Alexithymia is a condition where one has difficulty identifying feelings and difficulty describing feelings. Someone with Alexithymia has trouble with thinking and regulating their emotions. This disorder appears to be partly responsible for disease and mental health issues.
John Omaha, the inventor of Affect Management Skills Training, cites research that men lack emotional sensitivity. Research indicates that emotional numbness is a one way someone responds to stressful challenges in life. Men are more emotionally numb that women. I realize that this is not a surprise to much of the world. Men, women, and children are often reminded of how men lack emotional sensitivity. Women are often better at bonding than men which is related to emotional sensitivity.
Many men have one person that they share their insecurities, fears, shame, sadness, or tragedies – their wife or girlfriend. Many men do not even share intimately with anyone. It can be a lonely world to hide our feelings and thoughts from everyone. I must add that some women do not share their insecurities, fears, shame, anger, or tragedies with anyone as well.
Women seem more playful than men. Watch children. The girls and boys are singing. The girls will be swaying and grooving with the music. The boys will be stiff as boards. It may be the due to incomplete separation from their mother. Robert Bly writes: “When a girl is two or three, she can look up at her mother and say ‘That is what I am going to be’. A boy the same age can look up at his mother and say, ‘That is not what I am going to be’. Separating from the mother is difficult for both genders; some children have good luck with it, some less good luck”. When we separate from our mothers, other boys often shame us calling us sissy or mama’s boy. This results in a wound that stays with us for a long time. Some boys are able to resolve this wound and gain more separation from their mother psychologically.
If as men, we are unable to resolve our wound separating from our mother as a young boy, then will tend to be stiff. We may become a lawyer, an engineer, or scientist. We can become obsessed with distance. He may have a tendency as an adult to treat people as if they were things, and to treat things as if they were people.
Although social support is a key factor in our psychological and physical health, many of us live lives of isolation, loneliness, and despair. We may live in bedroom communities in our neighborhoods, driving home late in our smart cars to our big screen televisions, computers, or smart phones. Some of us are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of children or work that we scarcely feel as if we have a free moment. We had friends once, but no longer find time.
Our experiences of our bodies may be numbness and pain. We may experience moments of relief when eating or drinking alcohol or having sex or playing a video game or working on the computer. Robert Johnson wrote: “We have an insatiable need of entertainment – we moderns watch TV and other screens more than seven hours a day – and for anything that might assuage our longing, especially late at night”.
Many of us remain strangers to our body sensations. Waking up to our emotions, body shifts, vital energy, erotic urges, and even aggressive impulses can be disturbing. We have become strangers to our own pleasure. We have sacrificed our joy for the seductive distractions of the commercial replacements in modern life.
From our morning caffeine, to our mid-morning sugar, to our afternoon Red Bull, and then to the big dinner and perhaps a few drinks. We may find temporary relief in our submission to much artificial assistants to climb up the daunting hill of our day, only to rest and do it all again tomorrow.
Vacations are a rarity. If someone takes time off, they must check their email and return phone calls from work matters. They may get up at 3:00 am for meetings with colleagues from around the globe. We become a source of output for the corporate profit machine. What is our reward? Where do we find relief or sanctuary if our own body no longer recognizes pleasure but only a relief from pain into temporary numbness?
Please watch this video by Nils Peterson on poetry and the body: