ll tell you why; emotions. Ladies you would admit that women are emotionally invested in something, e.g. committed relationship, they are much more sensitive to its peaks and valleys; as it should be. Believe it or not men are too, generally speaking.
Unfortunately emotion is often misdiagnosed as the action itself and not the state of mind from which the action was manifested. In other words no action, or in our case no reaction equals zero emotion, right? Wrong. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For a lack of a better way to quantify it, I liken an emotion to a visiting spirit that either comes to us uninvited, e.g. triggered by our current situation, or when we ourselves provoke it, i.e. when the situation calls for it we “summon” it. Factors such as maturity level, experiences, expectations, physical stressors present (e.g. light, noise, heat), our relationship to the other parties involved, perceived ramifications, and how prepared we were for the incident all dictate our emotional reaction.
Think of emotion as an ache (this may not be the best analogy but please bear with me). If I don’t wince you might assume I am not in pain. Therefore I could argue that wincing in pain is for the benefit of others, so that they know I’m in pain. Even if I intentionally tried to hide the fact that I am in pain I still might winkle my brawl involuntarily as the pain intensifies. But this wouldn’t make me feel any better. Now if I were to rock one leg back and forth repeatedly with each spike in pain it would be for my own benefit. The repetitive motion of my leg would help divert my attention away from the pain until it subsides, providing some comfort. Unlike wincing, rocking my leg serves a purpose beyond proving I am in pain. Likewise men choose only to show emotion when it helps facilitate the neccessary course of action.
Ladies, imagine if in the middle of the night you hear the sound of glass breaking then the muffled voice of a strange man. You would most likely experience the emotion of fear. Your first thought might be to hide because you are afraid of what the trespasser would do if he finds you, but you can’t move; paralyzed with fear. Feeling helpless you begin to cry silently as you rock back and forth in your bed, again, because you’re scared out of your mind and uncertain of the outcome.
But then you remember you’re lying next to your big strong man who is still sound asleep, still snoring and unaffected by the ruckus down the hall. So you figure you’ll just wake him up so that he can confront the murderous burglar ramp-sacking your living room. Your man will just run right in there and beat the guy up- because why? Because he’s a man, which means he’s not afraid of the lunatic rumbling through your possessions. Because why? Because, hmmm…
OK ladies, right here is where I need you all to take a good hard look at this scenario. We all agree the man is expected to protect you by either confronting the assailant or at the very least facilitating your escape. But why will he as a man be able to remain functional and coherent during this ordeal while you as a woman be permitted to go completely numb? Is it because he’s incapable of being afraid and is unconcern that the perpetrator may have a gun? Well the truth is he may be just as scared as you are. However to act out this fear, e.g. go completely numb or leave you alone in the room to hide himself, would hinder his next necessary course of action; to protect you.
He still has to protect you whether he’s afraid or not. So how he feels about this or any other situation isn’t relevant to what he must do about it. Showing fear to an adversary is counterproductive, but baring your fangs in anger would be spot on! So in this case the emotion of anger would help to facilitate the next course of action, to neutralize the threat to his home, but fear would not. Thus for men showing emotion must be relevant to addressing the problem if it is to be justified.
An emotional episode, or rather acting out how one feels, is a luxury routinely afforded to women and children. It is sometimes an asset to women but at all times a liability for men, e.g. tears from outed politicians and defeated professional athletes. To put it bluntly women are socially exempted from the negativity associated with showing the tenderest emotions and men are not. Even Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s happy tears on January 18, 2015 have been news and social media worthy as of late. I’m not here to argue if it’s right or wrong, just to state that this is currently the way it is.
From her youth a woman uses emotion to level the playing field, for leverage, to win over objectivity or cleanse her soul of excess baggage. She has her “sister circle” with which to thoroughly process life’s stresses and moments of grief. Emotion is an integral part of how she argues her position; placing rationale over logic (which is sometimes a bad thing). For her it is very much a release valve, relieving a pipe of built up pressure.
Since he was a boy he has been encouraged to suppress emotion, or rather deny himself the luxury of having emotional episodes. Even at funerals men are told not to cry. Men are “fixers” because resolution is our only recourse. There is no social release valve for his proverbial pipe so he learns to address the root cause of every issue he is confronted with before there is a build up of pressure. God forbid he doesn’t and his pipe bursts! Who would mend it; the woman who petitioned so diligently that he show his emotions when it is convenient for her?
Without the benefit of a release valve, which is in many ways like a “do-over,” he is more like a mathematician; calculating all risks and playing the odds. While she on the other hand is a scientist of sorts; experimenting with a handful of possibilities to see which one gives her the best result, testing the waters so to speak. If he were to miscalculate he would quickly make the necessary adjustments to his figures and reverse the situation. If she misinterprets her test data or goes too far with the experiment, i.e. creates pressure in the pipe, she just activates the release valve, i.e. use emotion, and start a new experiment. This is the reason women seem so unafraid to “pull out the big guns” in an argument with her man; because she feels she’s able to fix whatever she breaks with a few tears, an apology, and in extreme circumstances sex.
Here’s a parity of male-female interaction; a mid-day phone conversation. A woman calls her man at work on his cell phone. But instead of getting right to the point, which was to request a favor she’s uncomfortable asking at home in person, she commences with small talk as a way to probe for his mood (i.e. an experiment). Each question is a test from which she’ll draw conclusions about his state of mind (i.e. what he says, how he says it and how long it takes him to respond). He, because she’s asking him about his day and about work etc, assumes (i.e. deduces through calculation) this is merely a “checking in” call and therefore no need for concern.
Since he was kind of in the middle of something work-related and has determined there is no urgency to this call he positions himself to wrap up the call by giving her short concise answers. She, still probing for his mood, senses he’s rushing her off the phone but theorizes it’s because he’s having a bad day or perhaps something or someone else is more important to him right now than she is (Heaven forbid). Her concerns are magnified by the coincidental fact one of her best friends is going through a breakup. She asks him outright why he is in such a hurry to get off the phone while secretly wondering with which of the office hussies he’s having an affair! After all if he was really that busy why did he take her call? (This isn’t going at all like she imagined!)
He, detecting an argument brewing, retroactively analysize all her previous questions and remarkes then make some calculated assumptions himself. |Things like: the fact she called him at work should indicate to her that he’s working and could become busy at anytime during this personal call, so what’s with the attitude? Perhaps an argument was her intention all along, to release some pressure. What week is this; is there an anniversary coming up or something? What week of the month is it?| But he knows the odds are against him saying any of these things to her. So he lies and says he’s not trying to rush off the phone. She detects the uncertainty, the lie in his voice. An argument ensues, never really getting back to the purpose of the call. Well, you get the idea.