The influence of America’s masculine culture begins as early as age 4, where boys are already tracking what emotions and behaviors are necessary to fit in as modeled by their peers, siblings, teachers, and parents. Boys are taught to suppress, hide or deny emotions to demonstrate strength and thereby acceptance.
However, it is through the expression of emotions that relationship is born and developed. Expressing emotions is essential to connect with other humans. Emotions are born, revealed and recognized in those relationships. Sadly the primary message boys receive is to suppress, hide, deny or stifle emotional expression. Although boys have and feel emotions deeply, they learn early not to show, express or talk about them.
This lack of emotional expression creates a lack of social connections, which promotes loneliness and isolation. Complicating things even further, masculine culture indoctrinates men to believe that “feelings need fixing” because feelings make men feel uncomfortable, thus need to be suppressed, denied, or hidden. Resulting in an increasing number of men who struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, even within their own home.
“Admitting that you are lonely is essentially admitting to that you are not worthy of being loved. That’s what really underlies this sigma of loneliness” Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
A new survey released by the health services company Cigna tries to gauge the extent of loneliness in America. A little more than 20,000 adults were surveyed using a questionnaire designed to evaluate the level of loneliness or social isolation someone feels.
This survey and collaborating research show rates of loneliness among adults have doubled from 20% to 40% since the 1980s. Moreover, according to the General Social Survey, an annual study of societal conditions in the United States, the average American has not a single close friend to confide in or rely on in a crisis. Not one.
In the U.K., 9 million people report being frequently or always lonely. The crisis is so severe that the British government recently appointed a Minister for Loneliness to help resolve the issue. “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” British Prime Minister Teresa May said during the announcement. “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by caregivers, by those who have lost loved ones—people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”
Social isolation is not only a painful feeling, but it can also have devastating physical effects. Studies have shown that loneliness is linked to an increased risk of a whole range of health conditions, from cancer to diabetes, and it can be significantly more harmful to health than heavy smoking or chronic obesity. Loneliness is also linked to increased risk of suicide, and it can make you twice as likely to die prematurely.
So how do we change this? That will be the topic of my next blog. In the meantime consider the following questions:
- Who influenced you the most as a child, your mother, father, siblings, family or peers?
- When did you begin to understand which feelings or emotions were acceptable to express and which ones were not? How did you learn this and at what age?
- How well do you allow yourself to feel or express emotions today?
- Which emotions are the most uncomfortable for you to feel?
- List all the emotions that you feel during any given week and weekend with family, friends or co-workers.
- Who in your circle of family or friends is good at expressing and/or discussing emotions?
I hope today’s blog has encouraged you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs posted every Tuesday and Thursday. TransformingFamilies.org resources are designed to guide you through the restoration process of developing your heart, mind, and strength, enabling you to become the man God created you to be.
I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you want to improve your relationships, let’s connect through e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.