The Crying Game

This week (13-19th May 2019) is Mental Health Awareness Week (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week) and it seems like a day doesn’t go by without something in the news or our social media timelines about mental health.  We are facing a mental health epidemic and it can affect you regardless of gender, affluence, race, age, location or working status. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as a state of wellbeing reflecting an ability to cope with day to day difficulties, realise and achieve potential, and contribute to communities.  We will be covering wider mindfulness issues in another blog but for this I’d like to focus on the male of the species.

I felt compelled to write this blog after a comment on a national radio station following the Champions League semi-finals. Both Spurs and Liverpool managed, against all odds, to progress to the Champions League final.  The radio commentator, referring to the very visible emotional reaction of some players and staff used the phrase ‘grown men in tears’.

Tears of Joy

We shouldn’t live in an age where broadcasters are mentioning tearful men as something out of the ordinary.  There shouldn’t be any inference that because you are a fully-grown man it is an exception worthy of mention if you choose to cry.  Regardless of what club allegiances you have, anyone with empathy would find it hard not to be moved by the emotional outpouring of Pochettino or Milner.   I certainly didn’t think of them both as lesser men, I genuinely respect them for embracing and not hiding their emotions.

This is in the wider context of mental health and suicide being the most common cause of death for men aged 29-49 in England and Wales.  Broadcaster comments are demonstrating that we have a long way to go if we are to fundamentally change societal attitudes to ‘maleness’.   My focus on males is in no way denigrating the societal issues we have in relation to females or any other group for that matter.  The point here is that we as a society, need to throw away the notion that crying (and generally talking about our worries) is seen as a form of weakness, and this seems to be particularly the case for men.  It is these male gender stereotypes that pander to the idea that being silent and maintaining that stiff upper lip is an attractive (or acceptable) trait.  Crying is an expression of emotion and should be seen as a demonstration of being emotionally developed, at ease with one’s emotions, not a sign of weakness or lack of manliness.  According to a 2018 YouGov survey, 55% of men aged 18-24 feels as if crying makes them less masculine.

The Generation Game

Crying is one physical manifestation of emotion but the wider issue at play is that of talking openly about issues. Men unfortunately have a tendency to bottle things up.  Of course, bottling things up has been going on for generations of males.  I never remember my Grandpa crying or really showing any emotion in front of me. That could be how Grandpa’s are meant to be in front of their grandchildren, maintaining a stiff upper lip regardless.  I have witnessed my father cry a number of times, usually linked to loss of a loved one, but he is as guilty as any in terms of bottling things up. Perhaps it’s a feeling of not wanting to burden people with your problems?  I have cried in front of my father a number of times, we have cried together, and on one occasion, subjected him to a full-blown wail. It certainly surprised me, and must have scared the living daylights out of him. I felt much better after releasing all that raw emotion.

The recent radio commentary highlighted crying but it’s about being open with yourself and with other people.  Have you ever felt like the world is against you, and in the moment you cannot cope with what life throws at you?  This feeling may go in an instant, and everyone has different ways of coping. Bottling your feelings up is certainly not a solution. I am lucky as I have a close circle of really good family and friends who I can trust if I need to express emotion or ‘vent’.

With a son of my own I am playing an active part in getting him to share his feelings and that no matter what these feelings are they are better out than in, as the old adage goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.   We owe it to future generations of males to ensure that we open up, rather than ‘man up’.

Author: Steve Halsall, Director, Red Tiger Consulting

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Steve Halsall

Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.

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8 thoughts on “The Crying Game”

  1. This is spot on Steve, completely agree with all sentiments in here. The current stats on male suicides are shocking, and unlikely to improve without attitudes in society and expressed in the media changing. I can also vouch for the relief that can be gained by opening up to support from family and close friends when times get tough.

    1. Thanks for your comment Colin. Those of us who are more of an open book (of course that doesn’t mean blurting our woes to everyone) Can feel like it’s a weight off our shoulders. That said we need to choose wisely as the recipient of our conversations may not possess the skills to respond.

  2. Constantly being told to man up, I’m the man I should want to get a better job and provide a better living for my family etc. Feeling a failure. lack of confidence. Underachieving. Challenges of every day life. Health worries.Pressure inside and outside of work. Financial pressures. Expectations. Commuter chaos.time management.social standing. Peer comparisons.all leads to a build up. Depression. Anxiety. Tears.

    1. Thanks M. I do hope you have friends or family to support you. Incidentally LFC staff are not permitted to use phrases such as ‘man up’ along with racist and homophobic phrases.

  3. Hey Steve, happy to have a verbal about this but my view is that crying is normal for a human being, irrespective of gender. We all have different capacities to hold onto emotion before it impacts us. That resilience will define us as will our upbringing.
    I too have a son who I am trying to bring up in a compassionate way that respects him for him, without the baggage of ‘rules’ such as ‘big boys don’t cry’.
    I make a habit of participating in men only personal development courses. I began this as a way of better understanding me, my triggers and my possibilities. I can tell you there is a lot of crying that goes on and what a beautiful feeling that is. To freely express and be witnessed with no fear of judgement. Once that raw emotion subsides I am left with understanding and knowledge that never leaves me.
    I agree that those cultural phrases don’t help us and pin us back as people. Maybe it’s lazy journalism, maybe it’s cultural journalism, I don’t know. I’ve learnt to accept those statements..and then define my own reality through hard work, introspection and expressing my emotions appropriately to compound whatever I am trying to communicate.

    To close I will say that having participated in many personal development courses were I have raged, cried, laughed and bemoaned the way I behave that it is only ‘men’ who attend those and definitely only ‘men’ who return to go through it again. ‘Blokes’ would rather be down the pub every night adding more layers of shielding to their emotional self rather than be brave enough to expose and be their real selves. I think this is the best thing I can pass on to my son.

  4. Steve this is brilliant. So well written. But you have always been ‘one of the girls’ … (sorry but you have and that is meant as a compliment). Up for a gossip, great at keeping in contact and organising reunions and not afraid to have a good weep! Be proud because we love you for it. I notice I am the first female to comment, I hope that is allowed on a male focused blog post! And I don’t know if I’m the only person who actually had a little cry just reading this, or is that just me being a weepy emotional woman? I think we need to take good look at crying as an emotion. Because as a woman ir still has judgement based on it. I certainly feel that way. That if I cry, I’m weak, premenstrual and just a little woman who can’t really cope. There, There. Give me a hug and I’ll be OK.
    Crying is a natural outburst of emotion and as Stewart commented above, should certainly not be reserved just for us pathetic females. Back the main crux of your blog, mental health, it certainly doesn’t seem to need a week or month of its own, because as you say, it’s in the news every day. Ignoring mental health is no longer acceptable. And as I learn every day more about my own mental health, anxieties and fears and how to live with them, this can only be a good thing. Keep up these great blog posts and I look forward to your next one on mental health.

    1. Hi Ruth – thanks for your comments of course we allow anyone to comment – just wish more would! Keep your eye out for Pauls amazing blog due out tomorrow.

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