Emotional Fitness for Men

“Emotional fitness is your best armor against all of life’s challenges!”

“Hey Dad, it’s Christian. How are you? Dad? Are you there?” Silence. Then mumbles – three sentences of random words with no meaning.

My dad’s 8500 miles away in my native Denmark. I live with my family in California, so I don’t get to see him very often.

And since Parkinson’s and Dementia started eating his mind, I can no longer talk to my dad. This morning, as I tried to talk to him on the phone, I realized I’ve had my last conversation with my dad, and there won’t be another one.

I feel deep sadness. I feel shame that I’m not there to help my mom, like my other siblings. And I feel powerless to change the situation.

There is a silver lining, though. Today, I know how to feel all these feelings. I know what to do with them.

If this had happened 15 years ago, I would have had zero ability to deal productively with how I felt. My “emotional fitness” was non-existent back then.

I used to do what most men still do in the face of difficult, emotionally challenging situations: Shut it down. Tell myself to “stop being a wuss”, and to “be a man”, because “there’s nothing you can do anyway”. Then roll up my sleeves and get back to work.

I literally didn’t know what to do with any of my emotions. I had so much anger and rage inside because my life wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to. That nasty voice in the back of my head would tell me I was a fuckup and a nobody, making me even angrier.

I pushed it all down. When I got drunk, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and I’d rage at innocent friends or do stupid shit I’d regret the day after.

Now, in my life as a coach, and someone who devotes a lot of time for volunteer men’s work, I see this in almost every man I talk to.

Here are some of the most common ways lack of emotional fitness shows up for men:

  • Intimate relationships. Maybe your wife or partner picks at you, or won’t have sex with you. It hurts, you feel the anger building, but you don’t say anything. Or you stew on it and it comes out sideways. Effectively, you don’t express what’s going on inside you. You don’t speak your truth. And your relationship is stressed.
  • Work. Say, your boss gives you a hard time for something that wasn’t your fault. You feel a mix of fear and anger but what do you do? Can’t yell at the boss, right?
  • Family relationships. Perhaps like me, your folks are getting older, or maybe you have lost them already. Your heart is bleeding and there’s a lot of emotion cooking in you. But you heroically put your game face on and pretend everything’s fine.
  • Health and stress. You feel mounting stress every day. You know it’s not good for your health and wellbeing, but you don’t know what to do about it.
  • Addictions and addictive behavior. You use tobacco, alcohol, porn, gambling, food, excessive phone or computer gaming, and browsing, TV/Netflix binging, etc.

Can you relate to any of these?

Let’s take addictions and addictive behavior as a potent example of what happens when we don’t have strong emotional fitness.

What is addiction? It’s a conditioned, habitual, unconscious response to … FEELING BAD!

Think about it. When do you reach for the next cigarette, drink, porn video, or computer game? When an intensely unpleasant feeling creeps up on you, typically anxiety or fear, you quickly drown it out with your addiction of choice, so you won’t have to feel the bad feeling. 

On a personal note about addictions, I started smoking and drinking when I was 12. I didn’t manage to quit until I was 30, but when I finally did, it was super easy. Why? I realized that every time I lit another cigarette, it was to sedate the anxiety I carried around with me. When I figured out that I could deal with my anxiety in a different way, I quit on the spot, from one day to the next. I haven’t wanted a cigarette or a drink since! Emotional fitness literally saved my life!

Let’s take another example that I see over and over again. Men’s relationships with women.

Based on ten years experience coaching and working with men, I can tell you the #1 reason men’s relationships fall apart:

Low or absent emotional fitness.

Why do couples argue? Because they don’t know how to deal productively when they get angry, sad, scared, or hurt. Why do they split up or divorce? Because they feel bad and don’t know what to do about it.

Why do millions of women around the world complain about their men being absent, insensitive, or angry all the time? Because these women don’t have a clear sense of how their men actually feel. They just watch us turn to stone while we say, “I’m fine!”

When you feel bad, it works like this: You encounter a situation. You make a conclusion about what it means, often a negative conclusion. This conclusion creates a bad feeling. From the bad feeling, you take an action. When you repeat this cycle many times, it becomes an unconscious habit.

As a formula, it looks like this:

Situation => Conclusion => Feeling => Action

What’s great about your emotions is that they’re simply useful information. They’re data points that allow you to change course when you’re headed for an iceberg. Your emotions tell you what you’ve been thinking or concluding about any given situation. Working the formula above, whenever you feel angry, fearful, or shameful, you can know you made a conclusion about a certain situation that’s making you feel this way.

And once you realize that your bad feeling is preceded by your conclusion, you can change your conclusion to produce a different action. That is the difference between a man who unconsciously re-acts in a kneejerk fashion every time he feels angry or ashamed, and one who consciously deals with his feelings and deliberately chooses an appropriate action.

A man who feels and acts consciously is more powerful, reliable, and worthy of respect than one who re-acts unconsciously. A man who doesn’t know his own emotional landscape and hence re-acts unconsciously to random situations, is a man who scares his partner, disconnects from his family, and lacks deep intimacy.

So how do you start practicing emotional fitness? With these three steps.

  1. Whenever you feel something strongly, and you’re about to take an action you might not really want to take (like lighting a cig, yelling at your partner, kicking the cat), pause for a second and tell yourself, “I’m feeling really ___ right now”.
  2. Then actually feel that feeling. Just stand there for a second and notice the sensations in your body. Like getting familiar with a new machine at the gym. Feel it out.
  3. Consciously choose what to do about it, if anything. Often, just by feeling the feeling for ten seconds, it will pass right through, and you won’t even want the cigarette or need to kick the cat. You’ll just take a breath, and move on in a good way.

It’s a simple workout that will build your strength tremendously over time.

Tony Robbins hit the nail on the head: “Emotional fitness is your best armor against all of life’s challenges. If you’re emotionally fit, there’s nothing that can throw you off course because you’ve cultivated the inner-strength to block difficulties from infiltrating your mission and affecting your purpose.” *

 

Developing emotional fitness is mandatory for any man who takes himself seriously. The only question is when you start.

How about now?

* http://www.tonyrobbinsfirewalk.com/emotional-fitness/

Men, if you want to learn more about Emotional Fitness, we’re partnering with Dr. Robert Glover, author of the best-selling book ‘No More Mr.  Nice Guy’, to put on a mens-only workshop on September 23rd, 2017. Click here for more information & tickets.

About Christian Pedersen:

Christian Pedersen is a relationship specialist, Certified Life Coach, and founder of Power and Heart Coaching for men. He’s author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, When You Love Your Woman.

Together with his wife, Sonika, he’s the co-founder of LoveWorks at LoveWorksforYou.com. Christian and Sonika produce and lead mind-altering live trainings like Give Yourself to Love and The Masculine-Feminine Energy Dance. They offer potent inspiration and better relationship strategies to men and women, singles and couples, on love, relationship, communication, intimacy, sex, dating, and personal transformation.

Christian particularly enjoys coaching men on how to embody both the masculine power and heart with their women and how to get everything they ever dreamed of with her. Find Christian’s men’s coaching at www.powerandheartcoaching.com, and his and Sonika’s relationship work at www.loveworksforyou.com.

 

2 Comments

  • Neil Jarman says:

    Christian, thank you for this. I needed a reminder of how things go down in my brain, this was it.

    • Zander Robertson says:

      Thank you, Neil. We are big fans of Christian’s writing and message. Have you heard him on the podcast yet? And have you read his article about self-confidence for men on our site?

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