Monday, 10 October 2016

Mountains or molehills?

People's real-life identities are very different from the ridiculous gender roles that follow us all around, but if there's one way men fit the stereotype, it's their urge to be rugged, self-sufficient individuals.

The evidence is that men are less likely to ask other people for support and tend to keep their problems to themselves, even if they're being torn apart by grief, sadness, hatred, or other extreme emotions.

It's a step forward that so many male celebs have admitted recently to their battles with depression, anxiety and other psychological issues, things that in the past they may have kept strictly under wraps, but there's still a long way to go.

It seems to me most women tend to spill out their troubles to anyone who'll listen, and their close friends for sure. They're less likely to bottle up agonising emotions and pretend everything's fine.

Certainly when I was young I conformed to the male stereotype and kept my miseries to myself. When I was bullied at school, as far as I remember I never confided in the housemaster or the head prefect or anyone who might have helped me. I guess I would have seen such an admission of weakness and helplessness as too humiliating. Men are meant to be strong and resilient and all the rest of it.

Now I have Jenny to confide in, of course I share my negative feelings with her all the time, and I'm lucky to be able to. But I still hesitate to show them to anyone else, even people I know very well. I ask myself, why would they want to listen? This is simply the emotional buffeting and turbulence of dealing with life. They'll think I'm making a big fuss over nothing.

It's not that I'm trying to be rugged and self-sufficient, just that I think I'm making mountains out of molehills. Desperate sadness? Overwhelming grief? Crushing helplessness? Who am I kidding? People out there know real distress, real trauma, not the petty emotions I'm peddling.

How am I feeling? Absolutely fine, thanks. On top of the world.

33 comments:

Bijoux said...

Ok, now I am starting to think you have depression?

Nick said...

Bijoux: Oh no, I get depressed for maybe half an hour and then I bounce back. I can't imagine what serious clinical depression feels like. That's something entirely different from my own experience. I think my emotional spectrum is much the same as most people's. Euphoria at one end, despair at the other, and everything in between. But I'm constantly misunderstood.

CheerfulMonk said...

I have no urge to pour out my feelings to other people, except maybe Andy and Kaitlin, and even then I'm more apt to do the most of the processing in my journal. I started doing that years ago, because my journal was always there, day and night. I don't try to hide my feelings, it's just that I can go into a lot more depth without other people there. I'm a visual thinker, and it would be a burden to try to give another person enough information to understand everything that's going on. I don't expect people to really understand one another, and that's all right. Wishing one another well and giving practical support is fine with me.

Dave Martin said...

I think the emotionally crippled, stiff-upper-lipped he-man type is thankfully a dying breed, and men in general are now far more likely to seek support from friends, family therapists etc.
It's not healthy to bottle up emotions and problems, but at the same time we'd probably alienate our friends if we constantly harped on about our troubles, so we have to tread carefully if we don't want to become the sort of needy and depressing individual that people cross the road to avoid.

kylie said...

I dont spill my guts to everyone and in fact there is probably nobody who gets to see my full spectrum. I believe in people's good will and desire to help but experience has shown me that a lot of people leave you feeling worse than when you started, just because they don't know what to say.

I think it is possible to mention or acknowledge negative emotions without making mountains out of molehills, it's just a matter of giving things the attention proportionately due to them

Nick said...

Jean: "It would be a burden to try to give another person enough information to understand everything that's going on." That's an interesting perspective. Sometimes the case, I guess. But some things are simple enough to understand, surely? Like grief over a loved one dying or panic over some unexpected crisis?

Nick said...

Dave: Indeed, hopefully a dying breed. And yes, talking endlessly about our troubles will drive people away pretty fast. There are times to open up and times to keep things to yourself. If you have that many troubles, you should probably be looking for a good therapist - who's paid to listen to all the angst and soul-searching!

Nick said...

Kylie: You're right that talking to others can sometimes leave you feeling worse. Perhaps like Jean says because it may be impossible to give them the full picture. Yes, you can give people a glimpse of your negative emotions without going into the detail, but that won't give you the feedback you're looking for.

