We live in a world where it has become the norm for us to regard little girls with silk gloves, yet we tell little boys that they aren’t allowed to feel anything too deeply, lest they be called weak, girly, or whiny. And while this double standard has been present for quite some time, we are beginning to understand from a psychological standpoint how dangerous it is to force little boys to suppress their emotions.
When I was growing up, I always noticed that when little boys would fall down, cry, or otherwise express deep emotion, our elders were quick to try to shut it down. “Stop crying. You sound like a little girl,” they would say. Or, “Stop crying, boys don’t cry. You are going to be a man one day, act like it.” It’s such a sad thing that having emotions is regarded as weak, and the absence of them (coldness) was once regarded as strong/manly. Even now, I hear people act as though having emotions and managing them responsibly makes you weak.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we tell little boys not to cry, not to whine, not to be ‘weak,’ we send the message that emotions = weakness. In reality, emotions are the human condition. They are intrinsically wired into us, and for good reason: they help us to survive. Feeling love is what makes us bond with our friends, family, and loved ones. Feeling sadness allows us to process the grief of loss that is inevitable in this life. Feeling happiness helps us find our way. And feeling angry is what helps us to protect ourselves from harm.
Emotions are necessary, and the thing is, even if you force your son to repress his emotions, it’s not physically possible too forever. Eventually, they come out, and unfortunately, when they aren’t managed and are suppressed, they come out in negative ways (through anger outbursts, addictions, etc.)
Here are 9 reasons why you should NEVER repress your son’s emotions.
1. Studies have linked aggression to the suppression of emotions.
According to various studies and scientists, when we repress emotions, especially in young men, those emotions later come out in a new form: aggression. This is likely because emotional regulation is happened upon through practice, and when you tell young men to just not have emotions, those emotions have to come out in some way.
2. They will have healthier relationships if you don’t.
Being able to understand your own emotions is a large part of being a part of a healthy relationship. When you cannot manage your own emotions, it will be hard for you to communicate how you feel or even empathize with someone else. I would barter that the strongest men are the ones who are the most emotionally intelligent.
3. They will have better mental health.
Our emotions are the greater part of what makes up our mental health. Emotional suppression causes unresolved shame, feelings of worthlessness and identity confusion. By helping your son to recognize his emotions and process them, you are helping him to improve his mental health overall.
4. They will be less likely to succumb to addiction.
When you don’t learn how to manage and accept your emotions, you end up running from them. For most, this happens through addiction. And it can be a food addiction, gambling addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction and even sex or technology addictions. Regardless, addictions destroy lives, relationships and mental health.
5. They will have better health.
Did you know that repressing emotions can damage your heart? According to the National Library of Medicine, stress and repressed emotions can cause high blood pressure. Stress can literally kill you, and that is why it’s so important to learn the correct way to manage it. And while that might seem like something that would only affect an adult, the American Heart Association disagrees.
6. They will be more responsible.
Part of emotional intelligence and teaching that and instilling it into your sons, is that it will equip them to be more responsible. Learning how to communicate how you feel is tied directly to being able to admit when you are wrong and take responsibility for your actions.
7. They will be more empathetic.
Empathy is so important. People who do not have empathy are far more likely to end up causing great damage to others, and to be entitled and cruel. If you make your child hardened to their own emotions, they will also be hardened to the emotions of others.
8. They will be better communicators.
Imagine a world where instead of harming others or running away from our problems, we all knew how to step up and accept our emotions and communicate them with ease. I know it sounds far-fetched, but the only way to get to that place is by becoming the change we wish to see in the world, and that change starts with our little ones. They need us more than ever to help them understand themselves.
9. They will be more confident.
When you understand your emotions, instead of fearing them, things change. The world suddenly is an easier place to live and to navigate. Again, that might just sound ‘too easy,’ but emotions are pretty much the core of our existence. Why on Earth would we ever want the men in our society to not understand their emotions? No wonder our world is in the shape that it is in.