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A few thoughts about men and their emotions

by Greg Krehbiel on 7 March 2017

Many people — perhaps most — think that men are less emotional than women. I’m not so sure about that. I think men might be more emotional than women, but they have fewer outlets for their emotions and they keep them inside.

(File this among my crazy theories offered not entirely seriously as a point for discussion.)

Imagine a man as (to borrow a line from James Taylor) a churning urn of burning funk. A boiling cauldron of confusion. A steam engine about to burst.

He has all these feelings bubbling around inside and he doesn’t know what to do with them. In adolescence this all comes pouring out in various ways, but as he becomes a man he learns the deal. He has to keep a lid on it. He has to stow it away and keep it under wraps. That’s what being a man is all about.

I don’t mean to say that men are always full of this emotional turmoil. There are times of peace. But there’s a hot rod engine inside ready to rev up when needed.

As he goes through life he has these times of internal pressure and turmoil, but there are only three relief valves that he can understand: sex, work and conflict. Those are the big ones, anyway, and that’s where we get the notion that men are simple.

There are some smaller relief valves, like art or hobbies or things like that. But those things only do so much good. Men can’t bleed off emotional tension very well because, constitutionally, they’re not very good at either understanding or expressing their emotions, and, socially, they’re expected not to.

So yes, men are simple. You only have to worry about a few basic things with a man on the outside. But inside, it’s a different matter.

I’m fairly decent with words and with expressing myself, but I still often feel this way. I find myself feeling some emotion and I don’t even know what it is or how to explain it.

That’s my theory, anyway. Another explanation is that I’m crazy. Which is probably more likely.

If this theory is correct, it’s reasonable to ask why things would be this way. What’s the benefit to the man or to society for men to be such pressure cookers?

To ask it is to answer it, I think.

Think of the things we ask men to do. We ask them to sit in a stinking, wet, cold trench for months on end, with little or no sleep, with the mutilated bodies of their comrades beside them, and then, when some idiot back in his warm office decides it’s time for another hopeless advance, he has to get up, stick a bayonet on the end of his rifle and charge across “no man’s land” into almost certain death. If he happens to survive this ordeal, he goes home and doesn’t talk about it.

Yes, I realize that trench warfare occupies an incredibly narrow slice of human (or male) experience. The point is that these men were capable of doing that crazy stuff, and that society was willing to ask them to. That speaks volumes.

Thankfully I’ve never had to do anything like that, but I can imagine it takes two things: a lot of emotion, and a lot of ability to channel that emotion in one, specific direction. There’s no time to cry it out or have a chat with your friends.

So my theory is that men are emotionally dysfunctional by design. They’re supposed to not be good with their emotions because that’s what the race requires. In order for the man to have any chance of success when the saber-toothed cat attacks, he needs two things: a fire in his belly, and the ability to suppress all his other emotions and channel that fire in one direction.

The side effect is that all these emotions rattle around inside, unresolved and unexplained.

If you’d like to read more crazy theories about why men are so horribly messed up, try this: Eggs are Expensive, Sperm is Cheap.

2017-03-07  »  Greg Krehbiel

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