This is written by Keith Artisan:
“In a relationship, having your partner withdraw at an emotional level can bring confusion, pain and frustration.
Women who relate to men that do this are often bewildered by why and how this happens.
Speaking as a man, and one who considers himself sensitive and emotionally available, there are particular situations and scenarios that cause me to withdraw. And I imagine that other men, regardless of how in-tune they are with their emotional nature, would respond in similar ways.
Just because a man withdraws does not mean he is withdrawing from you.
First, I just wanted to express that when a man seeks solace or withdraws from a conversation, it probably has nothing to do with the beloved. It has more to do with the emotional intensity and confusion around emotions than with any particular person. It just takes men more time to integrate and understand the watery realm of emotions. And understanding emotions isn’t something that happens for us spontaneously in the midst of a heated discussion.
We need space and time to figure out what is happening, both within our own self and with our beloved.
Men have been discouraged from feeling emotional. We have been mocked, attacked, and belittled when showing emotions. Big boys don’t cry, toughen up, and bite the bullet are all phrases men grow up with. So when we are faced with emotional situations, we are total novices.
The biggest harm that is not recognized or appreciated for the depth of damage that it causes at the emotional level to a man is that men are expected to be tough, to protect, and kill to defend their family. Violence, and the expectation of violence, mandates an absence of emotional sensitivity.
It is a double standard to expect a man to be emotionally available and to have him be able to harm another human being.
Have compassion and understand the kind of conundrum that a man faces when being emotional vulnerable and awakening to deeper sensitivities. It is rare enough to find a man who wants to delve within and unleash his inner passion. It doesn’t mean that he is going to be masterful at it. For men to be comfortable in their own skin and accept their feeling nature takes a growth curve.
A woman has a lifetime of experience navigating the oceanic tides of emotional states.
Women grow up with emotional states and are accepted as sensitive, feeling beings. She is able to observe, feel, recognize and better communicate her feelings than a man. Women are also adept at observing and recognizing the emotional states in other people. And when a woman finds a man who loves her, at some level, she feels a great deal of hope because she has found an emotional match, somebody who understands those hidden tides and influences.
Women will share all their heart and feelings, and not understand how this can impact a man. And when a man doesn’t respond as she needs, the feelings of being hurt or misunderstood arise. How those feelings are expressed matter a great deal.
The best men want an intimate connection with women, and often don’t know how to do that.
Men don’t fall short in the emotional realm because we are emotionally immature. We are emotionally inexperienced. Men face expectations and pressure about emotions that are confusing and contradictory. And when we find a woman who loves us and we love in return, it brings to life a living fire that had been suppressed for a lifetime. Yet fires burn, and the burgeoning sensitivities is akin to a child learning to walk. We fall down, we make blunders, and we are blind as to how to listen and communicate our emotions.
Men experience a learning curve when awakening to their deepest sensitivities.
And just as any beginner, they make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are colossal, and sometimes laughable. Men need an emotional example, how to be alive with and operate with emotions in a healthy way. We also need to be accepted as we are, beginners with beautiful intention. To demand for a man to have the mastery over their emotions is an outrageous expectation. For most men, mastery over emotions means suppressing them, hiding feelings behind a mask of stoicism, or just turning off the emotions entirely. It takes time to even identify the subtle emotions, let alone to know how they function and their influence on our own self and those around us.
Any teacher knows that mocking a beginner or putting them down, criticizing them or their approach, will stunt the learning curve, if not completely stopping it.
The beloved woman becomes that guide into the mysterious realms of feeling emotions. When she expresses anger, puts down her man, belittles or mocks him, a man feels attacked. When she demands him to be sensitive, a man feels not good enough.
And when a man faces a woman’s wrath he will respond in the ways he has been taught to feel emotions since early childhood ; with anger. Anger is one of the few emotions accepted in men because it is a necessary emotion to be a soldier-killer. Anger is a natural defensive response for men. And once we become angry with our beloved, there is a host of problems that arise afterwards. Guilt, shame, inadequacy, failure, and fear. These siblings to anger are inevitable when fury shows its face, especially when we know that our loved one has been hurt as a result of our anger.
The words spoken in anger harm the recipient and the speaker.
It takes time for a man to feel comfortable feeling emotions. After all, such a man is challenging the tenets and pressure of an entire society and its deeply ingrained training.
A man’s natural response when hurt or confused is to withdraw. Almost everybody knows about the masculine need to retreat to the cave. And whether this is physical space, or mental space, or even silence, the cave is an essential healing tool for the manly mind. The cave allows integration of the experience, introspection to see what is happening within, and understanding to know how to better respond in the future.
