This issue is something that has been on my mind for quite a while, especially considering I have a son of my own. It could be considered controversial, however, it is something that I believe needs to be cast in the light and changed. If you’ve read my past blog posts you will know that all emotions are better expressed rather than repressed. While we tend to treat girls with understanding and support when it comes to crying, we as a society are failing to give boys and men the same natural right. This is the massive elephant in the room – actually it is a whole freaking herd of elephants.
For a century women (and men) have been fighting for gender equality, mainly within finance and business. However, if we are really striving for a society where gender equality is the reality, we need to start looking at some of the issues that we are pushing under the mat and stuffing in the storage cupboard. The issue I am referring to here is in regards to the emotional and mental inequality boys and men have faced throughout history and still are today; that it is ok to cry, it is ok to be vulnerable, it is ok to express our emotions.
Let’s get into some statistics from Beyond Blue:
1 in 5 women suffer from depression or anxiety
1 in 8 men suffer from depression and anxiety
These factors increase the risk of suicide.
Now while, yes women do have a higher rate of depression and anxiety, men are not far behind. Most of the depression, anxiety and other such disorders in adults can be traced back to early childhood traumas. These traumas can range from more severe such as abuse and neglect, to sometimes every day occurrences. For example starting school, being bullied, being punished and the list could go on and on. My point is if we give boys the same right and respect we give girls in regards to releasing their emotional traumas through crying the world would be a lot brighter and happier place as we wouldn’t carry this emotional baggage into adulthood.
In case you haven’t read my previous articles a bit of scientific background into tears (crying). Biochemist William Frey studied the chemical composition of tears. He discovered that when we cry for emotional reasons such as sadness, anger, etc our tears contain stress hormones such as cortisol. This means that when we cry we are releasing stress hormones from our body, thus restoring our body to a state of equilibrium.
Another study has showed the significant physiological changes in adults after they have had a good cry. These includes more of a reduction is blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature than you would get after the same length of time engaged in vigorous exercise. So if you want to burn that anger, frustration or sadness have a good cry!
I need to clarify here, that when I say to let you baby, toddler or child cry to ensure that YOU are 100% present, compassionate, empathetic and supportive with them. When you know all their physical needs have been met – food, toilet/nappy, etc – and they are still crying, it could be because they need to release stress through crying. NEVER leave your child alone to cry as you are adding to their stress by causing feelings of neglect, abandonment and helplessness. These feeling can later turn into depression and anxiety.
I remember when my son was a few months old I was visiting my Nan. She had the belief that boys (even girls) do not cry. So when my son started crying and I knew it was not because he was hungry or needed a nappy change. My Nan’s immediate response was “Hush now, no crying, boys don’t cry and you’re a big boy.” Now this statement went against everything I have learnt and the personal philosophies I had decided upon in regards to parenting. I replied to my Nan by saying in a loving way “Real boys do cry. Real men do cry.” Then followed up with a summary of the above.
Now 70+ years of raising children to not cry, does not mean that the person will change in that moment. Just like anything else new, this new way of viewing crying – as a legitimate healing mechanism – does take practice.
I can guarantee that if we give our children the opportunity to release their emotional traumas as they are growing up there will be less depression, less anxiety and less violence in the world. Children are always the future of this world. What future do you want for them?