What Are Healthy Manly Emotions?

When you think of ‘manly’ emotions, what do you imagine? Is it fatherly love? Loyalty, trust, honor, and compassion? Or do you think of anger, rage, the ‘right to be right’, sarcasm, or jealousy?

Healthy manly emotions

In America, at this point in time, there is a very short list of ‘approved’ male emotions. Men are allowed to be angry, but not vulnerable. They are allowed to be ambitious and self-serving, but not nurturing. How can anyone truly thrive when being held to such narrow standards that work against everything that Life is supposed to be?

As coaches, we share with our clients that Life is composed of love, joy, inspiration, creativity, and expansion. There’s nothing inherent, or even natural, about living a life that is rooted in anger or fear. None of us are born that way, but we learn to be that way.

There is a ‘Chain of Pain’ that connects members of the newest generation to the dysfunction and self-sabotaging habits of their parents and grandparents. Somewhere along the line, we started teaching our sons that anger was acceptable, while certain expressions of love were not. As a result, men grow up feeling isolation, worthlessness, and a deep longing for the kinds of relationships that can only come from unconditional love.

negative emotions and behavior
negative emotions and behavior

Gillette ran an ad not long ago that stirred a lot of debate and controversy. The ad showed clips of a boy being chased through the street by a pack of other boys, until a father intervenes while his son watches. The ad urged men to abandon the excuse of ‘boys will be boys’ for violent and exploitative behavior, and adds the tagline ‘we believe in the best in men.’ Some men reacted with anger to this ad, as though they felt threatened by its message. When we feel threatened, it indicates that a vulnerability is in danger of being exposed. Vulnerability may come as a result of the fear of rejection that keeps us from experiencing love fully, or it may come as a resistance to change. By embracing vulnerability rather than shrinking from it, we can transform our lives.

‘We believe in the best in men’ is an interesting tagline. ‘Best’ can be a loaded word–when we strive to ‘do our best’, we tend to inevitably come up short of others’ expectations. But when we learn to BE our best–to release others’ expectations of us, and live empowered in the knowledge that we honor our authentic selves–we can live the lives we were always meant to have.

Some men live without allowing themselves to fully experience love, because they are afraid of vulnerability, afraid of rejection, and afraid of ridicule. The violence shown in the ad, then, does not stem from a political problem, but a spiritual one. Do you want to live in love, or in fear? Do you want to be confined by others’ expectations of what a man can feel and how he should act, or do you want to experience life as your authentic self?

If you are struggling to manage your relationships and the expectations placed on you, we invite you to reach out for a complimentary coaching session with The Possibility Coaches. You can also download Breaking the Chain of Emotional Pain as our free gift to you.

Jon Satin and Chris Pattay – The Possibility Coaches™
©2019 Possibility Coaches, LLC

28 thoughts on “What Are Healthy Manly Emotions?”

    1. Valid point Lori. However, just for the record, there are many men who how have come to us for our coaching. There are men out there who do want to make advances in their lives and all of their relationships!!

      1. I also think that by modeling a safe place for men to experience and share emotions that feel more vulnerable it helps break down the stigma associated with mental health and life coaching as something you need to “fix” rather than something you have access to for growth. It would open up the “know it all” men to the possibility that seeking guidance is not a sign of weakness rather a strength in oneself to grow and be their own best self

        1. Great point, Kim. For example, if an athlete wants to improve their game, they hire a coach. If a singer wants to improve their performance, they hire a coach. Life is the same way. If you want to move forward it is importance to have courage to seek guidance and support. It does not mean anything has to be “fixed” or that there is something “wrong.” Just something to be enhanced or tweeked. It is important for men to begin to understand that their power is in their vulnerability.

    2. Men’s emotions ought to be the same as women’s. I raised a daughter and 2 sons. They were all taught and shown , as well as learned to be kind, loving, and emotional. One should be compassionate, sympathetic, and caring no matter their sex. Men are not weak because they cry. It shows their strength in the ability to display emotions. We are all human and are entitled to display our emotions no matter who we are.

      1. Lynn, you make some very valid points and thanks for sharing your story. This is especially meaningful coming from a mother of 2 sons and a daughter. We agree that displaying one’s emotions in a healthy way is important no matter what one’s gender.

  1. I think boys learn to be afraid to be vulnerable so early on–I’m always shocked at how adamantly some parents “police” their son’s gender roles, even as they encourage their daughters to be anything they want to be. They refuse to allow their sons to own anything coded as “feminine”, and quickly correct them when they do anything “girly”. That fear lasts their whole lives, it’s so heartbreaking to see.

