May 20, 2014

I Haven’t Cried in 20 years—How That Makes Me a Real (Hardened) Man. ~ Keith M. Cowley

Photo Credit: http://ak3.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/6049241/preview/stock-footage-crying-man-with-tears-in-eye-closeup.jpg

A long time ago, I knew what it felt like to release the floodgates of emotion and live in the moment.

It came naturally. Of course, I was a child, without the expectation of posturing in a judgmental society.

However, when I was 14, my first required public cry came when my grandfather passed. At that time, he was everything: my savior, my teacher, my escape, my only friend at a time when the outlook was dark in a broken home.

I remember my mother sitting me down at the end of my bed to let me in on what had occurred. She wept as she did so, and I felt inclined to also weep, but uncertain of why. Weep for him? Weep for my mother and her loss? It was my first conflicted emotional challenge, and I have yet to experience a genuine cry since.

But hey, I’m more of a man for it. Right?

I’m not sure. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been seeking out a key to unlock this lost emotion. For 20 years I’ve explored religious concepts, spirituality, native teachings, internal arts training and many other forms of guidance. When I’ve confronted family about it, I’ve been told to either “be a man” or seek out a therapist.

So where there is little nurturing, there is little love. It may not be a question of coping with loss in order to experience the cry, but instead the reconnection with self-love and inherent love we all know as a living species.

Many of my relationships have failed due to my lack of connection and openness to the individual. I often wonder if anyone else out there feels the hopelessness that I have felt.

I believe there is a place for these feelings and a purpose that brings us together in exposing the feminine side of every man. As dichotomous beings, every man and woman exhibits both male and female traits.

For men, the feminine side is deeply repressed due to a lifetime of conditioning in many traditional households. Times are changing, and youth exposed to new cultural and universal ideas are opening more minds. The generation in between, like mine, still struggles.

The yogic community is one of the few groups publicly advertising the value of the feminine side of the man. Re-wilding organizations like the Mankind Project intend to do the same through focus groups and wilderness retreats.

Native communities also suffer from the same American conditioning of gender roles. Native councilors have begun to help the lost release their attachments to any cravings for modern distractions. It all feels like an uphill battle until we can see through the American marketing strategy.

Our media has taught us that a man must be strong, confident, secure and in control of his emotions. To cry would make us weak, appearing less confident, insecure and unpredictable. These are undesirable traits to the sexy partner we are hunting, according to that ad for cologne, hair-care or beer.

Our physical image supposedly dictates our state of being. But an image must be embodied through and through for it to be genuinely translated to others. An over-weight man can end up with a fit girl. An outwardly unhealthy person can be the happiest we’ve ever meet. The one with the worst past can have the biggest heart.

We’ve seen these examples in real life, not in advertising. It’s not about how we look, it’s how we see.

The eyes tell the story. A recent article I came across in PolicyMic about the organic content of tears showed images of tears under a microscope. Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photos were mind-blowing. Each emotion conveyed a different organic composition.

These tears may never leave the eyes, yet still have the ability to expose the truth of our feelings. We are having  conversations with one another through our tears. They may be some of the only conversations that matter. Everything else could be superfluous distraction.

Historically, “the eyes are the window to the soul”, according to Shakespeare or the book of Matthew in the Bible.

We’ve always known. Modern science is now beginning to be able to explain why.

I believe lives are driven by a predominant inquiry. For me, the search for tears has opened the floor to the question “how do I know love—primal (genuine/original) love?” I have learned that all trends end, therefore I put my faith in the turning of the tide.

I’ve also learned that there is a path for everyone, and that despite the fairy tales we grew up with, not everyone is entitled to a textbook life. While I have yet to experience the cry, I know it’s coming.

I imagine it will be a joyous one.


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Assistant Editor: Karissa Kneeland/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Shuttershock

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Joe Sparks May 22, 2014 11:26am

Crying is a natural process and occurs freely until interfered with. Crying frees our mind from the effects of distressing experiences. Young people spontaneously cry when hurt and fight hard to keep the ability to cry intact. However, our society interferes with and inhibits crying. This is done by direct suppression ( don't cry), cultural patterns ( our group is strong and doesn't show feelings), pressures to conform ( look and act like everybody else), and the threat of the " mental health" system ( you will be locked up if you keep doing that). The healing process has been suppressed for thousands of years, and we all have patterns of suppressing it. To recover the natural healing process we can look directly at the reasons that inhibit emotional release.

Peaceful Pathfinder May 21, 2014 10:21am

Well written Keith. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts having the awareness that tears are acceptable for men. We share the experience of losing an important grandfather at 14. He was the first close person I lost and there was confusion of types of sadness for myself and my mother also. My deep emotions arose a short while later, which continue today, when I learned how he changed his lifestyle after I entered this world. Peace brother.

May 20, 2014 7:59pm

Hey Keith! Thanks for the shout out. Great article! I just shared it with our ManKind Project fans. Come up to Massachusetts June 6-8 for our next New Warrior Training Adventure. Greg Chokas gave me the heads up about your article. NewWarriorTraining.org.

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Keith M. Cowley

Keith M. Cowley is an author, educator, wild forager and non-martial artist in Southeastern Connecticut/Rhode Island. He is the Founder of Personal Circle Center for Awareness and Embodiment Clinic, and New-Native Foundation.