It’s no secret that men can be very bad at showing, understanding and expressing emotions and its a commonly held belief that this stems from a society that is constantly breathing down emotional men and children telling them that the world has no place for their emotions and that emotions are the antecedent to masculinity.
But by that logic, one would expect that individuals subject to intense criticism of emotion would be the most averse to emotion but that narrative quickly falls flat when we look at people with history of emotion abuse or neglect. In fact people that go through emotional abuse or neglect are oftentimes much more introspective, mindful and aware of their emotions than the average person given they have allowed to heal from their wounds. How? You ask.
Let’s follow the life of Jimmy, a kid with emotionally withdrawn parents who grew up around aggressive chimpanzees masquerading as humans. Jimmy was told to suppress his emotions early on, crying would lead to harsh criticism, show of anger would lead to more aggression, sadness would lead to taunts and bullying. While his friends, were better off than Jimmy in the sense that while they too could not show their emotions in public, their home was not a place where emotions were considered taboo or evil. Therefore, they developed a somewhat healthy connection to their emotions. As time went on, Jimmy’s friends, while still averse to openly showing emotions were far better at dealing with their emotions because they had some sort of emotional intelligence, albeit just enough to survive, so they never really had to introspect or look inwards or see the error in their thinking or ways. However, Jimmy while being much much more averse to emotions found himself constantly in pain, in futile and meaningless relationships and often depressed. Following this endless tirade of feeling helpless and tired, Jimmy started to realize that he was missing out of something, and this constant pain encouraged him to develop a healthy emotional connection to himself. In addition to this, Jimmy realized he couldn’t fill in the void in himself alone, after all, this was the duty of a parent, to help him connect with him emotions, so he sought the help of a counsellor who gently and slowly encouraged and helped him deal with his emotions. However, because he was under the supervision of a trained professional, they taught him healthy ways to cope with his emotions and understand other’s perspectives and emotions. Because of this ongoing effort to understand and be in touch with his emotions, Jimmy isn’t as averse to emotion as the average person, that, coupled with the fact that his emotions were much stronger than the average person initially because of being bottled up for so long, he developed coping mechanisms that helped him deal with stronger emotions with great ease.
On the contrary, Jimmy’s friends were better off to begin with, throughout their life, they were never nudged to actually start introspecting and got by just fine, never really pushed to work on themselves, they stuck to their age old ideals of emotions being bad and propagate the same ideals. Moreso, Jimmy’s friends, because they developed their behavioral patterns on their were much more likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms unlike Jimmy who was better off than them.
Now this story is 100% anecdotal and is based on the account of multiple anonymous people from reddit that have a history of childhood neglect or C-PTSD, but is an interesting perspective from what is currently offered. This is not to be confused for glorifying emotional neglect but simply showing another side to the coin. In fact, I would want to reiterate that many individuals with childhood neglect often face a lot of problems until they reach that stage of emotional awareness and mindfulness. They can develop psychosomatic problems, fall into depression, develop anxiety disorders and not have meaningful relationships. Ultimately need to put a lot of work to get to that stage of understanding themselves, but it is a silver lining alas!