Updated: Oct 1, 2019
FINDING A WAY OUT
What surprised me most after the beak-up of my family, was the heart ache. Actual, physical pain in the heart- twisting, cutting, stabbing sensations. I expected to feel sad and disorientated, but I had no idea that heart break was a physical thing. Bob Geldof describes his split from Paula Yates: (You Tube Interview)
What stunned me was the physical pain- so bizarre. It hurts- like you've been pounded and smashed against the wheel- in a car crash.
We hear people say: "I was broken hearted, or I fell in love." But until our heart breaks or we fall, we don't understand. Men often don't recognise grief or heart break. This is because we are not skilled at feeling and naming emotions. Most of us know what anger, happiness and worry feel like. Beyond this we're entering an unknown territory. That's why grief and trauma can destroy lives- because they go unrecognized. Men know something is not right. But they don't know what. So they drink too much, drive dangerously, gamble, chase sex, work obsessively. Do anything to block out the uncomfortable feeling. Sometimes no more than an itch. We are like boats, floating on the surface of the water. We imagine that we're in control. We hope we've got it sorted. But all along, there are deep, dark currents under the surface- storms in the sea. That make the boat do all sorts of crazy things.
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk has pioneered work into trauma and grief. He has helped thousands of men understand the strong emotions that often rage inside their bodies. He started out with Vietnam veterans. Often these men- got angry easily, they were sensitive to lights and sounds, they slept badly, they drank heavily, they had headaches, and pains. And mostly they didn't know why. These men were lost. Unable to 'get-back' to the lives they left behind, before the experience of war.
His book, The Body Keeps The Score, is the result of 40 years of work and research into trauma and grief. In it he maps out the landscape of trauma- and then suggests proven methods that offer release.
Because of the false gold standard of toxic masculinity, that expects men to be powerful, invulnerable and in control, men often feel shame around their vulnerability and weaknesses. This makes it difficult for them to acknowledge their grief and trauma. Often, it needs to hit them with the force of a car crash before they will stop, look, and listen, to their hearts.
But the tide is turning. Men are starting to listen to each other. Since writing these articles about Toxic Masculinity I have been suprised by the number of honest conversations I have had with men. So long as men are fighting to be powerful and in control, so long as we are competing with each other to be powerful and in control, so long will we suffer. We men must support each other. By listening, with a recognition that we're all in the same boat- 'trying to get along day by day," we begin to feel safe. Trust builds. A trust that for so long has been attacked. Attacked and corroded by constant competition. Yes, sport is competition , and it is exhilarating, and life affirming. But life is a relationship, not a competition. Relationships need trust and safety. In the words of Bessel Van der Kolk:
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma