What happens to super smart, sensitive, curious, empathetic, talkative, emotional little boys when they become men? Where does all of that emotion go? All of that empathy? All of that energetic curiosity? How do gifted men thrive in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate their sensitive natures?
I wrote about this in a post two years ago. I’m going to recycle that post with a few changes because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait. I did say it myself… Anyway it’s worth sending out again!
What do you do with all of that emotion? All of that empathy? All of that awareness?
How do you handle your grief? Your love of art or poetry or pink? Your despair over the violence you see in the world? Your tears?
It’s hard for many men to fit into the rigid view of masculinity. But for rainforest-minded men, there are extra tangled vines and more mosquitoes.
I wonder if you were a little tyke who had intense meltdowns. Maybe you expressed your fears and your joys with gusto. You didn’t know about The Boy Code yet. And because you were smart, adults expected you to be more logical and less emotional. Your expressiveness looked like immaturity to them. How can my 7-year-old who plays chess and beats his uncle every time, be so immature? But what if you were born with an unusual capacity to feel deeply? What if your sensitivity was just as large as your intellect? What if you seemed younger than your age peers because you purposely wanted to avoid the weight and hypocrisy of adulthood?
Then there was school. You may have been bullied because you were eager to learn. At recess you preferred examining the grasshoppers to throwing the balls. Maybe you felt more comfortable with girls.
Am I on the right track?
And now, there are the expectations. Oh, yes. If you’re so smart, then, you’re supposed to be able to do anything. Be a high achiever. Make lots of money. Be a good provider. Be tough and man up. But what if the pressure leaves you paralyzed? What if you feel like a failure each time someone close to you is disappointed? What if you’re looking successful but dying inside? What if you were criticized by a father who was full of shame over his own sensitivity? Or what if you feel responsible for living up to some potential that you can’t find and don’t believe you ever had?
What, then, can you do?
1. Redefine masculinity. I mean it. Use that creative brain of yours to design a new model. One where sensitivity, tenderness and wonder are signs of strength and achievement. Because they are.
2. Recognize that because you have a rainforest mind, you’re hardwired to be extra sensitive and soft-hearted. Blame your operating system.
3. Read about giftedness (Jacobsen) and realize that she is describing you. There aren’t many books that I know of on gifted boys/men specifically except by Kerr, Zeff and me, but there are some on raising boys that could also be helpful.
4. Write the book on gifted men.
5. Allow yourself to get support, help and guidance. Don’t think that you have to tough it out alone. You hear me? Help comes in many forms: counseling, 12-step groups, spiritual practices, music, acupuncture, yoga, massage, tango, book groups, camping, poetry, hiking, meditation, star-gazing, physical activity, art. It’s a sign of strength to ask for help.
6. With a counselor or in a journal or both, meet with your sweet, enthusiastic, curious little tyke self. Listen to him. Hold him close. Let him cry. Tell him he’s perfect the way he is.
To my bloggEEs: Many of you are new here since this post was first written. Let us know what you think and feel. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always.