‘The work’ is a hard hitting documentary about the inside world of a male therapy group based within a prison in the USA. Watching ‘The work’ gives an insight into the vulnerable parts of men that few will have witnessed before. The film records a therapeutic intensive weekend in which male members of the public are invited into the prison to join the prisoners to do some therapeutic work. During the intensive, the visitors are invited to express their vulnerability through different exercises, group work and individual reflection.
On one group exercise one of the men begins to cry with his head bowed trying hard to suck the tears down and stifle the sound while covering his face. One of the facilitators encouraged him to cry like a man. He invited the crying man to lift his head up, breathe out and allow those tears to flow. The message is clear, men cry, stop hiding your tears and let them flow with pride.
The message is clear, men cry, stop hiding your tears and let them flow with pride.
I have been in men’s group for 15 years. Men cry, some men cry more than others. I have been relearning how to cry but it has often been a slow and often dry process. Many men have been constricted and restricted through the old message ‘big boys don’t cry’. This message has dried up men’s tears and they now associate crying with the little weak boy. So when men feel the urge to cry they have learnt to stifle it, do it in private or cry dry tears by channeling them through other emotions such as anger.
Often tears move men into shame and the small boy. They can be consumed by embarrassment and the fear of being judged. When I heard the phrase from ‘The Work’ ‘Cry like a man’ it resonated deeply within me.
Crying is human, crying is normal, crying is healthy, crying is a natural expression of feelings. Boys and girls cry, men and women cry. Humans cry!
Finally, I cried. It was a mixture of shock, sadness, loss and huge disappointment. I had spent six months imagining, crafting and building an art installation more commonly known as a wood store and a pizza oven. The final few days before the planned pizza party, I had worked hard to finish the project and had been able to realize my dream, just how I had imagined it. The pizza party was fantastic, the pizza’s were gorgeous and the feeling of achievement was wonderful. Late that evening after enjoying a camp fire we finally went to bed.
At 4.30am I was woken from my sleep from a loud crackling sound coming from the garden. I peered out of our bedroom window and my heart sank. I rushed downstairs in shock and fear and having ran into the back garden my worst fears were realised, the whole thing was on fire. In a moment all my craft work had gone up in smoke, the firewood I had collected, sawn, chopped and stored was turned into charcoal. All that was left were the external and internal remnants of ash, sweat, dreams and joy.
After the shock I cried. The tears surged and flowed through me. I was unable to prevent the emotion heaving up from my gut and flowing out through my body. I cried in the arms of my male friends, my wife, my family, my son and in front of strangers. I cried openly with adults and felt like a man. I did not hide my sadness and to be fair could not hide my sadness and the joyous thing was, I felt no shame about this, it was wonderful, liberating and it felt like a gift.
The tears were a gift. They were wonderful and painful in equal measure. I felt alive, I felt seen, I felt held, I felt connected and I ultimately felt human.
Men, allow the tears to come, allow your sadness to flow, enjoy that moist sensation watering your cheeks. CRY LIKE A MAN!