Women set the example and emotional tone that allows their partner to feel safe.
When a man faces a woman who is emotionally stable, it allows him to understand his own emotions. The depth of understanding that the woman has with herself and her own emotional nature will give him the security to express and unveil his own strengths. The woman who is emotionally secure brings a presence of emotional security to the relationship. A well meaning man will appreciate this and do his best, and grow faster and reveal the depths of his spirit with increasing strength and confidence.
Granted, the ideal is that a man can figure out his emotional state and come into his own emotional maturity through his own self-generated willpower. Yet the reality is that teachers, guides and mentors accelerate this process and help a person navigate the confusing and mysterious realms of emotions. There are a great many pitfalls and bewildering mirages when it comes to the shifting sands of sensitivities. And as man learns his emotional state, he is also facing the additional challenges from his friends, family, and world that challenges that awakening at every step.
Gentle understanding and compassionate acceptance brings healing and deepens the relationship. One of the best qualities women have is the ability to nurture.
Nurturing is not aggressive. And with a man, directing aggression at him will generate an aggressive response. He will either fight or run. The flight or fight response is deeply ingrained into every human being. In essence, attacking a man who is opening his heart will trigger a survival level instinct. Once that survival level power fully awakens in relationship, the dynamics in the relationship changes and may never come back to equilibrium.
Nurturing is not forceful, instead it is accepting and allows for a natural growth curve. Be patient.
Just as a tree takes time to come into its fullness and blossom, a man who is learning to embrace his deeper truths will need time to fully ripen into his potential.
Appreciate the men who take the time to stand up against society to discover, feel, live and unleash their sensitive side. It takes a lion’s heart full of courage to face down societal expectations and programmed beliefs. Give him gratitude, honour his spirit, thank him for being available with his sensitivity in ANY way that he is able.
Such a person is one of a kind, a warrior in the truest meaning of the word.”
If there is one thing I could say has been the greatest and most difficult goal I have had to continually work towards, it would be letting go: Letting go when things don’t go your way, when people don’t understand you, when you lose someone you love; or of emotions such as anger, jealousy, or just unproductive thoughts in general. Then there is learning to let go of the all the expectations of yourself and your life that might just not turn out how you thought.
It really is a moment-to-moment practice that increases in difficulty with the more attachments and illusions you have. The more you try to control any circumstances in your life, the more tightly-wrapped and emotionally involved you become; thus it’ll then create more of a mental buildup that you will have to overcome in order to not be disappointed when things don’t go your way.
All of this might be something we understand intellectually, but when it comes to putting it into action, there’s no denying that it is really hard, usually because we get in the way of our own selves.
“Where Did This Anger Come From?”
We have emotions that we have to deal with that can spark up for any reason at all. Our emotional reactions are often telling of where we might have insecurities or a certain perspective of things that might not be allowing us to see a situation as it is. But working through these things takes time and an awareness that it is happening in the first place.
One way I struggle with this is when I’m talking with someone and they aren’t understanding what I’m saying, or I feel like they are criticizing me. My initial reaction might be to get frustrated, and once they see my frustration, the emotions elevate on both sides and the conversation can turn into a fight. To avoid this, I don’t try to fight the frustration necessarily, but simply acknowledge that it’s there and that expressing it won’t help anything. I remind myself as to why the frustration occurs and then try to tell myself things that will de-escalate it.
Letting Go of Negativity
Another example where I had difficulty letting go in the past had to do with how I would absorb myself into the negativity of the world. This is easy to do, because the negativity is everywhere. You can tune into any sort of news source and get your daily dose of saddening news.
Top that with a curiosity for why things happen the way they do, or to try to understand the minds of people who commit horrible crimes, and it can be even harder to not get sucked into this stuff.
Humans also tend to be drawn towards things that are shocking or even violent, which is why so many shows that are full of thrilling content tend to get people hooked.
I used to think that being tuned into the worlds’ horrors (and not avoiding them) kept me realistic and on my feet, but I discovered this was just another illusion. It was just something my fear was telling me, and kept me just a little farther from peace of mind.
The problem is that negativity is draining.
As time passed and I grew a little older (and wiser), I realized that the more negativity I was surrounded with, the more drained I was. I understood the idea of creating my own mind state of positivity, but felt at the time that in order to do that I had to deny the reality of things.
The truth is that you can always be aware of the reality of what’s happening around you, but you don’t have to let yourself be consumed by it.
Additionally, once I became self-aware enough to realize how negativity was affecting me personally, I naturally began to want to avoid it.
