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  • Writer's pictureJosh Killam, LPC

A Letter to Men

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

I want to make my intention clear; this letter is for men who have a need to feel seen. The responsibility men are taught to carry, whether self-imposed or not, acts as some sort of stopper for our emotions. So it is as if having power and being responsible for others prevents us from experiencing our feelings. Being a man myself, I can empathize. Men are taught that feelings will only get in the way of what they are trying to accomplish and that there isn't a purpose for them. As a result, men learn to compartmentalize and turn off their emotional parts because the fewer the emotions, the less burden responsibility brings.

Feeling responsible and navigating power dynamics is challenging enough, so we internalize that emotions are an unnecessary aspect of personhood—something to be regarded as useless and burdensome. My focus for this letter is to highlight the trade-off left out of this message. Turning yourself off to emotions leads to despair, and isolation is the second half of that message that many did not receive.

It is never too late to try something new. However, the longer we wait to feel, the more painful it can be. The reality we face is the more unfelt feelings you have accrued over your lifetime, the more reconsolidating you will have. On top of that, if your message was "feelings will get in the way of your success, you must learn that feelings are dangerous." Then, of course, inviting this idea back into your awareness is a non-starter. When confronted with vulnerability, most men tend to find ways to avoid it. Often through means of sublimation (one of Freud's pesky defense mechanisms). For too many men, emotions are a matter of life and death; at least, that is how our nervous systems respond.

Nevertheless, the burden of responsibility and feelings can coexist. Not only can they coexist, but they mutually benefit one another. Learning to speak and act from an authentic place can take you to new heights in all areas of your life. Emotions are a part of our life force. In a way, emotions are how our body and brain communicate. However, just because we have learned to dismiss our feelings does not mean that those feelings will wave and pass us by without consequence.

On the contrary, ignored emotions can and do dictate our behaviors. Decisions we make can have unintended consequences. If there is a common thread to be found in the men I have seen in my clinical practice, it would be this; they possess a deep need to feel seen. So those in relationships with them may feel seen too. It is vital that we first learn to feel our emotions if we are to be successful in showing up authentically in our relationships.

The truth for many men has been that there are invaluable lessons that have come from learning to take responsibility effectively. This letter offers the idea that you can learn to have the best of both worlds by knowing your emotional needs and meeting those needs. There is recompense in having the strength to turn off from yourself and work for the protection of another. The intent is not to discard this part of you. But instead, the goal is to recognize the shortcomings of this one-sided path and learn to balance ruthless responsibility with vulnerability.

Now is when I get to point out the irony in my message. People are responsible for having their own needs met. To receive vulnerability, we must be vulnerable. Opening yourself up to your feelings is how you connect to and receive from your relationships. If you are experienced as closed off and cold, it is your responsibility to learn to open yourself up and offer warmth. Connecting with others starts with learning to connect with you. Once you know yourself, you have what is necessary to see and be seen by others.

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