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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.
Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (https://www.davidtianphd.com/blog/), is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/manupcommunity/) and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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Is It Masculine To Cry?
David Tian Ph.D. deliberates on the reason why men are afraid to cry.
When you repress your emotions, David Tian Ph.D. explains what happens.
In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. tells us why crying is beneficial in the long run.
David Tian: Boom! Stop. I’m David Tian, PhD. And in this video I answer the question: Is it masculine to cry? Welcome to Man Up Episode 172.
Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I’m David Tian, PhD., and this is Man Up!
Hey I’m David Tian, PhD. and for over the past 10 years, I have been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in love and life, and welcome to Man Up Episode 172. Today, I’ve got a really deep topic. By the way, I’m in Bangkok. The sun is setting, and it’s always a magical time around this time of day when the sun is setting. I just love the view from the window here.
Okay, it’s a quick question, “Do men cry?” from Jeremy.
“When I was in fourth grade, my grandfather passed away and my dad didn’t cry. To this day, I’ve never seen him cry. In that moment, 23 years ago, I learned that men don’t cry. And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried since. Even when I want to, I can’t. Do men cry?”
Jeremy, that was such a deep question. I’ve been delaying answering it in a video because it’s so deep. I can easily write an entire book on this subject, but in the interest… I really want to get this out for discussion. I saw various answers to it, and even though they’re very good, there are some masculine men and there are some mature men answering, but they’re coming from a frame where they’re almost apologizing for crying. “Even the toughest of us men cry” for instance.
“At the end of the day, my sons…” “…and they don’t lose respect for me when they see me cry.” That’s one way of putting it. “There’s always a good reason when I cry.” Do men cry? “Yeah, I do. No shame in crying.” So, sort of that view of they’re apologizing for it, as if, “Hey, look, there’s no shame in it.” “Hey, look, there’s good reasons for it.” “Hey, look, no one looks down on me when I do it.” They’re just like defending.
It’s almost like the assumption is that it is somehow embarrassing or not masculine. I want to put that to rest.
Crying, Jeremy, requires courage. You don’t think this when you’re a little kid, especially when it comes to relationships, guys who are watching this, they probably had a break up, the first girlfriend or something like that, when there are all of those emotions of the break up for the very first time in their lives. It’s so new and so overwhelming, and they’re just like, [acting] “Don’t leave me!” And all of that neediness that comes from a lot of the stuff from childhood.
It gets pretty deep. It’s pretty cool. But they don’t know any of that stuff then. We don’t know any of that stuff then. We forget that first breakup, and then as we grow as men, we learn to toughen up, to keep it in and soldier forward. What happens is that it’s not so much that we grow up, it’s that we learn to repress. We learn to repress that vulnerable side of ourselves, so much so that most men in the modern world don’t know how to cry.
Most men in Westernized nations don’t know how to cry, like Jeremy is pointing out. I’ve had to learn how to cry. This is something that over the past two years has really come home to me. I took this method acting course, and one of the things I was doing, was I was able to access the crying part for other reasons. That was part of my growth. I had been growing tremendously before that as well. So, crying I could do. I was able to access that part. Not very much in control. It was more like the hulk, it came coming forward. It came out uncontrollably, and I couldn’t turn it off very easily, but I could turn it on pretty easily.
But then these other feelings that are more subtle, that are feelings of vulnerability, feelings of maybe acting out shame, feeling like I’m ashamed of something, or acting out when I get insulted or bullied, and that hurts acting that. My acting coach, who I’ve also done a Man Up episode with, you should look it up, it’s in this playlist, in this channel, with Kamil Haque.
One of the things he pointed out to me in our coaching was that when I’m about to go to that vulnerable, more subtle emotion, just before I access… I’m getting really close to it, but then some defense mechanism mentally happens where it comes down like a fucking anvil, like in a bank vault in this next layer of security suddenly come crashing down. And it prevents me from feeling that emotion, because it’s a vulnerable one.
And I’ve created over the years all of these different defense mechanisms, as a good Asian-Canadian, to not go there emotionally. My dad doesn’t cry. Even when his mother, my grandmother died, I was the one who was sobbing and feeling it, and hoping that he would open up, but he kept it all in. I didn’t see him cry one single time. We’re coming from that generation of – our dads went through World Wars, my dad was 10 years old when the World War was happening, when it started and it hit the Asia-Pacific region, and the kind of stuff they had to go through.
