For too long Men – fathers, sons and brothers – have learnt that it’s better to suppress than express. Emotions, especially vulnerable ones, have been tightly wrapped up in our high vis shirts and deemed ‘too weak, too feminine or too sensitive’.
Understandably, cultural issues have played a role in this experience. Generations of men being absent through the impact of war and work have taken a toll. Under-fathered boys have been taught through the rough and tumble of homes and schools that to survive you have to be tough, strong and competitive. The old adage that ‘being vulnerable is being weak’ still pervades.
It’s an interesting time for men. We are deconstructing ourselves through our desires to be more nurturing and present in our families, whilst feeling bookended by the essential needs of our woman and community to be healthy and non-violent. Somewhere in this mix, we’re pioneering a new wave of masculinity, and we need too.
In my experience, many men are isolated. Men can seem to lose sight of their friendships and networks either through being too shutdown or too overwhelmed. And yet, Most men I meet desire more connection; more time together outside of the pub, where they can unwind the layers of conditioning and find our core. Working with men and on my own masculinity for over 15 years, the future is clear, claiming our vulnerability becomes obvious. And why not? It take a good dose of manly traits to to do a full suite of our emotions. Courage, strength, determination, focus, to name a few. Men can bring all of their masculinity to their vulnerability. I know, I’ve learnt through my own journey the cost of suppression and the impact this can have on my health, relationships and work life.
So where do we start?
Courage. It’s all about taking a risk really. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone and dialling a friend. Trying something other than the beer and BBQ culture, like kicking a footy around, hitting a bike trail or meeting on the beach. Sometimes, it’s about telling your partner something more about what we are feeling other than ‘i’m frustrated, tired or i don’t know’. And sometimes it not that simple. Because we may need to upgrade some skills, build some more resources and ultimately get ourselves a better emotional tool kit. We may need to rely on not only our courage, but also our determination, making those appointments to see a health professional or joining a group with other men who are also wanting transformation. And of course, we need focus. A focus to not give up, to push past the inevitable uncertainty. To find the strength to stand in the fire, face the fear and find a new version of our manhood.
In essence, i’m talking about connection. When I really look into my needs, I keep facing the realisation that there is a power in sharing my experience, where I can be seen and can belong in a more real version of myself. As men, when we can create these more intimate connections, we can start to action a transformation of our masculinity, healing the past generations of wounded men, and raising boys and girls that know men can have a heart and a backbone.
Check out this interview I conducted with the wonder Peter Chown on Pregnancy Birth and Beyond radio “The Strength in Vulnerability” that compliments this article.
Sean Tonnet is a highly sort after relationship therapist, international educator and Clinical Director for Thrive Clinic Mullumbimby. You can contact Sean through this website contact page or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com