Wisewebwoman said...

Like I heard years ago 'be careful who you share with'. Learned the hard way. But I've got ways now of testing the waters.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: Very true. If you share stuff with the wrong person, either they misunderstand, or they come up with some bizarre bit of advice, or they gossip about it, or they think you're bonkers. There are things I've only shared with people who seem totally trustworthy and sympathetic.

Ursula said...

"Housemaster"? "Prefect"? So you went to boarding school. Oh my god. Commiserations. One of the more bizarre first encounters I had on visiting England to meet my future in-laws when we drove (in Surrey, where else?) for me to view the grounds of where the future father of my son was schooled (from age eight). They were so proud. Of what exactly?

Needless to say, and not schooled in the ways of stiff upper lip, I said something truly tactless. Though it was the truth. "Over my dead body" (with regards to my own possible parenthood). Pricking a balloon, Nick, couldn't have been more deflating. Many years later my father-in-law (British Army), and long after my delightful MIL had died, confided in me that, whilst he had had no doubts at the time, indeed was proud that he could give his son THAT education, that on balance he regretted his little boy being "institutionalized" so early on. In my book, it's a crime, Nick.

Anyway, to cheer you up, I think the younger generation of men do "open up". To them there is no shame attached to show their emotions, shed a tear. Obviously I can only speak anecdotally drawing on my experience with the Angel, his friends, his (male) cousins.

I also don't necessarily think it just to be a gender issue. Some people keep themselves more to themselves than others. I do. How many times have I been "accused" of being "secretive"? I don't think I am, particularly [secretive], but - as some of your other commentators have pointed out - it's important to choose carefully who you talk to. And that's why, on the whole, I only do so when push comes to shove.

I wish I could say "good post, Nick" but recently it was brought to my attention that I can be SO "patronizing". So I want say it. Anyway, good post.

U

Ursula said...

"won't" say it. Clearly wanting.

U

tammy j said...

i was raised by a military man.
the kind of stiff upper lip type you're describing.
in our land we call it the john wayne type.
his own father died when he was nine years old and 'the man of the family now'
was drilled into him.
i adored him. and respected him.
but his idea of 'dealing with life' took hold early on. so i'm not your typical female type of communicator when it comes to my own deep fears or sadness.
i listen well to others. but am only now becoming able to participate with my own thoughts or problems. it's still not easy for me and i always feel i should have just kept my mouth shut! so yes. i do know what you're saying here.
good luck to both of us. xo

Maria said...

I get ill if I bottle up for too long, but I am also very fortunate because I have a trusting bunch of very good listeners so I do open up easily.
Greetings Maria x

Nick said...

Ursula: I thought everyone knew about my boarding school ordeal by now! As you say, above all it's institutionalising. Your whole day is scheduled and there's absolutely no chance of doing your own thing. A bit like prison really. It teaches you (or it tried to) to be deferential to authority and not rock the boat.

I hear that too, that younger men are much emotionally open than older men, and don't see why they should bottle everything up.

I think you're right that some people are naturally secretive (or not), whatever their gender. Partly perhaps because they've been more open in the past and it's been used against them.

Nick said...

Tammy: "It's still not easy for me and I always feel I should have just kept my mouth shut!" I know the feeling. I sometimes desperately want to talk about something but I'm afraid of getting an unsympathetic response if I do.

Maria: You're lucky to have a crowd of good listeners you can confidently confide in. That's what we all need, but in my experience good listeners are hard to find. There are far too many self-centred gasbags!

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm confused. You write in the comments,

"Jean: 'It would be a burden to try to give another person enough information to understand everything that's going on.' That's an interesting perspective. Sometimes the case, I guess. But some things are simple enough to understand, surely? Like grief over a loved one dying or panic over some unexpected crisis?"

But in the post you implied you're not talking about anything that traumatic.

