By Wayne M. Levine
In the wrong hands, firearms can be very dangerous. They must be handled with care. If not, the potential damage can be devastating and irreparable. That’s one of the reasons a license is required to carry one. One must be trained to know how to handle the weapon.
See where this is going?
We men must be trained, too, to know how to recognize, manage, and respond to our emotions. You see, unlike women, we weren’t born with that innate wisdom. The good news is that we can learn everything we need to know about our emotional world so we can exist and thrive as men—and as men in relationships with our women—without causing collateral damage.
Women live in the world of emotions. Show me a man who hasn’t seen proof of that! Men, on the other hand, tend to hang out in the world of reason, though what might seem reasonable to many men is anything but.
Nonetheless, whether her emotions are off the chart or his reasoning is flawed, our species tend to exist in vastly different environments—environments that can be quite hostile to each other. But if we want to have intimate relationships with our women, we’ve got some work to do.
Just Tell Me How You Feel.
That’s all she needs. It’s so simple. And yet, for many of us, it isn’t. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. Why? Well, we may have been raised in homes where self-expression wasn’t honored—or worse, punished.
Plus, we grew up in a culture where boys were encouraged to stuff their feelings, get back on that field, and kill someone! For these and many other reasons, many men tend to stay clear of their emotions, at least with women.
I say this because I circle up with about 50 men each week who all have feelings. Though some can access them more easily than others, in time, and with some modeling and encouragement, they all learn to express their emotions. These men learn that it’s safe to do so in their confidential men’s groups.
But it doesn’t always feel so safe for them at home because, at some point in their lives, they had their feelings used as weapons against them by a disgruntled loved one.
Emotional Training for Men
In broad strokes, I’ll briefly describe the process our men go through in their training to become emotionally aware and capable of relating to a woman on her own turf.
Clarify the Objective
Step one is to spell out the problem and clearly state the objective of the work. That’s not always easy because when men finally decide to sit and discuss their relationship challenges, they’re so emotionally twisted up inside they don’t know which end is up. It takes some time to calm them down so they can see their situations clearly, and then develop a vision of how they would like things to be with their wives, kids, parents, family members or co-workers.
Identify the Wound
Once we identify the desired result, we look at what’s preventing him from connecting with his own feelings or communicating them effectively. It could be that every time his wife expresses her dissatisfaction, he actually hears his critical mother or father yelling at him, and shuts down emotionally. Or, perhaps, as a kid he learned to deny his own feelings to survive the wrath of his raging or abusive father. Whatever the cause, it’s important to understand that this behavior was learned, and once served a useful—if not lifesaving—purpose, but not anymore.
Learn the Tools
Depending on the man, a number of tools can help him to become mentally and physically aware of his emotions. As we become conscious, we’re capable of making choices rather than being a slave and reacting to the unconscious fears of our own feelings.
Practice with the Men
With tools in hand, and a clearer understanding of the problem and objective, it’s time to start practicing with the men. In our groups, men have free reign to say what’s on their minds without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings. And if someone did feel attacked or criticized in the process, we help that man figure out what buttons were pushed so he can learn more about himself.
Bring it on Home
Each week men are able to take these lessons home and experiment. Over time, as relationships are built and strengthened in group, these new behaviors become second nature, and life at home begins to look more and more like the vision developed when this process began.
Having a license to carry home these emotions isn’t a law, but for everyone’s benefit, don’t you think a little training would make for a safer and more loving place to live?