When Revealing Men guest, Ken Porter, was in his 40s, a therapist referred to him as being “sensitive.” His first response was “no, I’m not!” His second: “Oh, I am, aren’t I?” Porter tells Randy Flood, host of Revealing Men, psychotherapist, and Director of the Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan that it was a lightbulb moment. “It really made sense. I felt seen that way for the first time. It was powerful.” Porter and Flood have worked together for nearly two decades. Porter is a Somatic-certified, Hakomi therapist and often co-facilitates men’s support groups with Flood. Hakomi is a cutting-edge approach to healing that is distinctly different from, but complementary to, a traditional analytical approach. It uses present-moment awareness of the body as the primary gateway to deeper self-discovery. Porter credits his Hakomi training for helping him reclaim his heart and his sensitivity. It’s what makes him passionate about his work. In the book, Mascupathy, Flood talks about what it was like to be “born with this ability to feel things strongly” and the effect it had on his growing up. Both men believe strongly that males are born with the potential to be sensitive and tough. That one doesn’t have to preclude the other. By highlighting the challenges and gifts of growing up as a sensitive male, Flood and Porter work to remediate the damaging long-term effects that emotional suppression and misdirection can have on their clients, and males in general.
How Not to Cry
One of the things Porter talks about is not crying when he was younger. “It would have been rare and private. Internalized that as a sign of weakness or femininity. I was so immersed in misogynistic culture seemed like a bad thing to be in touch with anything feminine inside yourself.” Flood asks Porter, “how do you teach your body not to cry?” Porter says, “in order to stop crying you have to rigidify all those softer signals that would tell somebody you’re approachable.” Tense up. Hold your breath. Make your body rigid. Your eyes. Jaw. Gaze. Face. If someone tamps down their emotions long enough, chronic mental and physical health issues can arise. As Porter says, “Chronically holding your breath; chronically holding tension throughout your body … [there’s a] whole cascade of physical ailments waiting downstream.” Many inherently sensitive males carry a legacy of shame just for being who they are. They’ve grown up with feelings of insecurity and anxiety for not being “man enough.” Flood and Porter work to help these clients reclaim their emotions – including the ability to cry. Flood says, “If they’re talking about something that’s really sad or some type of grief or loss, then that’s the engineering. We’re engineered with these emotions. Socialization teaches you to reengineer backward against your humanity. We’re doing reclamation.” It’s all a part of the healing process.
Being Sensitive Doesn’t Exclude Being Tough
Despite the false binary created by society, men are not obligated to fit into one single mold. Being a sensitive male doesn’t mean you cry at the drop of a hat or are not up to a physical challenge. You can certainly stay open to your sensitivity and still be stoic where needed. Flood points out how this is exemplified during sports: “In March Madness we see a lot of tears. Tragic losses. Final seasons. Baskets at the buzzer. We’ll see athletic machines that are playing at such a high level, cry. And hug each other and be sensitive to each other. No one questions their masculinity.” And, while sports figures are given more leniency, Flood notes that his son’s contemporaries are open to being sensitive and expressing their emotions. Times are changing. Porter sees it this way, “Emotion is the juice of life. It’s what motivates us. What gives us clarity. And what gives us insight, and what gives us connection with our fellow humans. Life without access to a full range of emotions is cold, deathlike. Along with that access to emotion comes intuition, greater discernment, greater compassion. Comes greater self-awareness. It makes life so much more rich.”
Harness the Gifts that Come With Growing Up a Sensitive Male
This podcast talks about how being aware of our deeper emotions and having the ability to harness and express them can be of great benefit physically and emotionally. In the work they do with their clients, Flood and Porter show that it’s never too late to find a healthier balance between body, mind, and emotions. And to be open to all the colors life has to offer. Contact the Men’s Resource Center online or call us at (616) 456-1178 to learn more about our men’s psychotherapy groups and Hakomi therapy. Also, feel free to reach out if you have questions about this segment, ideas for a topic, or would like to be a guest on the Revealing Men podcast.
More Ken Porter Revealing Men podcasts: