The influence of America’s masculine culture begins as early as age 4 when 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 acceptance.
However, through the expression of emotions, relationships are born and developed. Expressing feelings is essential to connecting with other humans. Emotions are born, revealed, and recognized in those relationships. Sadly, boys’ primary message 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, promoting loneliness and isolation. Complicating things further, our 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 homes.
“Admitting that you are lonely is essentially admitting 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 Cigna’s health services company 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 no 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 consistently 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. It can be significantly more harmful to health than heavy smoking or chronic obesity. Loneliness is also linked to an 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 your emotions during any 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 look forward to continuing our discussion in part 2.
I hope today’s blog has encouraged you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs posted every week. At TransformingFamilies.org, our resources are here to guide you through the restoration process of developing your heart, mind, and strength, enabling you to become the man or woman 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 child of God.
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