They must have had to repress a lot of that emotion just to keep it together. He had to walk. He was on foot going from Guangzhou and walked to Hainan Island over the bridge and everything, and then they fled to Taiwan. Jesus, with bombs going on, and the communists chasing them, and then of course it’s World War as well, that that would be happening. He was 10 years old when the communists chased the KMT out of China, and he had to walk that during the Civil War.
So look, that’s from a generation where they had to keep it in. There was so much going on. There was so much war going on, especially in Asia-Pacific, that just to keep it together and move forward, and protect your family, and your kids, and all of this, you have to bottle it in to get shit done. Now, we have to luxury of – especially in places like Singapore that are very safe and peaceful – where the next generation is not equipped with how to deal with their emotions.
They are emotionally deadened inside and repressed. Here’s what happens when you repress emotions. They come out in all kinds of bad ways. This is something I see and I work with all the time, and I’ve seen in my own life. That’s why I know it so well. It’s sort of like this. One of the things about meditation is that it helps you to release, if you’re doing it correctly, releases cortisol in your system. We keep that cortisol held in there.
I’ve seen lots of nature videos of animals that think they’re being hunted. Well, they’re initially being hunted. I remember one quite vividly of a bear that was being hunted. And then from far away, they saw the bear again and there was a body of water, and it was on this other side, the other shore. When it looked around and it felt like it was being hunted anymore, it just went [shaking noise]. It just shuddered. It released all of that stress cortisol out of its system, and then just ambled away.
And that’s something we human beings don’t do. In our evolutionary past, maybe 10,000 years ago, we would do that maybe. 100,000 years ago, maybe we’d do that. But now we don’t. Now, it’s society all giving us all these stressors. We keep it in and it gets into our bodies. Physically, we bottle it up, plus it affects our brains, and we keep it all bottled up, and it’s not healthy. It’s not good for your mental health and physical health. It’s not good for your emotional well-being, and it’s not mature.
It takes courage to go there. That’s why I was saying with the method acting, I had to practice accessing those emotions. A year and a half ago, I was practicing quite extensively with lots of different things, not just method acting, and being able to turn on and turn off, going there emotionally and being able to access it quickly, and being able to control that; to actually have that facility to go there emotionally, to actually get some control over the emotion, not to be controlled by the emotion.
But the first step is to feel it, to be able to access it, to let that avalanche of repressed emotion come out. Crying allows us to release stress. It allows us to release pent up emotions. If you feel like crying, cry. What’s pussy, what guys are all afraid of, is all of the whining, all of the bitching and moaning, all this shit you say. I mean, you should say it to yourself, but all the stuff you do as a result. Like, don’t be holding on to her and trying to demand things from her as a result of your bitching and moaning.
If you want to be sure about the purity of your crying, that it’s an emotional release, and how you can learn from what your unconscious mind, your unconscious brain, is telling you by crying, by releasing that emotion through this behavior, then do it behind closed doors. Do it when you’re alone. I fly a lot on airplanes, and one of those things was, when I watch a movie and it triggers this feeling, I just let it go. There are many subtle ways to control it. I discovered through method acting and other things my control mechanisms.
And you can see them physiologically. I do certain things with my face. I do breathing. Breathing is a big part of it, and then suddenly I’m back into a calm, steady state. But there’s also things about my face. I’ll harden my face, do things with my eyebrows, and that pushes the emotion down. I don’t go there mentally. These are all little triggers that I’ve got. And if I don’t do those things, then the emotions come out. The waterworks come out for the crying emotions.
It wasn’t healthy for me to repress those crying emotions because why am I doing it? What for? I’m not here to impress anybody. I don’t give a fuck what they think. But I also didn’t want to just be drawing attention to myself unnecessarily, so I’d pause the movie, I’d go to the lavatory, and I’d just let it out. You know, when it’s gone, when it’s done, I dry my tears and I go back and continue watching the movie.
And what I try to do while I’m crying, after I cry, is to figure out, “What was it in the movie that triggered that feeling? What were the thoughts that led to it? What were the memories that were coming up as a result? What was I thinking about?” And then that was a clue to giving me more access and power over my unconscious to find out what it is about me, psychologically, that I can learn from it and grow from it?
