One thing has struck me over the years in my practice with men, they don’t cry very often.  For sure I always have a box of (man sized) tissues strategically placed so that, should my client wish to cry, he can.

When I was training I was told that crying is a good thing.  It releases tension, helps you to connect with your feeling, and the crying process itself serves to rid the body of unhelpful toxins.  In fact we were trained in how to spot when someone was about to cry, and how to help them do so.

So if crying is so good for us, why don’t the men I see cry more often?  For a while I thought that maybe I was to blame.  Perhaps, so I thought, I was not creating the right atmosphere where the client felt safe enough with me to cry.  Then, I thought, it was because I was a man, if my client was seeing a female therapist, then perhaps he might feel more able to cry.

Of course sometimes men do cry.  My experience is that when the men I see do cry it is usually for deep existential pain: death, abandonment, loss.  For sure women cry for these reasons too, but women also cry to express other feelings, like frustration or disappointment.  Women, it seems to me, also cry as a means or aid to communication, rather than simply an expression of inner pain.

The ‘standard’ explanation for the differences between men’s and women’s crying is that men have crying ‘socialised’ out of us.  We learn as boys, so the ‘standard’ theory goes, that our crying is not acceptable to others.  According to this view men are both capable of crying more, and if it wasn’t for our dysfunctional emotional upbringing, we would cry as much, and as often as women.

I have come to reject this idea.  I don’t believe the socialisation hypothesis anymore.  Not least because it forces men to apologise for the emotionality they do express (“I know I should cry more” etc).  It seems to me now that men not crying as much as women is not so much a problem for men, but a problem for the women in our lives.  They would feel better if our emotionality were the same as theirs.  The fact of the matter is they are not.  My experience of working with men is that our emotional worlds are different to women’s.  Not better, not worse, but different.  I now hold the view that if a man cries in therapy that’s fine, but if he doesn’t cry, then this is not a problem with him, or indeed, with me.


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