Stepping into Self-Awareness
One of the best things we can do for ourselves is strive to become more aware of our emotional responses, accepting them for what they are, and work on managing them the best we can. Often, this will take consistent work and monitoring of ourselves, but the resulting awareness is worth it. Because then we begin to free ourselves more and more in being able to choose how we respond rather than falling into our habitual emotional patterns.
It’s also worth taking some time to think about what expectations we have of the world and of people, and how these might be affecting the way we operate or taking away our energy. Many of us have a certain idea of how you’re supposed to act or respond in any given situation. People are also generally too caught up in what’s socially acceptable and what isn’t. The more we can free ourselves from these boundaries (obviously without being completely unreasonable), the more we can feel out our natural responses and experience internal peace.
Lastly, we should evaluate our lives and see what circumstances might be bringing us down. It’s not worth keeping overly negative people or situations in our life. We need to take care of ourselves and sometimes certain people or situations can affect our mental health much more than is readily apparent.
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” —Unknown
Let’s be honest: On average, the way we as human beings have learned to handle our emotions is very often a mess. We all have a myriad of emotions we might experience throughout just one day, and we are so used to our own emotions that we may not really think to look at them, or we might sometimes have a certain way of always dealing with them (that may or may not be healthy).
Some people may express one emotion more strongly in order to cover up the other, some people may hide them entirely, some people may have them but are in denial themselves over what they are feeling.
On top of that, the way we grow up may condition us to judge ourselves over what we are feeling, causing us to feel alienated from others.
Males are often taught to handle their emotions differently than women (part of which led to the idea that women are more emotional than men, but through all my life experience to date I can say with confidence this is not true). They are just often expressed and handled differently, and men and women sometimes place importance on different things.
Emotion is a touchy, emotional subject in itself. But the truth is, emotions are also a gateway.
The way that we handle and express our emotions can give us clues about our true feelings on many things, even if intellectually we may not admit it.
Through all my meditation ― i.e. exploration of the self ― and from ten or so years of being on the antidepressant Prozac, I’ve learned that recognizing and properly handling our emotions is an incredibly important step towards enhanced self-awareness that cannot be overlooked.
Prozac really muted my emotions, and while most people would think that is a blessing (and in some cases where people tend to overreact or over-stress, it might be), it actually at times led to confusion about how I really felt about things. It literally cut me off from myself in this way, and it was coming off of Prozac that made me really see the difference.
Our emotions can be the thing that tells us exactly what’s in our hearts, even if we don’t want to listen. They might in fact be the only thing that shows us our most fulfilling path in life, if we are willing to put our guard down, embrace them, and experience life with an open heart.
They may give us hints towards things we hadn’t yet intellectually considered, and if we analyze them a bit, we might realize there is a long chain of cause and effect that end up making us feel a certain way. Something that might lead far back to our past that was a traumatizing event and is now dominating our lives majorly, yet we may not have even noticed.
Even if we think the way we are experiencing emotions is completely fine and there’s nothing wrong, just paying more attention to them and learning to embrace them fully can release us in ways we may not have even imagined. It means we are actually willing to become more in touch with ourselves.
Accepting our emotions might also allow us to slowly let go of layers of emotional baggage so that we can be freer than ever before, because true freedom starts in the mind.
Some Tips on More Effectively Handling Our Emotions
- The most important thing: Pay Attention. That’s it. Buddhists have talked about attention as their greatest advantage when breaking the chains of the mind. It’s true. If we don’t watch over our own minds (and our emotions), we will be controlled by them. Take some time to really understand why you’re feeling what you do.
- Understand the intelligence and awareness that lies in vulnerability. In other words, don’t be afraid to be real with yourself, even if it breaks your pride a little bit. The things in life that break our pride are what shows us where we can improve, or might show us the true nature of things, even if it feels crappy. This is easier said than done, though, and I realize that. I don’t like having my ego deflated, either. But it sure has awoken me many-a-time to reality.
- Don’t judge yourself based on what you should or shouldn’t be feeling. Many people do this subconsciously and tuck their feelings away.
- Learn to express them fully, without question, then let them go. Go deep into your emotions and explore them. Live them out fully. When doing so, they will live out their life and then release. It is only by resisting and suppressing them that they might stay alive forever.
“You don’t need to control emotion,” he said. “Emotions are natural, like passing weather. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes sorrow or anger. Emotions are not the problem. The key is to transform the energy of emotion into constructive action.”
― Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
“Emotions are the next frontier to be understood and conquered. To manage our emotions is not to drug them or suppress them, but to understand them so that we can intelligently direct our emotional energies and intentions…. It’s time for human beings to grow up emotionally, to mature into emotionally managed and responsible citizens. No magic pill will do it.”
― Doc Childre