    1. Nicole, thank you for your comment. Men suffer so much as the hands of society because they are taught not to have or express their emotions…especially crying. They are taught that is a sign of weakness. Actually, crying is part of being human and it is nature’s release valve. They are also taught, as you mentioned, not to be vulnerable. Actually, your power is in your vulnerability because vulnerability is what connects you to other people. For any human being, man or woman, it’s important to have balance. A balance between yin and yang!

  2. Manly emotions should not exist. Do we say “womanly” emotions? What makes a man? In reality what makes a human emotion. I loved the Gillette ad. Men should be encouraged to show their emotions be it happiness or sadness I’ve experienced in my own family the I am King emotion. Nothing can hurt me and I’m not vulnerable. I am the boss. On the flip side I’ve seen in my son the so called divine feminine/masculine. Not afraid to show emotion rather embracing it. We need to show our sons that feeling pain and showninf emotion is healthy and is indeed manly. Those that bottle it up run the risk of losing out on what they should cherish.

    1. Fantastic incites, Ellen! How true that we mistakenly label emotions as either masculine or feminine when really all emotions are human emotions and are meant to be experienced by everyone. We agree with you: it is important to experience the full range of emotions such as sadness and anger. When we are taught to “sweep these emotions under the carpet” they build up and build up in an explosive way. At Possibility Coaches, we call this ” the volcano effect.” No one wants to let their emotions build up inside until they explode like a volcano. It is important for all of us to release our emotions in a healthy way, little by little, as they come up.

  3. My definition of “manly emotions” is honor, loyalty, compassion, showing affection and I do know a few men who are able to comfortably express these emotions. I also know men that have a hard time with it. While it may be difficult for them, I do believe that with patience and love from either a spouse, partner or child, these emotions can eventually come through. I even saw it with my own dad. He was the stern, unaffectionate, at times angry man I grew up with. I truly believe these were characteristics that were learned from his relationship with his own father. Once my daughter was born, his granddaugher, I witnessed how the unconditional love of a child was able to soften this man and his learned “manly emotions”.

    1. Matina, thank you for sharing a personal story. What you are pointing out is what we call “the chain of emotional pain” that can be passed down from one generation to the next. Most men learn how to behave from their fathers and other male role models. Sometimes it takes a grandchild to awaken and inspire softer emotions in a man. For example, Jon’s father was not very engaged in the raising of his children nor was he emotionally supportive; however, when his grandsons came along he was the complete opposite. Some men see “grandfatherhood” as an acceptable way to change and to make up for the past.

  4. When I was a young boy I remember watching a WWII drama in which the parents are sending their son off to war. The mother is hugging her son and weeping. Then the son looks to his dad who offers just to shake his hand and says in a stoic ‘manly’ voice, “Good luck son.”. I turned to my dad and said, he didn’t hug or kiss him and didn’t seem upset that his son might be killed and be EC see him again!

    This made no sense to me. My father always hugged and kissed me. He taught me to embrace others and that hugging was the best way to greet or say goodbye to someone you cared about. But, he learned that from his father who immigrated from Europe where men who have a close relationship hug and kiss each other when greeting.

    Somehow the stringent Puritan values that came here with the first immigrants still prevails. But, by example we can change this by setting our own example was h others so that ‘manly’ behavior is just simply human behavior.

    My male friends know better than to extend their hand when saying hello to me because I’m always ready with two arms extended for a hug. It’s the best way to break down barriers!

    1. Henry, thanks for sharing your personal story. We agree with you that European men, due to their culture, are permitted to be more affectionate toward each other than American men. To this day, the men in Chris’ family, although they love each other, still only extend a handshake. However, in Jon’s family, the men have always embraced, hugged and kissed each other as a sign of family affection. As you point out, change begins with you. Once you start hugging others they will start to hug you and this then creates a positive chain reaction. We are starting to finally see some changes here in America with the “bro handshake/hug.”

  5. Vulnerability is communication at its core. When you are direct and state your true feelings you are releasing the barriers holding it within! Fantastic article that is very important in the world we live in today

    1. Great point, Mike. Most people, especially men, believe vulnerability is a weakness. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is very powerful. It shows that you are human and will assist you to connect with others on a deeper level. As you mentioned, it is important to express and communicate your feelings as long as it doesn’t intentionally hurt others. It is all about your intentions.

  6. Who you are comes from what you have learned from your parents, your teachers and friends. My father was raised by his father who taught him not to show his feelings. My ex husband was raised in a home where his father had anger management issues and my ex was led to believe it was ok to have this anger.

