Why Men Have a Hard Time Opening Up   

Why Men Have a Hard Time Opening Up    July 4, 2024

Emotional Openness

While men and women both struggle with emotional openness, men more often are stereotyped as such, and women are often pathologized. The emotional landscapes and conditioning of men and women can be quite different, often influenced by societal norms and expectations. From my side of the chair, I have found that many men have a harder time being emotionally open due to a variety of reasons: 

  • Societal Conditioning: Traditionally, many cultures have conditioned men to view emotional vulnerability as a sign of weakness. From a young age, boys are often encouraged to “toughen up” and suppress their feelings, which can lead to difficulties in expressing emotions openly as they grow older. 
  • Fear of Judgment: There is often a fear of being judged or misunderstood when a man shows vulnerability. Many men worry that expressing their true emotions might lead to ridicule, rejection, or a perception of being less “manly.” 
  • Lack of Emotional Vocabulary: Due to the suppression of emotions, many men might not have developed the vocabulary to accurately express what they are feeling. This can create frustration and further reluctance to open up. 
  • Internalized Beliefs: Some men have internalized the belief that they need to be the constant providers and protectors, always strong and resilient. This can create an internal conflict when they feel emotional or vulnerable, as it seems to contradict their perceived role. 
  • Fear of Losing Control: Many men might feel that displaying emotion means losing control, and this can be very unsettling. There is a fear that once the emotions start flowing, they might not be able to manage or stop them, leading to a sense of helplessness. 
  • Role Models and Representation: The lack of positive role models who exemplify emotional openness can also contribute. If a man has not seen other men in his life or in media openly dealing with their emotions, it can be challenging to navigate this unfamiliar terrain. 
  • Relationship Dynamics: In relationships, men might resist emotional openness due to fear of being hurt or fear that their emotional needs won’t be met. Emotions can feel like a battlefield, and without assurance of a supportive and understanding response, they might choose to build walls instead. 

I will make this point again later, but the problem with emotional connection is only stereotypically male. The reality from my side of the chair is that it is generational, cultural and at times, rooted in bad theology. All the points made above apply to both men and women.  

Emotional Openness and the Bible 

In the country I am writing from, America, especially in the rural places I have pastored and lived, a “Biblical Man” is a lot of things, except emotional. He puts on the “armor of God” and is the “protector, provider and presider” over his family, his church, and his community. All of this is crap as none of these attributes are found in either the New or Old Testament. Contemporary writings, especially when we get to the New Testament and Paul’s time will find the writings of the Stoics and influences from the other Abrahamic traditions and some Eastern traditions.  

When read from a therapist and philosopher’s perspective, we can see several different perspectives in the bible. David clearly shows signs of clinical depression and his son, Solomon clearly shows the effects of this.  

Jesus famously weeps and is attributed to saying things that were not just Jewish in their orientation but can be found in several traditions around the world.  

A whole book of the Old Testament and a sub-genre of the Psalms is designated to the spiritual practice of lament.  

The Spiritual Practice of Connections (https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet/view/7/connections ) 

While I started this post looking at men’s struggles with connection, the problem is prevalent in both sexes. The problem with connections is not a gender problem, but a stereotype and perception problem. I deal a lot with loneliness in my daily practice as a therapist. In many ways, lack of meaning making, normalizing emotional responses and lack of outlets to connect have created the mess that we observe with not only younger people but many elderly as well. Loneliness is a problem. Cultivating the spiritual practice of connections counters this.  

In breaking down the barriers to emotional connection and cultivating the practice of connection, start with this thought? Separateness is an illusion. In the lovingkindness meditation ( lovingkindness ) we teach or cultivate the awareness of the other in our lives, our close ones, our distant ones, and the ones we may harbor negative feelings towards. In cultivating this awareness, we begin to understand the closeness and the sameness we share. We realize that we all want the same things, love, and affection. To be seen.  

The reality of connection is that we are not one, we are part of many. We are a member of a community, a culture, a society, a family. Our presence in these spaces is not insular either. Our presence influences those around us, for the good and the negative.  

When we engage in the practice of connection, we “reinforce holistic thinking and our awareness of how the spiritual, emotional, and mental aspects of our being interpenetrate and nourish each other. It enables us to see the big picture”. (https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/alphabet/view/7/connections ). 



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