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Men Are Waiting to Share Some Feelings (2018) (nytimes.com)
213 points by ignored 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 378 comments

I participated in men's work, not specifically the ManKind Project but a closely related organization. I personally found it helpful doing weekly check-ins and having people holding me accountable to my goals.

Unfortunately, the stigma regarding men sharing feelings is prevalent in western society, and it's not only the men causing it. When I told several female friends about the work they did, their response was: "Are they gay?"

Our society will always value men who are confident, this is so much deeper to me than being scared to share your feelings because “it’s gay”. Women are attracted to confidence, employers reward confidence, hiring managers are impressed by confidence. Vulnerability and weakness are just not rewarded for men or women, but especially for men.

Confidence and vulnerability aren't opposites. The confidence that comes from going through vulnerability and coming out stronger is worth more than the facade style of confidence, which covers unprocessed weakness.

Confidence and overt vulnerability are opposites.

No one is going to be impressed if you burst into tears during a code review. They're going to be a lot more impressed if you bullshit your way through with positivity and can-do.

This is irrespective of the quality of the code.

This culture rewards overt displays of competitive individualism and punishes weakness irrespective of actual productivity, value, or objective performance.

Generally, being confident gets you breaks, even if you're astonishingly incompetent or just plain manipulative and dishonest.

Sometimes there's pushback from the surrounding culture before something goes horribly wrong - but just as often there isn't.

They're not! Confidence and unregulated overt vulnerability are conflicting (but not precisely opposite).

By acknowledging the possibility that you may have done something wrong, you make yourself vulnerable to judgment, and by doing so confidently you gain respect. Facing judgment is a sign of confidence and it requires making yourself vulnerable.

In a more subtle example, showing signs of vulnerability in personal relations is a way of letting others know you, and that takes courage. There'd be no point to having social interactions if you were invulnerable, any interaction would literally be inconsequential for you and thus unmotivated.

You "dress up" the vulnerability with a higher level strength (e.g. the capacity to listen to and analyze your own shortcomings), and then it's all good.

There's a difference between being vulnerable, and putting yourself in a situation that will hurt you. It's fine to show yourself vulnerable if you can do so in a way that incentives good behavior from your peers.

>> Generally, being confident gets you breaks, even if you're astonishingly incompetent or just plain manipulative and dishonest.

It gets you breaks until you reach the line which people don't want you to cross (which you will eventually cross due to your ever-inflating ego). At which point everyone you know will silently isolate you and you'll not even be able to realise what happened in time (again, due to your overly-inflated ego).

I had seen that happen. People who are full of shit always have a glass ceiling, since they are even more useless than people who are willing to directly do bad to other people (at least those are more-or-less clear in terms of the direction they take).

That glass ceiling limit seems to be at the CEO level, in the case of Elizabeth Holmes and other various "confident phonies" that get posted here on HN every few weeks. So, there doesn't seem to be a practical limit to how far overconfidence can get you in your career.

>> That glass ceiling limit seems to be at the CEO level, in the case of Elizabeth Holmes and other various "confident phonies" that get posted here on HN every few weeks.

Are you joking? Yes - she was the CEO, but she's also facing up 20 in prison after being that CEO [1].

It's not just about getting to the top. It's about whether you'll remain there and whether the history will try to forget you as soon as it can.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Holmes

> Are you joking?

Can you please edit swipey bits out of your posts to HN? Your comment would be fine without that.


I think it is worth digging into the meanings of "vulnerability" and "confidence" here.

I think "confidence" is rooted in the belief that "whatever happens, I'll be able to handle it. I'll be okay." Showing confidence is externally-emoting as if you believe that to be the case.

Vulnerability...I'm less sure of. I think it is the ability to be wounded. By being vulnerable, you reveal information which someone else could use to ridicule you. Patrick Lencioni's work on organizational health refers to vulnerability as a key piece of building trust[1]. How does it work? By showing that you expect that people hold a social norm against ridiculing people for the thing you reveal. That you are willing to pay a cost for that social norm. I think when people use the word "vulnerability", they mean sticking your neck out for a social expectation of compassionate collaboration -- norm-building vulnerability.

