Men, we don’t need to say everything that we feel, think, or hear.
There is a great art in learning to shut the fuck up when it’s time to shut the fuck up. This is ESPECIALLY TRUE when it comes to holding in confidence things said in our men’s meetings. In this case, shutting the fuck up has to do with honoring the group and also honoring the agreement that we read aloud at every meeting. We need to be able to share things without worrying that our spouses, employers, or others will hear about them. In some cases, this sort of breach could cause a man serious problems. We have this unbendable rule in the group for this reason, but there is a deeper teaching and growth edge to it too.
We are trying to evolve as men. Our grandfathers’ generation of men were largely in denial of their inner life. They were mostly about self-denial, sacrifice, and adherence to duty. Maybe they didn’t even know what their feelings were, or what their doubts were. And if they did have them, they largely kept them totally to themselves. They were stoic to a fault.
In our generation (post 1960’s), we have adopted the other, opposite way. We are largely uber-indulgent about our feelings. We feel we need to examine and honor every doubt, every feeling, every discomfort, and then talk about it- especially with the women in our lives. We are best friends with our women and share “everything”. We feel the need to share every insecurity, every worry, every idea. We jump into gossipy conversations with them and become their “confidantes”. This is mostly a bad idea for many reasons. For one thing, it kills the passion in our relationships, it takes away our women’s ability to trust us. We may do the over-sharing in some strange attempt to gain their trust, but it often winds up doing the opposite. Deep down they want to know that we are stable and have our emotional shit together. It doesn’t help anything when we become open books for them to read. We think we need to be ready to cry with them, or let ourselves be small and weak and let them hold us and be our strength, and that can be good sometimes, but it’s a bad habit when it goes too far.
Privacy is a good thing. We should shut the door when we use the toilet and we should also spare them the gory details of our emotional turmoil. We don’t have to pretend that we don’t have emotional weakness or inner turmoil. Its’ just that we don’t need to spooge it all over them. We can have boundaries. We can learn to share our weakness with men. We can learn to shut the fuck up.
There’s another way we can be and a way that I am trying to practice myself and a way that I think is a good evolution beyond the stoic and also beyond the over-sharer. There is something to be said for learning to hold something and not blab it.
In Japanese, they have a word: HARAGEI – literally it mean “stomach art”. It is the art of being able to “stomach” something. This is what the Japanese corporate samurai use to win business negotiations. They shut the fuck up, and wait, and use their words very judiciously. Here, I definitely am not talking about denial. That was our grandpa’s road. No. We know ourselves- we honor what we’re feeling and learning, and desiring, or fearing. Fully. We just have a place in us to hold it. To operate it well. It’s not just all over the place.
It’s not about keeping everything secret. It is important to speak these things. It is important to get reality checked from time to time. It is important to vent our feelings and share our heart’s truth and cry if we need to. But can we learn to do it with each other? Can we learn to share this stuff with other men? When we do, we get a TOTALLY different kind of feedback. We get our greatness supported. We can get messy and hash shit out with our men and then go home more integrated. We can share our weakness with our men and then be able to go home and be the strong pillar in our relationships and families. Not in a fake denial-based way, but in a true way.
We need to learn to not put all of our processing on our romantic relationships- and definitely not on our family, our kids. “Kids, wife, I just want share something: I’m really afraid my business is going to fail, sometimes I think about killing myself, and I have a fear that I am not strong enough to be a good father. I just wanted to be honest and let you know. You’re my beloved family and I don’t want to keep any secrets from you.”
If we share that with our family it fucks EVERYTHING up. Can you imagine? If we were to share the same things in the men’s group, the reaction would be TOTALLY different. Chances are, there would probably be a bunch of men that would be like “yep- me too”. Hopefully there will be some older men who will be able to share their wisdom of being through these kinds of patches and coming out of them alright. The younger men in the group will gain the benefit of hearing the men hash out these little inner demon voices with fearlessness and steadiness. We get it off our chest, get some reality check from the group and get to hear ourselves think out loud for a minute. No harm done, and probably there is some good healing. Then we go home, shut the fuck up, and take care of whatever we have signed on to take care of in our lives. It’s a great thing.
Important caveat: often times, we are in relationships with incredible women who really can be incredible sources of strength and the perfect people for us to share our feelings with. This isn’t an all or nothing thing. Some men are still stuck in grandpa’s world and need to learn how to open up. And this approach in no way is suggesting that men should be afraid to share their depth and vulnerability. It’s really just about having some discipline.
Shut the fuck up, part 2:
Many of us are in men’s groups and hopefully learning to cultivate meaningful relationships with other men. It’s super important that we learn how to hold things in confidence and be men that can hear this stuff from other men – and then shut the fuck up about it. If we go home from men’s group and say “Honey, guess what! David shared tonight that he wants to kill himself!” What’s that going to do? If that comes back around to David’s wife, or David’s students, what then? Or if we get in a fight with our woman and feel backed into a corner and start blabbing, “On our men’s blog David said we shouldn’t even talk to our women! He said that we should just shut the fuck up because YOU can’t handle hearing about MY FEELINGS!” Or whatever…..you see? We are here to hold this space for each other. Obviously- don’t run and blab this to your women folk. Take it in, practice it, prove me right or prove me wrong. Then share some of it IF YOU MUST for some reason.
Haragei is an art worth learning. I welcome your thoughts.