Written by Eugene Farrell
With 30 years’ experience in the UK healthcare arena (both public and private), Eugene provides thought leadership for AXA and is our Mental Health Consultancy Lead.
Feelings and emotions are common to all of us as human beings, and sometimes we might struggle with things and need emotional support. But if you have always been told, and indeed tried to live up to a view that men don’t show feelings, they must remain strong and in control, then it’s going to be difficult to go against the stereotype that is masculinity.
"Boys don’t cry”, “get over it”, “man up”. These are messages that reinforce the gendered view about what it means to be a man in our society. It’s a strong social process that’s hard to resist and it begins early, research shows that boys are emotionally astute when young1.
Parents and teachers use less emotional words with boys2 and begin to lose their emotional awareness. As boys grow, they adopt the behaviours around them in order to be accepted by their peers or face ridicule and mocking. Described by Niobe Way in her book Deep Secrets, as a “crisis of connection” this becomes the trap of masculinity that holds men.
It’s no surprise then that men often struggle to express their emotions when all around them it is considered not “manly” at all.