A good proportion of my clients are men between the ages of 40 and 55. They are successful high achievers. They have dutifully played the part our society scripts out for successful, high achieving men: they have a noteworthy career, a wife and children and a certain standing in the world. They’ve earned the respect of others.
Another part of the script they’ve played very well is the stage instruction that reads: ‘suppress your feelings’.
From a very young age boys are taught to not do feeling – girls do that. Boys are taught to cut off from their emotions – don’t cry; pull yourself together; be a boy not a wuss. That’s what makes boys ‘strong’. And strong boys grow up to be powerful men. So its not surprising that these powerful men live their lives ignoring their feelings. Until they can’t.
The underlying reason they are my consulting room is that they are waking up to their own feelings. The more obvious reasons are usually along the lines of: they are thinking about leaving their wife; or their wife has left them; or they are ‘having an affair’. I really dislike that term and only use it for convenience. Dissatisfaction in personal relationship is a classic symptom of what’s usually called a midlife crisis – another term I dislike. Its not a crisis, its an awakening.
We know that gender stereotyping is very deep seated. We also know that such stereotyping suppresses certain behaviours in both men and women – it dictates what is acceptable and what is not for both genders.
I want to talk about a more subtle aspect of this gendered script: its energetic impact. Men are expected not to express emotion. This means that they are expected to suppress it. It takes a lot of energy to suppress emotion. Its easy to think of it as a passive process but its not. Ignoring something is an active choice – its an activity. And activities take up energy.
From what I’ve seen in my clients, by the time they come to see me they have spent years actively ignoring what they want. Their dissatisfaction didn’t turn up last week, it started whispering its presence a long time ago. And now its shouting. Its not unusual for me to hear that someone has been unhappy for well over a decade. In all that time they have put their precious energy into suppressing what they feel and want. They know they have been unhappy but they have soldiered on, often distracting themselves in work.
It would be perfectly viable to recommend that men experiencing a midlife awakening should reconnect with their emotions simply because its a healthy thing to do – which it is. But there is more to it than that. Emotions are a huge power source. We all know how much we can be affected by the way we feel – it impacts our behaviours, thoughts, outputs, achievements, interactions. Emotions are potent. So a key benefit for alpha men allowing themselves to feel, express and follow their emotions is that they access their own power source. The irony is that by ignoring emotion, alpha men are preventing themselves from being as successful as they could be. Think of all the energy that has gone into ignoring and suppressing feeling. Now think of the energy contained in the feeling itself. Thats a lot of energy that could be put to good use. Suppression acts like a short circuit mechanism – cutting off thinking and acting from feeling.
Having the balls to go off script and become a feeling alpha male will probably have a range of consequences – some of which might be uncomfortable, because its new behaviour. But one thing it will do for sure is give you a level of access to your innate power that you simply cant have when short circuiting your emotions. You can then focus this power to create even greater levels of success – in work, in relationship, in whatever you like. And because you’ve included your feelings in your life whatever success you create will be truly satisfying. Enjoy!