Real Men Don’t Cry, Right?

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October 6, 2016 | Musings

The video demonstrates there is a lot of history behind the notion that men don’t cry.

Sometimes it’s in vogue for men to cry, sometimes it’s not. Bernard Capp, Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick’s Department of History sheds some little light on the topic. From biblical times up to the 21st century, he reveals that showing emotions depended on class, status, spiritual devotion, and the changing face of modernity’s acceptance to when men are allowed to shed tears.

The Science of Tears

Modern science claims that humanity’s shedding of tears is as natural as raindrops from the sky. It’s all automatic, or rather, autonomic, hard-wired to our brains, says Dr Nick Knight. We feel strong emotions, such as the end to a relationship, which sends a message to the nervous system, inducing the tear ducts to produce tears.

Science also says it’s healthy to cry. Suppressing emotions have long term effects on mental and physical health. Not providing a physical release to emotions trigger physiological and mental changes that manifest in clinical symptoms such as high blood pressure and depression.

If it’s so beneficial, why don’t men cry more often?

Modern culture continuously sends messages that real men don’t cry. We live in a culture where many parents raise their sons to hide their tears, and preferably, not cry at all. Boys are conditioned that becoming a man means holding back their tears… because boys don’t cry. It’s acceptable to show tears during times of extreme #grief or loss, or tears of joy, as in winning an Olympic gold medal or the Oscars. But not out of self pity or personal wounding, or failures.

A Military Veteran On Grief

Starting when I was young, I was taught to be a man,
If tears were seen, I would feel the sting of a hand;
When our dog died, I felt so alone and sad,
My tears made my Dad, very, very mad.

He told me that in time, everything dies,
But no matter what else happens, Men Don’t Cry.

I grew up tough, my parents went their own way,
I was rarely home, soon I didn’t even play;
My friends were few and my feelings I hid,
Everybody always said, ‘What a tough kid.’

At night when I was lonely, I could only sigh,
For where I come from, Men Don’t Cry.

Then came the day when the judge said to me,
“I could send you to prison or you can join the Army.”
I was only seventeen, both young and dumb,
But I knew if I didn’t do something, I’d end up a bum.

When they sent me off, there were tears in Momma’s eyes,
Of course Dad and I just stood there, ’cause Men Don’t Cry.

Then I came home on leave, with orders for the ‘Nam,’
Everybody seemed freaked out, especially my Mom;
I got on a plane, headed for the war,
Of my home and Mom, I tried not to think anymore.

Yet as we flew over the ocean, in that clear blue sky,
I had to hold back the tears, ’cause Men Don’t Cry.

I witnessed death and slaughter, in that faraway land,
Things happened to this young boy, that made him a man;
A coldness grew over me, a numbness of the heart,
I saw death over and over, men ripped apart.

I tried to stay distant, kinda like I was shy,
‘Cause where I come from, Men Don’t Cry.

Before I knew what happened, I made a friend,
We vowed to fight together, to the very end;
I don’t know how it came about, but we got so very close,
I’d never had a friend like him, he wasn’t like most.

We both became tough as nails, not afraid to die,
We were real men now, and Men Don’t Cry.

Then it happened, the worst horror of my life,
A day that my heart, was pierced with a knife;
My friend had bent over a mine, and there came a loud roar,
My friend, my partner…was no more.

This was not cool, it had to be a lie,
These weren’t tears on my face, for Men Don’t Cry.

I lost a leg, in that war-torn land,
It made me tougher, more of a man;
That’s what the doctors, at the VA said,
They said I was lucky, that I wasn’t dead.

They said forget the pain and grief, and don’t ask why,
For you see, son, Men Don’t Cry.

There came a time, when I couldn’t push it away,
That damn war was in my head, day after day;
I tried to hold my feelings, deep inside,
Especially the tears, I tried to hide.

The depression made me mean, and by and by,
I started to wonder, why Men Don’t Cry.

One day I found myself, with a gun in my hand,
Wanting to be with my partner, wanting to leave this land;
The pain inside overwhelmed me, crushing my soul,
I couldn’t forget the war, couldn’t let it go.

