Emotional Health and Well-being
As a boy, you were probably taught not to cry, but to act tough and “be a man.” Although attitudes are changing in our society, many males are still brought up not to express their emotions, learning that any display of feeling (other than anger) is a sign of weakness. While living up to the traditional, aggressive mas- culine identity may give a man certain advantages in a competitive society, it also can explain why the rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, homicide, suicide, sexual abuse, automobile accidents, and stress-related chronic illness are higher in men than in women. If a man has not learned to properly deal with and express his emotions, then stressful situations may lead to inappropriate responses such as anger or violence.
If you have a son, it’s important to teach him not to shut down his feelings, because such an emotional disconnection can lead to a lack of empathy, sympa- thy, and the ability to express himself productively. This stereotypical male image, combined with exposure to violent television programs, movies, and video games, may promote violent and remorseless behavior in boys. It also can lead to an emotional disorder such as depression. Remember that your son needs your time and understanding. Spend as much time with him as you can and encourage him to be caring rather than tough. Don’t force him to suppress his emotions. Instead, tell him it’s okay to cry and teach him by example to feel empathy for other people.
Fortunately, there are many hopeful signs for men with an emotional disorder, including new ways of diagnosing emotional problems and more effective meth- ods of treating them. The social stigma once linked to emotional problems has lessened considerably as medical science has come to understand the biological basis of these disorders.
Of course, not all emotional problems can be classiﬁed as a disorder. We all feel stress to varying degrees in a variety of situations. In terms of major stresses, men are just as likely as women to undergo an emotional upheaval dur- ing a time of divorce or from the loss of a job. The death of a spouse or parent will trigger a natural and extended period of bereavement as a man comes to grips with the loss of his life partner or family member. The best way to ensure your own emotional health is to ﬁnd practical ways to handle stress and restrain your feelings of anger. This section will give you important information about stress management and the control of anger. In the ﬁnal analysis, your emotional health is more under your own control than you think. The key is learning effec- tive ways to exercise this control.