And that sort of vulnerability is compatible with confidence. If they do ridicule you, then you've learned what sort of person they are and you have the power to respond accordingly.

But I think its easy to confuse norm-building vulnerability with another vulnerability: insecurity-revealing vulnerability. This is where you present something that could genuinely hurt your sense of belonging -- Information which you think others could present as evidence that you should be ostracized from a group. For example, a man in a homophobic environment who reveals that he is bisexual. How should a man express these sorts of insecurities? By default, he shouldn't. He should hide them until he can find a supportive community. Unless he's with someone he already trusts or a mens' meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Don't express insecurity-revealing vulnerability.

[1] https://www.tablegroup.com/newsroom/news/vulnerability-endea... is an example, but he talks about the concept in The Advantage and his novels.

Even though your example with bisexuality is a little off, i think your distinction between showing a vulnerability versus expressing insecurity is good

I would appreciate reading your understanding of where I'm missing the mark.

I want to push back on your assertion that vulnerability is inherently equivalent to weakness. Our society currently says it is, but I could equally imagine a future in which being vulnerable and honest about your feelings is seen as a feat of strength and courage -- because it DOES take a lot of courage, and even confidence, to be open and honest about your feelings.

Sure, it demonstrates a kind of strength and confidence to be open about your weakness. But that's literally what a vulnerability is: a weakness.

Developing mental health issues and unstable personal relationships because you're unable to access and share your emotions is also a weakness that derives from the emotional suppression that men are taught is a desired masculine trait.

It doesn't have to be like this. Vulnerability doesn't have to be a weakness, showing your emotions can be a masculine trait. We're not defined by, nor locked into, our traditional cultural values and norms.

Vulnerability is a weakness. It's what the word means. I'm fine with people being more open with their emotions, fine, but I'm not a huge fan of the idea of socially mandating that weakness itself is strength, which is just a lie (would you wish that someone you loved were more vulnerable than they are?)

It's different to having a norm for admission of weakness being a marker of strength due to the courage required in the act, similar to how it takes strength for an addict to admit they have a problem and go get help. You want to normalise talking to someone about your problems with a view to improving the situation. You don't necessarily want to recast addiction (a weakness that you wouldn't wish upon someone you love) as strength, as a roundabout measure to get people to talk about it more. That just seems liable to backfire.

But it's not even what the words means.

Merriam-Webster: > capable of being physically or emotionally wounded

That can certainly be interpreted as a weakness. And it certainly is for things like vehicles, buildings, etc. But in the case of humans, vulnerability only means "weakness" when said human is perceived as an object, a means to an end, perhaps in a business transaction. The fact is that humans are in their most fundamental sense defined by the capacity to be physical and emotionally wounded. Therefore the term, being vulnerable, when used to describe a human attitude rather describes that person's expressed transparency to their innate humanness. As per this thread, more often men deny their vulnerability as if they cannot be emotionally wounded, which leads to a denial of their selves as a whole. Having the capacity to be emotionally wounded says absolutely nothing about somebody's emotional strengths and weaknesses, because we can all be equally wounded. Being vulnerable however potentially indicates a person's willingness to be transparent about their inner experience, namely their emotions, which can be anything from being overwhelmed to rage.

Semantically, you're absolutely correct. I think it's just important to clarify that "vulnerability" in this context refers more to "emotional transparency". I think someone who is confident in themself and has a respectable amount of emotional intelligence could navigate a position where they are emotionally honest (i.e. "vulnerable") with others without necesarily exposing weaknesses that compromise them from the professional point of view.

While I originally saw this discussion chain as you playing devil's advocate, I realize now you've done a good job helping reframe the scenario in a much better light. For most people (including myself), we don't separate emotional honesty from vulnerability because emotionally we _are_ vulnerable. Working towards a sense of self that is comfortable with emotional reviews that are as intense as a code reviews is something worth striving for.

