Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The King's...Pain

I recently watched The King's Speech. Spoiler Alert!! If you haven't seen it, get crackin"! It's wonderful!

He stammered. Clearly this is a problem for any person but for a King, it's a big fat no-no!

As the film progresses we learn there is a root cause for his stammer. It dates back to his early years and him feeling alone, unloved and isolated. These deep seeded emotions manifested physically.

In my next book to be released this month, Ain't No Sunshine - Men Reveal The Pain Of Heartbreak, we hear from thirty-eight men. The protection of anonymity allowed for them to be candid and really express what they felt they couldn't with their friends, especially their male friends.

The stories run the gamut. One man was dumped because his fiance got fake boobs and felt the grass was greener. A married man fell in love with another man and was conflicted as he doesn't see himself as gay. The common thread that emerged was that all of these men felt their pain deeply but chose to to suffer in silence, sometimes for decades. Some men admitted to not having sex for years after falling victim to a broken heart. Even though this is a very small sample, there is no question that millions of men feel and react in a similar fashion to the stories we collected.

A recent discovery that repeated head injuries suffered by National League Football players are having dire effects. The recent death of former NFL lineman Shane Dronett is the latest in a string of postmortem findings that players, particularly lineman, have suffered irreversible brain damage most likely caused by concussions sustained on the playing field. The NFL is in the process of changing rules regarding going back into play after getting hit hard enough to feel symptoms of concussion. But there are players who are against the new rules and subscribe to that old “suck it up” mode of working through the pain. Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, in an interview with CNN stated that nobody came right out and said that the players had to play whether they were 100% or not but there was always the fear that the other guys were looking at you and thinking you weren’t being “tough” enough. That, we think, is a microcosm of society’s (at least American society’s) attitude where men are concerned. They are to be strong at all costs, whether it’s physical or emotional pain.

Which brings us to the emotional side of things. An April 2011 Time article titled Love Hurts by Alice Park presents some startling data. Her sources are impressive: PNAS, FDA, Society for Health Care Epidemiology meeting and Environmental Health Perspectives. Working with forty individuals who had recently suffered romantic rejection, researchers found that pain experienced from heartbreak ignites the same sensory pathways in the brain that are engaged when an individual experiences physical pain.

This poses an interesting question. If emotional pain is suppressed rather than expressed, can long-term physical health be negatively affected? If someone suffers a heart attack and doesn’t receive treatment, the problem is only worsened and takes its toll on the body. When a man is physically injured, he seeks medical attention. There is no shame in that. Yet, there is a sense of shame when admitting emotional vulnerability. We ask: Is it possible that not expressing or working through the pain of heartbreak actually causes physical damage to the body? Studies have proven that stress causes physical ailments. Heartbreak is a form of stress.

It would be nice to think that we can make this observation, pose this question and VOILA! Knowledge is power! Men will now get on the phone with their best buddies and cry and analyze and express the pent-up emotions they have held down for so long. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But perhaps, with these findings and some time, men will come to realize the importance of sharing their feelings. It isn’t weakness. It’s important for mental as well as physical health. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

In order for the King to be cured, he needed to acknowledge and work through his pain. To face his fears head on. His male speech therapist and more importantly, his friend was there to help and no one thought they were weak or gay. These two words (weak and gay) came up many times as men described how they thought they would appear if they showed anyone their pain.

Something to think about......

No comments:

Post a Comment