Those are just tremendous learning experiences. It takes courage. It takes skill to go there emotionally. It’s easy as an adult male to keep it in. It’s easy. We’ve already been doing that for 10, 20, 30 years. It’s easy. We have those defense mechanisms already ingrained in us. What’s hard is to not go there, to not go with the defense, not go back to the comfort zone, but to feel the emotion, to feel the vulnerability, and to sit with it and allow it to happen.
If you’re afraid that you’re doing it to get something, to manipulate other people, and by the way, crying is often also a cry for help because you’re feeling defenseless and you would like some support but you don’t know how to express it, or you’re not self-aware enough that you need that support. Often after a stressful day, you might just want to break down and cry because it was so stressful. That’s fine. That’s good. That’s a sign that, fuck, that was a stressful day. You can’t have too many more of those, or you need a deloading day where you’re just resting, relaxing, and releasing that cortisol.
That’s a sign to listen to your body. The body is trying to tell you something, and your mind is trying to tell you something. Your brain is trying to tell you something when you feel that urge to cry. And if you can’t cry, there’s something wrong. I mean, if you haven’t cried in a very long time, you’ve been repressing some deep emotions.
I can imagine where if you’ve led a very sheltered life and you have nothing to worry about, maybe you got nothing to cry about. But if you’re a dad, if you’re an older man, if you’re past the age of 30, I’m pretty sure you got shit to cry about but you’re not crying about it. You’re not releasing it. You’re holding it up. You’re bottling it up inside. And because of that, you’re not learning from it. You’re not growing from it, and you don’t even know what’s happening in your unconscious mind. It’ll come up in other ways.
You’re going to be snapping at other people. It’ll come up in ways where you’ll stay in your comfort zone, you won’t take those risks. You might do some addictive behaviors like drinking, smoking, masturbating, porn. Those are all other ways of trying to release that emotion, but in very unhealthy and unconstructive ways. It doesn’t actually succeed. Instead of just releasing, going to the emotion of vulnerability, the various vulnerability emotions that you feel, and feeling those, sitting with those, becoming comfortable with those emotions, letting them out…
Like the bear who thought he was being hunted and realized he’s not being hunted, released it and then just moved on, just released it and moved on. But then of course, then look back at what triggered it, why were you crying, what were the thoughts and feelings, and memories and images that came up? Because those are our clue to all of those: the traumatic events in your life, the deep, meaningful things in your life, and possibly, quite possibly, even the deeper purpose of your life.
So, pay attention to when you’re crying. Those are important things. Let it out. Do it behind closed doors if you’re a beginner at this, if you’re not used to going there with the vulnerable emotions. Cry in your bathroom, cry in your bedroom alone. That’ll ensure that you’re not trying to blackmail anybody emotionally through the crying, but you’re just sitting with it and feeling it. It’s really important that you’ll be able to do that.
And if you haven’t cried in a very long time, get in touch with me, join our groups, join Invincible, join Awakenings. You need to become more emotionally intelligent and more self-aware around your own emotional life, to find out what’s going on in there in the unconscious mind. It’s pretty well-known that as far as our brain functioning goes, the prefrontal cortex and what we’re actually – and then actually, more importantly, what we’re able to access consciously is less than 5% of what’s actually happening in the brain.
So, you largely are driven by the unconscious. This is like Nobel Prize winning behavioral economics that’s been happening over the past 30 to 40 years. Learn from the Nobel Prize winning science and try to understand yourself better: what’s going on in your unconscious, the crying, the vulnerability emotions are a really important clue, and key, and pathway to self-awareness and self-understanding. That’s the beginning of happiness, fulfillment, and being able to be a great dad, leading others into great relationships, and happiness and positivity, and just being more self-aware around that.
On that note, I’m going to hit a meditation, actually, as the sun is setting, and getting ready for the evening work that I’ve got to do. I have a lot of things left to do. I’m going to be working until midnight tonight as I did last night. And signing off, David Tian. Join the private Man Up Facebook group. You can ask your questions, interact with us in that group. We approve requests every day. There’s also a whole suite of free video courses there, and I’ll see you inside that group.
Until then, feel free to cry, let it out. Until then, Man Up!