Being vulnerable doesn't mean that you go around being a weeping mess all the time, it means admitting to yourself and to others that you're susceptible to negative emotions and to suffering. It's part of the human condition. If someone I loved went around suppressing their own emotions I would absolutely wish that they were more vulnerable than they are, because vulnerability in this case means that they accept their own emotions whatever they may be and that they can now deal with them in a healthy fashion instead of suppressing them.

Me saying that being vulnerable is a good thing is not the same thing as saying that addiction is a good thing. Addiction is what happens when we as a society can't talk about feeling vulnerable! That's the entire problem in a nutshell. The problem doesn't start with addiction, addiction is the self-medication people apply because they can't be vulnerable enough to talk about what's really hurting them inside.

When a person feels sad they should feel free to express this emotion (i.e. be vulnerable) instead of having to suppress it to live up to society's ideals about emotional expression.

Part of the issue though is that expressing those emotions seems to undermine your personal power in other people's view of you. To them you may have become ineffective and potentially ripe for replacement whether that is in a job, relationship, or friendship.

Somehow you have to both express your emotions and that you are still highly effective. That you can't be exploited, a potential pushover, or a loose cannon for your emotional expression.

You're still thinking about this from a present day perspective.

Yes, as it stands now what you say is true. Men derive personal power from stoicism and emotional suppression, our primary value is in how effective we are at shutting down non-essential aspects of ourselves and giving ourselves over entirely to whatever endeavor (usually work). We're also taught that we're entirely replaceable: if you can't put up the numbers, we'll swap you for someone who can.

That is reinforced by our suppression of emotion, as that reduces us completely to whatever output society can get from us. If all you are is a highly efficient machine producing value, swapping you out requires no thought or emotion whatsoever. If you're a complete person with feelings and relationships with your fellow humans, you're no longer replacing Carl - The Production Machine, you're replacing Carl - our co-worker/friend/partner that you've an emotional history with.

But what if we imagine a healthier tomorrow? A world where men can express all of their emotions. Where we're no longer reduced to our most basic aspects and valued from what we can produce, but instead seen as complete persons with a full range of emotions.

All over the world men outdistance women in the number of successful suicide attempts by a wide margin. Some say it's because men tend to choose direct and effective methods (guns, hanging, etc.) whereas women tend to choose slower and less effective methods (pills, etc.). But it's also because there is almost no mental health discourse among men. We're taught to suppress our emotions and to never, ever, show them for fear of being labeled weak and replaceable. When we get to low points in our lives our first instinct isn't to reach out to a friend, family, or professional mental health services. Our first instinct is to suppress and deal with it on our own because that's what we're taught our whole lives.

When we stumble and can't do it on our own, nobody has a clue what we're going through because we're so good at suppressing it and so we feel totally alone and helpless. Is it a surprise that so many of us choose to eat a bullet?

Emotional discourse needs to change. Mental health discourse needs to change. People are literally dying over this.

It would be great but it would only work if men as a group someone come to some better understanding. Men collectively are our own worst enemies because there is always another man willing to put aside those healthy attitudes and behaviours. Until healthy male emotional expression becomes attractive it will be rejected by men and women. Currently unless you have other very attractive features being emotionally vulnerable is mostly against your self interest.

This is exactly why it never will be attractive, though. Because emotional detachment and opacity is how you kill and survive on the battlefield.

I wouldn't say never, I think you see substantially different behavior being rewarded in "metrosexual" cities and less stereotypical displays in leaders of groups that are aware they are unable to violate UN comittee rules, etc, to try to steal from other groups.

In general I agree that it's wrong to say "always" or "never" in any context, and especially with something as complex as human social behavior. However if you'll allow me a bit of anecdote, I've found that places which are outwardly considered "metrosexual" (maybe not the best descriptor, but maybe close enough) kinds of cities or countries actually lend significantly more success to "traditional" male sexual signals than other places.

Willingness to be vulnerable is necessary in close relationships. Otherwise there can't be a (meaningful) relationship. But being vulnerable by default leaves one open to endless manipulation.

> But that's literally what a vulnerability is: a weakness.

