Is It Wrong for a Man to Feel?
I heard the little boy next door bawling and crying because something had happened and over that I heard the famous line, “kollek wunama andanney nae” (boys don’t cry).
Recently a well known Sri Lankan finance expert Amal Sanderatne died by suicide. He was 47. He had a history of depression and had been receiving treatment for it. He is not the first man and he won’t be the last to die by suicide. His family has been very open about the causes in a move that is important simply because as a society, Sri Lanka is pretending that mental health is not an issue in the country while numerous people are secretly suffering inside.
Male suicide rates are globally higher than that of women. The WHO published a report in 2019 that had male suicides at 2285 and female suicides at 692 in Sri Lanka.
Yet the urban centres where you would expect people to be more aware and alert to such issues and causes, is blissfully quiet. I find this appalling – scarily so. Are we this blinded to such a huge issue simmering under the surface?
For many men, emotional awareness and intelligence are alien simply because we have, from childhood, conditioned them to believe that emotions such as sadness and despair are symptoms of being weak. Whereas aggression is the only emotion a man is allowed to feel. This is perhaps why men who are hurt, lash out through violence either to those closest to them or to others in the form of domestic violence, abuse and assault.
Another well known coping mechanism is escapism. So many men escape into addiction, work, gym, porn and other means to forget their pain. The standard advice between male friends when someone faces adversity is “Machan, let’s go for a drink or let’s get you laid, bro”. During Covid, men were itching go to work coz staying at home and dealing with themselves and their families was unfathomable. So work became the rallying call for sanity. Such temporary solutions for lasting scars.
What these do is to dull the pain momentarily till eventually the addiction destroys their lives and the lives of those around them. Not dealing with your emotions leads to them being suppressed and it eventually bursts out – like a volcanic eruption. And often, it is too late by then to do anything. Most don’t’ realise this. Which is why addressing past trauma, being aware of your emotions and allowing yourself to feel is so important.
For this to happen, society, schools, families and friends need to open their eyes to the reality around them and teach men when they are boys, that it is perfectly fine to cry. That it is fine to feel and that what is important is to not suppress emotions to be something they are not.
Seeking therapy or psychological support is another area seriously lacking in Sri Lanka. Somehow it is seen as a realm of the weak – to accept that you need help when in reality, it’s far braver to accept, acknowledge and reach out for help. It is the best thing you can do for yourself and till we accept this, we will continue to propagate this cycle.
Let men feel – the whole gamut of emotions that humans feel. There is no shame, no weakness or judgment and there is nothing wrong with being human.