Written by Jack A. Daniels, Entrepreneur, Author & Counselor
So I’m sitting on the sideline stretching before my next pickup game of basketball when I get the casual handshake and what’s up from a friend of a friend. I didn’t really know this cat, but he knew who I was and what services I provided. He nervously tried to make small talk before getting to his real questions. He began telling me while shaking his head and laughing nervously, “So my boy told me he went through this program you have that he claimed saved his life.” “If exploring and expressing what he was going through at the time saved his life, I guess you can say that.” We then commented on someone who just got it handed to them on the court which was followed by 2 minutes of silence. “So if someone is trying to get they life back on track, you saying this program be working?” I could see the pain in this brother’s eyes, but decided not to mention it. Instead I told him that, “Life happens and it’s sometimes good to be surrounded by other people who have experienced some things also.” It was game time. I won 2 and lost the 3rd. On my way out, that same brother stopped me, shook my hand and told me, “I don’t know if it would work for me, but I do know what I’m doing now ain’t really working.” “You think I can sign up?” I smiled, gave him the chest to shoulder hug and told him, “There’s always room for one more man.”
One of the hardest things for us as men to do is ask for help. I admire and respect every man who is bold enough to raise his hand to say, “I need help.” So many stereotypes and stigmatisms have been passed on throughout the years surrounding men and our ability to successfully seek help when we need it. Our ego, pride and programming typically get the best of us. We were taught as children how to suppress and hide our emotions versus expressing them. We were accustomed to phrases such as, “Stop cutting those eyes.” “You better get that look off your face” or the infamous, “You better dry up those tears before I give you something to really cry about!” What’s problematic is we heard statements like these immediately after being disciplined in some capacity. The reality is that a child has a right to be angry and hurt. If he were smiling about what just happened, I’d professionally suggest that he probably needs to be admitted to therapy! Being taught how to stifle our emotions systemically severs our connection to cognitively communicate what we’re truly feeling. Suppression versus expression then becomes the norm. Either way, we have a cycle of subscribing prescriptions of passive principles that prove to be problematic for our personalities and plights as men. Men have higher illnesses, higher levels of stress, anxiety, suicide rates and shorter life spans as a result of repressing, suppressing and not sharing our emotions effectively. We’re killing ourselves softly.
Sharing what’s on your mind or what you’re going through is important. Often times we think we’re the only ones going through some mess, but if you look around, you’ll find that the ledge you’re standing on is so crowded that it’s about to crack due to the abundance of folks who you never suspected to see standing next to you. As men we have to realize that we all go through similar situations, sentiments and circumstances. By sharing or expressing your story, you release the tension and pressure of feeling like you’re dealing with it alone; you’re not. Being vulnerable isn’t a bad thing. When emotions are not dealt with in healthy manners or are repressed, denied or discouraged, other unhealthy behaviors begin to manifest. Mismanaged feelings or emotions tend to lead to more severe behaviors such as substance abuse, addictions, compulsions or avoidance behaviors that drive us further away from dealing with our initial problem.
Fellas, women are often quick to say men don’t talk, don’t have feelings or don’t know how to express themselves. Those stereotypes have plagued our society for years. Fortunately, I beg to differ. In fact, men are extremely articulate when it comes to expressing themselves if they are provided the right opportunity, environment and platform. The good news is that it’s never too late to begin learning how to share and express yourself. Conquering the fear of swallowing your pride and telling your ego to beat it is easy if you remember that God speaks to you and through you. So holding in your feelings is only blocking the blessings you’re supposed to be expressing in hopes of helping yourself and possibly someone else. Real men have no issues with raising their hand and asking for help. If you’re struggling with something, be man enough to talk about it in some capacity. You never know how much sharing will benefit you until you try it. Who knows, expression versus suppression could save your life and the life of someone who just heard how hard you thought you had it.
“Keep the faith, keep making it happen and remember to stay out of your own way!”
Jack A. Daniels, Entrepreneur, Author & Counselor