Tough Guys Also Cry
Life is beautiful, but living is not always easy and it is a constant learning process.
Throughout my whole life, I have found myself in many situations where I thought that nothing worse could ever happen to me; and then the very next day there was something again that threw me to the floor. It is as if life was like an ocean with constant waves that had me completely at their mercy, presenting me with different situations where I felt completely out of control. Eventually, I realized that I felt this way more often than I wanted to and I started asking myself if life really was against me or if I just didn't know how to handle the situations that life threw my way.
Such a feeling, such an uneasiness that I felt, was much more than just wondering why bad things happen sometimes, it went farther than that. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do about changing the circumstances of my life or if I just had to surrender myself to this vast amount of "uncontrollable" situations that surrounded me, which would have resulted in me becoming a frustrated unhappy man.
SO, WHAT IS THIS THING RESILIENCE?
Looking for an answer, I realized that some people seemed to have a more developed and keen sense to survive difficult situations. It was strange, but it seemed that when bad things happened to them, they endured the difficult situation and, in the blink of an eye, they were back again on their feet as if it was no big deal. Later, I found out that this special ability is called "resilience". To me it seemed like a very odd term. Resilience is defined as "the ability of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks."
At first, when I learned this, I felt like I didn't have this "special ability", and that these amazing beings were much luckier than me since they were capable of enduring big problems as if it was easy. It reminded me of that annoying classmate in school that without studying at all, had better grades than me, even if I studied for days and nights, had a tutor and even went to extra classes; he was just better at school than me.
Noticing this, I wondered what was this kind of super power of which I had been deprived of, and how were these people capable of not getting themselves stuck in their problems and just go on living their lives. It deeply interested me. I started the bittersweet quest to find out how could I be “immune” to life's impacts, like this unsung heroes. However, I was terrified to conclude that this was an inherited trait, a trait acquired by birth and not by practice. I was afraid to think that I had found the sweetest fruit on earth, but I would not be able to taste it.
Not knowing where to start my pursuit, I began by asking this "heroes", these resilient people, what was their secret. I realized that for much of them... they didn't seem to know why they were like that, it had become so natural for them to overcome obstacles, and not dwell in the negative situations they had to overcome, that they didn't recognize they were exceptional in any way. I mean, they saw a problem and recognized its difficulty, but they went through it so quickly and smoothly that they couldn’t even remember the process they followed in order to confront what could be confronted, resolve what could be resolved and let go of the rest, in order for them to be OK again. Needless to say, it was frustrating, very frustrating.
Days passed, even months and years, and I started to lose hope, my investigation was stuck and no new clues could be found. I started to validate more and more this horrible theory that resilience was an ability acquired by birth.
Finally, after some time, I had a breakthrough that changed everything. I discovered a word that I had heard before many times, but had never really understood. The word was vulnerability and, as a man, it didn’t belong in my vocabulary, at least that was what I thought at the moment. I didn’t really associate the concept of manhood with vulnerability, nor did I feel comfortable with using that word to describe anything else.
The first time I came to appreciate vulnerability in another light was when I heard Brené Brown’s TED talk called "The Power of Vulnerability".
THE MEANING OF VULNERABILITY
After I watched this amazing video, I started my own research and I tried to learn more in order to fully understand the concept. In a nutshell, vulnerability, from a psychological standpoint, means a person’s ability to put himself or herself in contact with his or her feelings, really analyze what is going on in his or her mind, and absorb them to their fullest potential. In a way, it means, letting yourself feel what your inner-self wants to feel and not putting up a barrier to block those feelings, rather take them in and process them.
Understanding more about vulnerability and the power that it provides to the people that know how to manage their feelings, made me realize that as a human being, and as a man, being more aware and open to my feelings, more accepting when they grew within me, gave me the ability to be in the middle of a hard situation, understand how I felt, deal with it, and bounce back much faster, ready to go on and fight another day. It gave me flexibility. It gave me control over my own being.
I began to understand that hard situations where not going to stop presenting themselves, that they are part of life, like water and air are parts of our planet. Earth wouldn't be Earth without them. The same principle applies to hardship in our lives. However, I also understood that, in a way, I did have control over how I managed my feelings derived from hard situations. Either I could try to ignore the bad, uncomfortable feelings and hide everything under the carpet, so to speak, and act as if nothing happened; or I could confront the situations, allow myself feel, process and digest my feelings and live a more authentic life.
The result? Well of course, it was not easy to always have the mindset to do so, particularly when I was so used to just ignoring my feelings; but after some practice I realized that when I, as a human being with emotions that are part of my nature, tried to block my “negative feelings” such as anger or sadness, I ended up not only carrying a huge weight on my back, but also, and this is the saddest part, I was not really living my life to its fullest. I risked becoming a zombie, forced to walk around with a happy face, while hiding my true feelings inside my heart, compelled to wear a mask and pretend everything was alright.
I truly believe that our true strength comes from our inner self; this small capsule of freedom that we have that allows us to decide whether a situation will destroy us or if we will use it to make us stronger. If our inner self is in ruins, if we are not in touch with our feelings and we don’t allow ourselves to really accept that there are problems to be confronted, we lose this ability to decide and make to ourselves an "existential triple" that definitely leads us to failure.
Being in touch with our feelings makes us more human, it gives us the ability to transform our situations and find in a bad time a new opportunity; but in order to recognize any opportunity, we have to let ourselves FEEL, so we can be able to put our feelings in order, and then, emotionally light weighted, be capable of analyzing any situation, resolving it if possible and moving on with our lives.
So are the resilient “heroes” more in touch with their inner vulnerability? Is vulnerability the key to resilience? I am sure, from my own personal experience, that in the rough times resilient people let themselves get in touch with their feelings, they deal with them and let life happen around them. Only after enduring the “punch” of embracing their feelings, can they be lightweighted and centered enough to decide to change their attitude and go forward, despite any hardship.
The good news is that I taught myself to be vulnerable and so, my tenebrous conclusion that this was only a "special ability" acquired by birth was proved wrong. It is a matter of CHOICE, it is just that we don't always know what to do or decide in order to live better lives. However, it hasn't been an easy journey. If this "heroes" could have taught me how they were in touch with their feelings, it would have been much easier! However, I understood that for them, embracing their vulnerability has become such a normal process, that they weren’t really aware of how they dealt with their feelings. As I said, if they had, I could have understood much faster! But this is how life is and if we take problems out it is not life anymore.
Be in touch with your feelings, embrace them and let yourself feel and live a real life while you can. In the end I am happy to have discovered that this old saying about "men don't cry" is not right. Hell, I do that now and it definitely makes me STRONGER!