"Overwhelming grief? Crushing helplessness? Who am I kidding? People out there know real distress, real trauma, not the petty emotions I'm peddling."

Obviously it depends on what the situation and feelings are.

Nick said...

Jean: Oh, am I totally contradicting myself? It wouldn't be the first time....

I'm talking about the whole range of negative emotions, from vague disappointment to serious distress. My point was that even if I'm suffering severe distress, I might convince myself that I'm over-dramatising it and therefore it would just be embarrassing and self-indulgent to tell someone else.

Rummuser said...

I am glad that you are on top of the world. So am I.

I have no choice in the matter. I am surrounded by family and friends who know every shift in my mood and rush to offer a shoulder to cry on or advice or help. I enjoy the attention and am grateful that I am blessed with such a situation. I am unashamedly non rugged, silent suffering broody male. Even if I try to put on a stiff upper lip, it will not show because of my mustache and beard.

Nick said...

Ramana: It must be both an advantage and a liability that your family is so sensitive to your every mood! But a shoulder to cry on is something we all need. Glad to know you aren't in any way a rugged, broody male....

Stephanie Faris said...

I know when men suffer from depression, they often lash out and seem grumpy and angry rather than just admitting they're sad. Society tells them they can't show weakness. I think that's gradually changing, but it's still always going to be an issue.

Nick said...

Stephanie: I think my father would have fitted that description. He was always grumpy and angry, and I don't remember him ever admitting to sadness or depression. But as others have said, it seems that younger men are much more emotionally open and see bottling things up as gender-role nonsense.

Hattie said...

I'm a stoic. I don't go broadcasting my troubles around. Never have and never will.

Nick said...

Hattie: If that's what works for you, fair enough. I guess we all have different ways of dealing with an emotional crisis. Some scream and shout, others quietly process it.

Hattie said...

Yes, it's just the way I am. But a good part of it has to do with how a woman gets punished for displaying emotions. It's better not to put yourself at that kind of risk for the rather iffy payoff of feeling better about your feelings.
Working on practical solutions to life's dilemmas, though: now that makes sense to me.

Nick said...

Hattie: So true that women get punished for being "over-emotional". You must have had some pretty unwelcome responses to prompt you to be so reticent.

Keith Smith said...

I live alone and I prefer it that way, in spite of what others think. I'm as happy as "a pig in muck" in my own little world. I have no friends or family now and I'm happy with that. There's no-one to bother me with their trials and troubles now, whinging on about how they cant cope etc.

In spite of that I am still bothered by the do-gooders at the local Age Concern (I go there for cheapo lunches and various coffee mornings!) who say they feel sorry for me and want to help me out of my 'miserable loneliness', and they seem to get offended when I say no, or words to that effect.

Nick said...

Keith: I know, a lot of people are quite happy on their own, don't feel lonely and have no desire to socialise for the sake of it. Jenny for example. It must be good not to be constantly badgered! The people who're offended by your not wanting their company probably just want you to listen to all their own complaints and hobby-horses.

Keith Smith said...

Nick - ". . .just want you to listen to all their own complaints and hobby-horses". That's just how I feel about it, "I'll be your friend if you let me unburden my complaints on you". No thanks.

Keith.
http://earlshilton.org.uk/wp/

Nick said...

Keith: At 69, I've had my fill of random strangers telling me about their defective boiler or the traffic snarl-up on the motorway. I wouldn't mind so much if they wanted to tell me about their whirlwind affair with the dentist, but no such luck.

CheerfulMonk said...

You might like this article.

Nick said...

Jean: That looks very interesting. I'll be right back when I've read it - it's quite long!

Nick said...

Jean: A very good article about how men learn to suppress their emotions and how they can re-learn to express them. Fascinating that research found that young boys are actually more emotionally expressive than young girls, but usually it's drummed out of them so that by the time they're adults, they can only express anger, contempt and pride.

Well, I do my best to express all my emotions nowadays. As a kid, I was taught to hide them as most boys were, so I've had to overcome those inhibitions.