A good laugh is one of life’s gifts.
Happiness is an emotion we like to participate in as a group, and especially so when that happiness overflows into laughter.
Laughter is best shared, and to truly experience the funny side it’s best experienced amongst friends and family. So we act out our favourite comedy moments, retell our children's comedic exploits, we tell our funny stories, laugh and giggle while wiping away a tear or two.
We tell the embarrassing tales from other’s people’s lives and sometimes, just sometimes from our own, or maybe our mum or a sibling does it for us. When we do, we share the laughter and join in it together. It’s such a pleasure.
We are all comfortable sharing laughter. But there are other expressions of emotion—even good and healthy emotions—that we are not comfortable sharing.
Take sadness or grief, for example; we don’t talk about those.
I guess we all think that tears are private.
Men laugh in a group but cry alone. “He’s funny” is a compliment.
“He cries” is an insult. “He’s funny” praises him for being manly while “he cries” criticises him for being just “human.”
Why is it that laughter is praised and tears are shameful?
Why does he share his laughter and hide his tears?
Why does he laugh aloud amongst company and cry silently alone?
No one wants to share a good cry like they share a good laugh. It’s not the done thing, people run, “I did not know what to say or do” they say.
He will laugh during a funny movie, but he won’t cry during a sad one.
He expresses his happiness for all to see and oppresses his sorrow so no one will see.
No one has ever told him it has to be this way.
It is something he picked up along the way.
It’s been the message he received from all around.
Real men don’t cry.
Not in public, anyway.
Not where others can see them.
It’s pride, I’m sure.
The pride that flows out of believing that a real man does not cry, he is only allowed to express the “happy” emotions.
Laugh all you want, but don't you cry.
Express your joy but not your pain.
Joy is a public emotion sadness a private one.
This is what he has learned, and this is what he will pass to the next generation.
Study after study shows that men and women differ in some parts of their temperament, but not in others.
Men and women don’t differ in how shy or fearful they are, or in how angry, sad, happy, or emotional they are.
Men and women do differ, however, in how people react to their fear, sadness, and crying.
Mums, for example, will sit with their daughters have a girly chat and share their feelings of sadness than with their sons.
Boy’s are often pulled up for crying and showing their sadness.
But the unavoidable truth is that men feel sad, sometimes. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
Before puberty hits, boys are more at risk of depression than girls.
Even feeling just a brief moment of sadness is a natural emotion to something negative. People all over the world experience sadness at some time or another. It’s what being human is all about.
Our caregivers get caught up, and we often teach boys that sad emotions are something reserved only for the girls to express.
These experiences shaping our emotion reference points, these ideas we hold about what emotions feel like, look like, how they should be labelled, and how they should be expressed.
We aren’t born with these reference points; we learn them.
For boys, they learn that sadness is not okay, and expressing sadness is not ok.
Pent-up emotions don’t just dissolve; they have to be expressed somehow.
For boys it seems, an acceptable emotion is anger.
They can fight, show aggression, and are rarely reprimanded for that.
“That’s what boys do; they fight it out in the playground...”
So, for boys transitioning into manhood, they battle with their emotions, with little or no experience of how to deal with feelings of sadness, other than to get angry now and again.
We end up with gender difference – Men get angry, and women cry- that’s how he or she expresses sadness and deal with their “issues”.
Girls, grow up into women, experience the exact opposite socialisation.
For women and girls, it’s ok, to talk and talk about sad feelings.
I guess if you’re a woman reading this right now you might relate to this;
You're upset, so your mum, your sister or a girlfriend sit’s on the edge of the bed to help you “process” the sadness. The process called rumination, we play the event over and over again in our minds, the finger firmly on the repeat button of that sad song that reminds us of what just happened over and over.
It’s true to say girls do it considerably more than boys do, wouldn't you say?
This difference largely explains why women are more likely to be depressed than men.
This all strikes me as irrational. We have a basic emotion; you know the one called sadness.
What we do with that emotion seems to mess us all up.
We teach girls to dwell on it, and we teach boys to hold it all in.
So we have men who need to learn how to manage their anger and women with high rates of depression.
It’s always fascinating me the differences between the genders. Let’s face it, no matter what anyone says, men and women are similar, but yet so different.
This is no easy subject, in fact, it’s one we don’t talk about. But if we don’t talk about it now when will we talk about it?
2.7 million men in England currently have a mental health problem like depression,
anxiety or stress and their situations have in recent years been exacerbated by the tough economic climate.
37% of men are feeling worried or low with the top three issues playing on their minds being job security, work and money.
Despite men and women experiencing mental health problems in roughly equal numbers, men are much less likely to be diagnosed and treated for it.
The consequences of this can be fatal: out of 6,233 suicides in England in 2013, 75% were men (source ONS).
Quite often the main contributor of these actions is that men commonly find it hard to talk about any problems they are facing and when they do want to talk they don’t know who to talk to.
We have a culture where some men think it’s seen as being weak or a failure to be able to talk when they are not coping. “Get on with it”, “Man up”.
For some men, this attitude works for them, but clearly, this doesn’t work for all.
The charity Mind, said:
“Sadly too many men wrongly believe that admitting mental distress makes them weak, and this kind of self-stigma can prevent them from seeking help and ultimately can cost lives.”
You are not alone anyone can experience life situations that ‘get on top of us’ and can affect how we feel.
But it’s how we can cope better or ‘bounce back’ that’s important.
Crying exposes part of the mystery of being human.
Men are not robots. They cry, laugh and sing, just like women do.
Crying overwhelms us. Our eyes fill up with water, our lips tremble and when we try to speak our voice trembles.
Tears have a strange way of healing the soul, they connect us to our humanness and the reality that underneath all of it we are the same, we hurt, and we cry.
What if we stopped for a moment and talked about it, reached out our hand and meet in the middle a little more often?
Let boys know it’s ok to express sadness when they feel it.
Have a good old cry when they need it.
And tell girls to not dwell on it so much, no one is perfect despite the images of perfection that we are being bombarded with on social media.
Maybe we should be learning about and supporting the other gender a bit more often.
If you are anyone you know is feeling down and going through a rough patch, know that you are not alone and there is help out there. There is no shame in reaching out.
My message to you today ask for help, help each other, see your GP; there are organisations and charities out there that can support you through the sad times.
Do you know someone who could do with a chat?
Call them arrange to meet over coffee; you will be surprised how a catch up can make a difference to someone. If this blog post resonated and if you feel it might help someone you know, please share it with them.
Let me know your thoughts; I would love to hear from you.
ps. 1 in 4 of us will fight a mental health problem this year. So if your mate’s acting differently, step in. #InYourCorner
Having a mate in your corner can make all the difference when you have a mental health problem. Have a watch of Time to Change's current campaign.