But no matter how I hurt, nor how hard I tried,
Something inside of me said, ‘Men Don’t Cry.’

I didn’t pull the trigger, didn’t take my life,
Guess I couldn’t do that, to my children and wife;
Things went on as usual, I pretended to be all OK,
I did my best, to push the torment away.

I just took more drugs, till my memories would fry,
‘Cause as we all know, Men Don’t Cry.

So the rage inside of me, got worse than ever,
I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t surrender;
I’d see my partner at night, sitting on my bed,
That damned war, wouldn’t quit messing with my head.

I wanted to let it out, but of course something inside,
Kept telling me over and over, Men Don’t Cry.

I started hearing the sounds of battle, inside my brain,
The screams of the wounded, was I going insane?
Everybody kept telling me, I had to let it out,
I wanted to scream, I wanted to shout.

Don’t you think I want to, don’t you think I try?
But don’t you know I can’t, ’cause Men Don’t Cry.

It’s been 30 years, and the pain’s still there,
I see a shrink now, and others who care;
I still miss my partner, he’s still a part of me,
I pray for us both, ’cause of his death and my insanity.

Somehow I should’ve saved him, or maybe I should’ve died,
I suppose that I’ll grieve forever, ’cause you know, Men Don’t Cry.

My insides twist, they go around and around,
When I try to talk about the war, there is no sound;
Nothing comes out, it all stays where it’s at,
I suffer alone, my thoughts dark and black.

I can’t tell no one, no matter how hard I try,
This pain is mine alone, ’cause Men Don’t Cry.

I await the day, when things will change,
When people won’t think, that I’m so strange;
God wants to help, he seeks me in many ways,
So why do I resist, keeping him at bay?

I don’t know the answer, I don’t know the why’s,
I just know deep inside, that Men Don’t Cry.

God help others, who are like me,
Let Him understand, let Him see;
We are just warriors, who thought we were right,
We fought for freedom, against the ‘commies’ might.

The draft dodgers and deserters, they were pretty sly,
But you know it don’t mean nothin’, ’cause Men Don’t Cry.

— Mike (Pegleg) Dingwell

Real Men Should Cry

Emotions, elicited by a sense of loss and grief, are a welcome gateway to tears.

“In my village,” says #Malidoma Some´, “emotion is ritualized because it is seen as a sacred thing. If addressed within a sacred space, the emotions of grief can provide powerful relief and healing. Any time the feeling of loss arises there is an energy that demands ritual in order to allow reconciliation and the return of peace.”

Having introduced the Ritual of Grieving to the West, Elder Malidoma offers sacred space where the modern man can come to release the pains and losses incurred throughout his lifetime – through the vehicle of tears – a water ritual in Dagara culture. Losses can be numerous, multi-dimensional, and often suppressed, by men. They include:

  • Loss of Loved Ones through Death and Separation
  • Loss of Dreams Unrealized, Unfulfilled Expectations
  • Loss of Community/Family Connections
  • Loss of Ancestral/Cultural Connections

Much elaboration can be made on these losses. That is a book onto itself. When felt in our bones, these losses reveal themselves through various emotional portals or doorways, each interconnected; each giving voice to the other; each an opening to the full expression of the science and spirituality of tears.

In order to do a grief ritual effectively, one needs a community. There are few personal grief rituals in the Dagara culture, as they do not comprehend the idea of private grief. Crying alone is inconceivable. Grief is a community problem because the person who is sick belongs to the entire community. Just as a wound on your leg cannot be approached as the leg’s problem alone, but must be treated as a problem for the entire body, a person in a village who is sick with grief sickens the rest of the village.

That’s why community grief rituals are necessary. While rituals may not be THE antidote to modern psychotherapy, they may readily bring us to the healing threshold of pain, grief and losses, witnessed by community and spiritual allies.

What do men have to lose, but the grief?

About the author, Aamirah


I help individuals overcome stumbling blocks preventing them from living their best life.

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