There is a concerted effort at social engineering so powerful that now the very word meanings are challenged. Vulnerability is always, unequivocally a weakness. It's the very definition of the word.

Redefining vulnerability as strength is exactly 1984's Doublespeak.

Lao Zi called weakness strength thousands of years ago. Maybe there's a useful idea you haven't yet understood.

That's not the definition of the word. It means being wounded or capable of being wounded (Latin vulnus = wound):



Therefore all humans are vulnerable. Where strength vs. weakness enter into it is how one deals with one's vulnerability. That gets complex. Is denial strength or weakness? Maybe both.

I agree, it's a very strange use of the word, and I'm confused as to how it became so popular, but concerted by whom and to what end?

> I want to push back on your assertion that vulnerability is inherently equivalent to weakness.

They didn't assert that, though. They said that confidence is rewarded while vulnerability and weakness aren't. If anything, their description implies a distinction between vulnerability and weakness.

I took their statement to be primarily about perceptions. That anything people perceive as a lack confidence is penalised.

It does require courage and even confidence but not of the masculine type. When a female exposes herself she receives an abundance of emotional support so there isn't much courage needed, just a little bit. So is easier for a female to feel confident about doing it. But if people see that you are a strong guy, then is natural for them to expect to "man up" and support yourself instead of elaborating victimist narratives. People want you to be a strong guy. Females and males. They expect it so badly that they will test that you genuinely are with jokes or challenges that if you are not psychologically strong, those can be felt like downplaying you. It feels that way because they are testing how strong your foundation is. And whatever you make of this, nothing changes the fact that weakness is profoundly unattractive and stregth is very attractive.

No question those biases exist, but it's mistaken to think that vulnerability requires confidence "not of the masculine type". There are different ways to be vulnerable. Some have to do with being willing to take risks.

Say you're in a group situation and it is affecting you in some way that's not ok—not merely annoying, but touching something of deep importance in your experience. If you bring that information into the group and state what you're experiencing, you make yourself vulnerable. That takes confidence and strength. Then it takes strength to face the effects of that action, whether in the group or from an authority. And another strength too: by speaking of what you're personally experiencing, rather than accusing others of doing something wrong in the abstract, you preempt many conflicts that would otherwise arise. That is self-responsible.

To be vulnerable in that way is very much to "support yourself instead of elaborating victimist narratives". The victim reaction would be to say nothing, feel bad, and carry a residue of resentment. That's what most of us mostly do.

Vulnerability that comes from strength does impress others. When someone shows the capacity to speak coherently from a wounded place in a situation where it is called for, the quality that fills the air is dignity. The reactions I've observed in people at moments like that are admiration and a sense their own experience was touched, as if the one who spoke had spoken for them as well.

It's important not to confuse confident vulnerability with reactions that come from unprocessed woundedness getting activated in stressful situations—"bursting into tears during a code review", as a commenter memorably put it. Those reactions may be vulnerable but they don't show vulnerability in the sense of making a conscious choice to show oneself in that moment. They are more like a buffer overflow, with emotional bytes streaming through a breach in one's facade. Uncontained reactions make a situation more complicated because they are usually "too much" for the moment—the energy in them is coming from some other place more than what's happening right now, and not under conditions that offer opportunity for healing. That tends to result in wounds getting repeated rather than integrated.

The reason it's important not to confuse those things is that if you do, you'll probably get stuck with two shitty options: (1) push your pain away even further, stiffen your facade and pretend to be what you're not; or (2) expose yourself in uncontrolled ways that show weakness and that others find unattractive. Actually, you'll probably get stuck with both: #1 as your default and #2 bursting out in stressful moments. (I don't mean "you" personally, but generally, or at any rate about traditional male roles.) An alternative is to stop pushing away pain, face what one is denying, feel it fully and allow whatever happens in response. That brings healing and strength—genuine strength that one can feel in oneself, as opposed to pretend strength that one doesn't really feel. This doesn't happen all at once; it's one piece at a time, but usually each piece provides enough relief that the process sort of 'pays' for itself as it goes.

