The burden of not burdening others is a common experience among men, at the cost of sensitivity.
I have been remembering this moment when I was 14 years old and my grandfather and grandmother passed away within 24 hours of each other.
Over the last couple of days, I have had this image that keeps flashing in front of my eyes – it is of my father sitting on the floor in the room next to where my grandmother laid in the verandah at our home. He is surrounded by all the extended family members and is crying and losing control. I am standing next to him, completely stunned. I had never seen him that emotional in my life I never will again.
As I stood there watching him allow himself to realise what has just happened and feel that he just lost both his parents in a matter of 24 hours and letting himself go out of control and feel the grief, I was confused and scared. Something deep inside me shifted that day that I am only realising now. He was 41 that year. Same age as I am now.
At a workshop earlier this year I asked a room full of men to describe how they were feeling. The entire room could only come up with two words – Fine and Good. I asked the room why is it that men only have two words in our dictionary to define how we feel, and someone said, “I don’t want to burden other people with my problems”.
That, right there, is purity of the masculine, buried deep in the cultural conditioning.
The entire room felt silent and nodded in agreement. My mothers words echoed in my mind, “how will you live in this world if you are THIS sensitive”
I believe that that is an ubiquitous feeling that men have.
This is the world we live in.
I don’t know if, as a culture, we realise the deep impact it has on men when we are told that we can’t share how we feel because it will burden other human beings.
I was confused and sacred that day seeing my father losing control in that way, letting himself feel the grief. I remember standing there in front of him, frozen, as my rational mind tried to make sense of it.
He was my rock, my backbone, my superhero! Seeing him go out of control in this way made him look human. At the time, the only way I could relate to that very human trait of sensitivity was that it was a weakness.
Somewhere in my mind, in that moment, I decided I needed to be the strong one and be the rock for him.
Since then, I have lived majority of my life being the rock at the cost of my sensitivity. I am fortunate enough to now know differently. I know that my sensitivity is my strength and my superpower. It is the magic of being alive. I am grateful to my teachers, my community and my practices over the last several years for that.
I believe that majority of the issues in this world, that we blame on patriarchy, stem from the numbing out of our sensitivity from an early age.
When we start to believe that our sensitivity and feelings are a burden, we start to carry that invisible and subconscious weight on our shoulders by ourselves. we start to believe that we are on our own in our quest to take this burden with us to our deathbed, and the only way to carry on and survive – or even thrive – is to numb ourselves and harden our hearts and cut ourselves from the pain and ignore that it exists.
My sensitivity and my approval for my sensitivity has made me more kind and loving. And that is the kind of strength I believe is needed and should be taught to men and women alike, and especially to men, right from a young age!
This post was previously published on Nibana and is republished here with permission from the author.
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