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Strangling the Man Within

As young boys we are taught to be strong. We are conditioned to not cry, show weakness or reveal any kind of fear. Image after image floods our minds with what it means to “be a man”. This cultural and societal training is suffocating for so many of us regardless of the spectrum sexual or masculine identity we possess at such a young age. 

This is a wheel of conditioning and constructing that has been turning, and continues to turn, that we most often don’t see or recognize it happening to us and around us. Oftentimes we don’t even have an inkling of what is happening because we have never seen or have been exposed to anything or anyone like ourselves due to the strangling of sensitivity by a cultural preference to hyper masculinity. 

Upon reflection, I had no idea what I was even doing to myself or others in the name of this conditioning. In all of this heartwork I have been doing I am unraveling the pain and hurt caused by the conflict of my sensitivity in a time of being a man. As a boy I had such a difficult time squaring my sensitivity in a world that couldn’t understand them. And for a little boy,this hurt deeply. 

Being so developmentally young I was raw within the conflict and having to live in these surroundings. This conflict then comes out in only the ways conflict can. Rage, fear, hurt, pain, anger and heartache forces you into lockdown so as not to reveal who one is but to in fact hide our true nature in addition to all of the pain simply to keep one safe. 

This safety is in fact a prison. We imprison ourselves to close off in order to survive or hide our sensitive energies. With our limited understanding we close out the world by desensitizing ourselves in the hopes of our own survival. We do so because it is all we know to find some kind of peace within all of this conflict. 

Yet, we all know this is the furthest thing from peace. We struggle to belong. I struggled deeply to belong. I did my best to survive by living around the edges so as to keep my sensitivity in check, often never understanding why I was always on the outside looking “in”. Mind you, I was somehow able to do so with love in my heart which is what I attribute to why I had so many friends and why I was so liked. All of this despite my conflict. 

One memory I have of a moment of hurt was with my dad that constantly reminds me of where I was and what I was feeling within. This was early in my teenage years before I was able to drive. My dad picked me up from a gathering of friends and something had happened during that gathering that deeply hurt me. 

As we were on the way home I was doing my best to hold back my tears and reveal my pain. Clearly I was not fully capable of hiding my sensitivity on all occasions. Who is? And so my weeping, my tears fell into the lap of silence. 

Moments like this were difficult for my dad. His conditioning did not train him how to engage with a young man who is not like what is expected or what he expected of a son. To his credit he was able to dialogue with me and try to figure out what was bothering me. It was very bold of him to try and I was appreciative of this. 

During the ride, as we were getting closer to home, he said something that has stuck with me my entire life. He said “you just have to learn how not to wear your heart on your sleeve”. Translated it says that in order to be happy you must not let yourself show vulnerability or weakness by being sensitive. 

And just like that, one retreats. We remove the heart from our sleeves and throw them out the car window in order to keep ourselves safe in hopes of success. Not sure how successful we can be as men if we are no longer living with a heart that we have thrown away. 

So we do our best to carry on with our sensitivity locked away and our hearts abandoned on the side of the road. I wonder how many hearts are lying in disarray on all the highways we travel daily? How many young boys and men have abandoned our hearts simply to belong to something that isn’t even in line with who we are? 

Is it a wonder why we live in conflict, create conflict and perpetuate conflict? Is it a wonder why we are incapable of long lasting relationships that we so desperately desire and want? Despite our sensitivity we have not learned that it is safe to move about the world without hiding ourselves from it.  

It is possible to return to the side of the road and retrieve one’s heart. I have done it. In order to do the heartwork for our spiritual salvation we must return to the side of the road where we have left it. Go back, stop the car and get out to pick it back up. Put it back on your sleeve and let it begin to beat deeply and find its way and your way home. 

Know this, you are a boy, a teen, a young man and a man regardless of where you fall in the “masculinity” and sensitivity spectrum. Regardless of your affiliation, identity or sexuality; you are a man. And this man can be sensitive. This man can be loving. This man can be vulnerable. This man can simply be the man that they are. You can be the man you are. And it is your heart that will tell you so. 

Let that man speak again. Let that man feel again.