The other thing is—much as a lot of us, me included, would prefer otherwise—it seems to need to take place in the presence of others. The value of the work described in the OP, or some of it anyway, is that many men who would never otherwise take such a step find it possible to do so in the presence of other men, when the process is organized a certain way. This is a surprising phenomenon—it surprised me anyhow—and I don't think it's widely understood, but it's a good thing to take advantage of if one feels a pull in that direction.

Agree that pushing things under the rug doesn't help anyone but displaying vulnerability is a no-no for men. Men are not defective women. They need to process emotional thigns from a masculine emotional frame of streght, not vulnerability. In nature, when low in the status social graph, masculine homo sapiens are the disposable gender. Other people won't run to create emotional safety nets or safe spaces for them. Every men knows this deep inside.

At the same time I do think is totally okay to share that something is affecting you as a men but, if you are a man, is not good to express it from a feminine emotional framework. I has to be somehow preprocessed in a masculine frame:

"hey guys, let me share this with you, listen... I've been experiencing A, B and C and I see is causing D and E and affecting me in this F way... is that okay? Is that what we want? I think if we can review it in this X1 way it will be good because A1, B1 and C1 reasons... but if this isn't going to change I need to know because I'm a man with options and I eventually need to define if this is working for me, so I need to know it"

So having feelings is the new peacocking?

Dude, Bro. Brroooooooo. I'm telling you, dress and pig tails. Ladies love it.

Btw, joking about bro bits, but also it's true.

I don’t really believe this. I know some people who I value less specifically because they are overly confident relative to their abilities. I expect them to play social bluffs to play up what they know how to do (or pretend to know things they don’t), manipulate people if they can awe them and try to intercept credit for their work without giving much of their own effort, etc. They basically just cause a huge amount of trouble and damage the productivity of those around them. Meanwhile I know people of roughly comparable ability who I have a pretty good opinion of.

If someone keeps confidently asserting that 1+1=3 and then tries to act like he’s my superior, my conclusion is generally that he’s just a moron or is deluding himself.

I had a typo above and wrote 1+1=2 but I’ve had the same situation: someone who is of normal competence keeps repeating things pretty much everyone in the room knows over and over and thinks he’s leading you forward.

Most people believe that vulnerability is a weakness and a disadvantage but this is demonstrably untrue. Showing vulnerability is a way to develop rapport and connection with other people. Here is a great example using Jennifer Lawrence who is particularly good at this:


There are definitely caveats to this. It has to be done a certain way. It works better when you already have some status. And I'd absolutely agree that society lets women express more vulnerability than men. In a hypermasculine environment like a group of socially clueless 20something males at a tech company, you will probably want to show vulnerability less often.

But with the general population and normal people, it's really fine and even good to show some vulnerability, just do it in the right context.

Isn’t this just faux vulnerability, or vulnerability from the position of power?

In other words, it’s not the ”oh my god, my life is crashing, I don’t know what to do, please help me” kind of vulnerability (that one isn’t seen as very attractive or welcomed by the society), it’s the “my life is awesome, except this tiny part, but it’s cool, I’ll manage” kind of vulnerability.

It seems like you're using an extreme example. Most people's lives are not crashing down around them, but they still have vulnerabilities -- anxieties, problems, things they're afraid of. I responded to a comment saying that vulnerability and weakness are not rewarded, and gave an example of how they can be.

That seems analogous to the humble-brag.

>Showing vulnerability is a way to develop rapport and connection with other people.

Also a way for people to attack you. A vulnerability is always a weakness, it's the definition of vulnerability. You are talking about faking a vulnerability, a social technique so old that is in Sun Tsu's "The Art of War".

I've found that depends on which generation you're interacting with. Millenials seem far more able to say "I love you" to people that they love outside of their immediate biological family. It's not just the women, either. Men are able to express their feelings to other men in a non-romantic way. Absent is the toxic homophobia that has so colored previous generations.

Hell, their recognition of non-binary genders, preferred pronouns, and a singular 'they' pronoun, speaks volumes as to how much ideas around gender and masculinity has changed. Not that long ago, the idea that a person's gender didn't fit neatly into one of two boxes was unthinkinable.

