This is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.
All men have feelings, ranging from shame and humiliation, to anger and outrage, to tenderness and compassion. The primary difference between different men is not what we each feel, but our capacity to be with it and express it in a way that works for everybody. Every man, consciously or unconsciously, wants to express painful feelings and be free of them. If he does not know how to feel and communicate, he will do it indirectly. This is the principle of “Let me show you how bad it feels, motherf**ker.” If he feels humiliated, he will seek to cause that person humiliation as a way of saying, “See, this is what I’m feeling, and it’s painful.” But revenge generally turns into an escalating cycle instead of resolving painful feelings through experiencing and then communicating.
There is a masculine and feminine way to be with feelings. A Conscious Man can access both of these and find the balance that works best for him.
The feminine way to be with feeling is something like surfing. You go with it. When a woman feels angry or sad, she has a greater capacity to allow the feeling to take her over completely. And the more easily she can do this without restriction, the more it will carry her home into feeling herself again: into love as a river discharges into the ocean. So long as no one is trying to talk her out of it and invalidating her feeling in some way, all feelings become a portal into a greater love.
The masculine way to be with feelings is to hold a space bigger than the feeling in which it can arise and pass and then dissipate again.
The sense of presence and space is always just a little greater than the feeling. When you feel contracted, small, wrapped up in your own beliefs and identity, any strong feelings — in you or in another — will cause you to enter into a panic of self-protection. The more oceanic you feel, by taking space regularly and feeling connected with yourself, the greater your capacity to experience feelings as they arise, just like a wave in the ocean.
If a man goes too much into following feelings, which might be more suited to a woman, he becomes lost, confused, and uncentered. If he goes too much into watching, he can become cold, analytical, and insensitive. When a man rejects or denies his painful emotions, he shuts himself off from being emotionally alive in general. If you cannot feel anger or grief, you also cannot feel joy or excitement; you can’t feel anything. He needs to find the balance of these two ways that is right for him.
A Conscious Man recognizes that a woman has a much greater need to express feeling than he does. A woman resolves emotional tension through fully feeling it, fully expressing it, and following it all the way home to love. But a man resolves emotional tension by remaining present with it, holding space around it, understanding the message it has for him, and then taking action based upon that feeling to restore balance.
Being present with painful feelings or defensive reactions brings two distinct benefits that support each other. One is this: your increased awareness of your own feelings allows you to also empathize with what another is feeling, and this compassion is a context where resolution happens naturally. Two is this: you become less reactive, and you can use clear thinking to find the best solution.
From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon here.