    I raised my son to show let out his emotions and to control his anger in a healthy way. Go scream or a hit a pillow but never hit anyone else.

    In todays society it is so important to let go of the anger and show your emotions appropriately. It is not manly ” being in the headset of its good to hide your emotions”. It is not good on any level-physically, mentally or spiritually.

    If you cant get to a good space to let your emotions flow then seeking coaching would be amazing or you
    Great article from the Possibility Coaches, where anything is possible.

    Debra Soul
    Author of Healing by Soul- A Journey to Joy

    1. Great sage advice, Debra! Coaching can definitely assist men with handling and diffusing some of their unhealthy emotions. Men, like women are products of society’s conditioning and as you pointed out perfectly, products of the prior generation. Unhealthy emotions are a learned behavior. That is why the Gillette ad is so powerful. It is distributing on a mass basis that men can learn to have a balance in their emotions and experience more compassion, kindness and genuine love. On a positive note, with our male coaching clients there are more and more men who are willing to express and embrace these “gentler” emotions. We particularly see this with the younger generation of fathers who are very engaged with their children’s rearing and well-being.

  7. Men are taught from the time they’re small children that emotions are not okay. Crying makes you weak. “Don’t be a pussy. “Man up.” It’s no wonder so many boys grow into men who cannot properly express their emotions and become a danger to themselves and others.

    The men in my life who I admire most are emotionally well rounded. They express love, happiness, pride, silliness, and joy. But this is not to say they don’t experience anger; they just express it in a healthy way. They show when they’re upset and are not ashamed of it. I think the most important thing for our young boys and society as a whole is to model this behavior all the time and teach boys that it is okay to cry and express yourself. We need to phase out toxic masculinity and replace it with tolerance and love.

    1. Nicole, we agree that admirable traits for men encompass love, happiness, pride, silliness (a sense of humor) and joy. As you well-stated, in our society most men are conditioned to suppress and repress their emotions. Fortunately, as depicted in the Gillette ad, the pendulum is swinging to a world where men are finally becoming more communicative, expressive, kind and caring. We love your statement: “We need to phase out toxic masculinity and replace it with tolerance and love.” Very profound!

  8. Thank you – enjoying this article and reading others thoughts – as a young girl in school was praised for masculine qualities and reprimanded for feminine qualities – of course this meant strong and stoic were good rather than emotive or empathetic were bad or less desirable. At home male vs feminine roles were clear and the message different for gender. I gravitated towards more masculine role models to help me achieve success in the business world. It was later in life when one of my teachers encouraged me to tap in to my feminine side to come truly into myself and my power. This beyond measure propelled me to even greater success and confidence. And of course a happy life. It was a great lesson in vulnerability and coming into my own. Modeling this behavior at home and in my business I hope to influence others. Namaste!

    1. Julie, thank you for your insightful comments. It is interesting how masculine energy is encouraged and rewarded in school and in business. Almost as if there is something “wrong” with softer emotions. You point out the importance of having a balance of energies and being vulnerable, yet at the same time confident. This is a healthy combination of emotions to possess a happy and fulfilled life.

  9. This is an insightful and important article. My school days began in the mid fifties and I definitely experienced firsthand the distinctive differences in expectations for boys and girls. Then having taught for over three decades I’ve lived through very positive changes which have recognized the social and emotional needs of both genders. I am heartened that we are on the right track by promoting freedom of expression in the classroom, rewriting texts that abandon those negative beliefs and expectations and building awareness about what it means to be human. However, we still have a long way to go! Thanks, Jon and Chris, for your contribution to the effort through your life coaching practice! (Loved your interview explaining Breaking the Chain of Emotional Pain! Helpful for me and I’ll be recommending it to others!)

    1. Thank you for your feedback Mary Jane. It is great to get the perspective of an education professional like you. It is a good point that we have come a long way. The evidence is witnessing young men today who are fathers taking an interest in the raising of their children – even seeing them in the grocery stores and pushing baby strollers. They are not afraid to be engaged in the lives of their families and that is a good thing to see.

  10. Excellent article! I think we as fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons have to show our boys (and anyone else that looks up to us) that all emotions can be healthy emotions and none should be labeled “manly” or “feminine.” I was lucky enough to have a father who embraced all emotions and now my two sons will benefit from the same way of thinking from their father. Change will come from role models setting the right examples and hopefully the Gilette ad’s themes pick up momentum and become more commonplace.

    1. Great points, Ian. It’s beneficial as children to have balanced role models as you had with your own father. It is so crucial that we, both men and women, embrace all emotions as neither masculine nor feminine, but as part of the human experience.

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