Being a tough guy is all well and good.
Being a tough guy that goes ape because someone looked at them sideways…not so much.
Men have always had a sort of mismatch between differing ideas of masculinity. They are supposed to be strong and sturdy and bare great life stresses with a grunt. They are supposed to be passionate fighters and defenders.
A hot-head and a captain all rolled into one is a little bit contradictory.
Men are typically told to “deal with it”, to have a “stiff lip” and to never ever cry. As men get older they sort themselves into one of three categories.
The first is the not so great one. They bury everything. Maybe this manifests itself as a temper or an addiction. Maybe it shows as abuse or neglect. It could rear its head through depression and anxiety. A lifetime of burying things in your head and not dealing with things causes all sorts of problems down the line.
The second rejects the entire premise. These guys tend to develop ways of handling emotions in way which we associate with women. There’s nothing wrong with this but sadly they can become ostracized as overly emotional, sensitive or “girly”. They’ve been targets for all of history. Lady-boy, wuss, nancy, pussy, pretty much any homosexual epithet. It’s not an easy avenue, and it’s not for everyone; social pressure is a powerful and terrifying force, especially for young men.
The third accepts the pressure but finds healthy ways to manage themselves and their emotions. Not every “manly” guy in history was an emotional wreck. These men find coping mechanism and attitudes which allow them to manage and control their emotional load in healthy ways which don’t manifest themselves down the line. It is not that are passionless, but that they are able to focus that energy in appropriate ways. Visible anger is rare, and is reserved for things for which anger is the necessary response. They are resilient.
Resilience is complicated and tied up with emotional intelligence but it is marked by a few fundamentals.
They’ve got a grip — Perhaps unsurprisingly, resilient individuals have a good grip on their emotions. Unlikely to fly off the handle at a minor inconvenience, but also still passionate about life and love, they don’t let them take the wheel but they also don’t squander them completely. They are able to make thoughtful decisions that are grounded in emotion.
Emotional regulation is a broad characteristic and be greatly influenced by mental illness. Importantly however, it can be taught. It is not an innate or immovable quality. Healthy coping mechanisms such as humor, fitness and meditation are strategies for regulating emotions.
They are problem solvers — While this one sounds like something to put on a resume, it is relevant to resilience as well. Have you ever met a person that when faced with failure or great difficulty shuts down and gives up? It becomes self-doubt or cynicism about the task. Resilient individuals find solutions to problems in everyday life. They see failure as opportunity and difficulty as a challenge. Hard times become a proof of concept. At its core there is a fundamental belief that they can find a way to succeed.
You might read this and say either, “well that will never be me” or
“how can I — working on being a more resilient person — work on being solution driven?”.
That’s the difference. The grade school mantra holds true. Attitude is everything.
Positivity – As a society, we tend to idolize the world-weary. From the cowboys of John Wayne to the scoundrel Han Solo, these characters work because we believe that they have seen some shit. They are cynical because they have seen the worst of humanity and have become total badass’ because of it. This makes us men anxious to wear our burdens on our shoulders. Experience and cynicism have become intertwined. Anyone who lives sufficiently long should become jaded while hopeful optimism is for the young naive farm boys. It is the folly of youth.
I’d argue that Luke Skywalker was the hero for a reason.
A certain level of realistic positivity has proven to be integral to emotional health and resilience in particular. appraising situations with a positive spin, and attributing positive meaning to our everyday lives is a valuable tool in resisting the stress’ of everyday life. Goals and expectations should always be grounded in reality. It was pretty late for Anakin Skywalker, but saving his son certainly redeemed him a little.
Emotions tend to circle in on each other and reinforce themselves. If you try to remain positive, stoic and driven, these will eventually become the norm. The same goes for the opposite side of the coin.
Resilience is a skill that can be taught from a very young age and is often integral to cognitive behavioral therapy. We have the science on it (and I’m no expert). Resilience can be the part of masculinity that we retain while abandoning the toxic internalizing.
Resilience is the new tough.