Maybe you would be surprised to learn that previous generations were also quite free with their love. They just expressed it differently and of course, having grown older, now understand that not everyone who says "I love you" is being emotionally transparent. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you were around for any previous generations. Perhaps you will understand when you get older and watch the next generation talk about how everything we (every previous generation) have done and are doing is a broken, shitty mess, and how they have it all figured out. This is how every generation plays out.

Openness has gone down over time imho. Too many unbroachable subjects and kneejerkers. I somehow observed life and came to the opposite conclusion as you did. Curious. Whats a big world we live in.

Before people had a firm idea of homosexuality, men did show affection for other men as well.

It went like this: it is ok to hold hands with a man (because no one will think you are gay/because no one thinks anyone is gay) -> it is not ok to hold hands (because people will think you are gay) -> it is ok to hold hands (because it would not be a problem if you were gay)

and the last step is still ongoing...

It is still common for men to hold hands with good friends in parts of Indonesia and other parts of SE Asia

When I told several female friends about the work they did, their response was: "Are they gay?"

It's funny. From the days of chivalry all the way to the modern patriarchy, men's behaviours have been conditioned by one overriding factor: what will impress women? I don't see that evaporating overnight. Men suppress the emotions for the simple reason that women have demonstrated a preference for men that do that, and this is simply an example of that being made explicit. You could say "this is how the patriarchy harms men!". But it wasn't men who chose it to be this way.

12th or 13th century chivalrous poetry from South of France was still full of feelings and what have you, and a little earlier the Arthur-related stories were not void of feelings either. I personally blame the “Protestant ethic”, for lack of a better name, which started culturally imposing itself starting with the mid-1600s in England and present-day Netherlands (in the early 1600s a guy like Shakespeare was still not afraid to share his feelings in his Sonnets).

Did the majority of 12th century French women consider those poets attractive?

Probably, otherwise why would have they wrote the way that they did? And earlier than that we have Achilles, the male character that is synonymous with courage and presented by Homer as “the greatest of all Greek warriors”, but even so he wasn’t afraid to cry when his close friend Patroclus was killed in battle.

That doesn't show any causality. People write poetry for all sorts of reasons.

Spot on.

Using the word patriarchy to describe modern western society is always going to derail any conversation about men's issues into a flame war.

EDIT added 'modern'.

Whenever I hear patriarchy in a conversation I can't help but start laughing as it reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarch which as growing up in an eastern orthodox family was a central part of my belief. It never helps the conversation.

I’m not sure this is only western society. Is there an indigenous culture that values male emotions without stigma?

As I think about Asia and Africa, I’m drawing a blank on this. But I’d be happy to be shown wrong.

When you say "male emotions," I feel a bit unsure which emotions you mean. Sadness? Anger? Confusion? Pride? I'm not sure if there is a culture, indigenous or not, that values the expression of all emotions, and if it does, not sure if the people in the culture walk the talk, so to say. I take it back, I think many religions seem to value the expression of most emotions, especially Buddhism, at least in theory, and yet I don't know how many people achieve that in practice. I keep trying and it really really challenges me lol.

I mean, Tantra, or at least some takes on it, is training yourself to be receptive and open to your own emotions. To various extents in Taoist groups historically, presumably at least partially continuing. Being in touch with your own emotions is a pretty big aspect of a lot of martial arts, although I suppose not expressing them.

Ah, cool, I'll check more into Tantra!

With regards to martial arts, maybe it just depends on the definition of expressing them. To put them into words, maybe not so much. I remember taking a Krav Maga class and I saw the head trainer go from calm to intensely focused and powerful in a flash, and then back to calm after the exercise. So, for me, he was expressing the emotions physically, just not so much with his words.

At the same time, in other self-defense trainings I've taken, I've seen more emphasis on how to express verbally, lending towards conflict de-escalation.

But I would agree, overall, that most martial arts don't seem to highlight the verbal expression of emotions...but I hope to one day change that. I've been building a martial art/self-defense system that focuses more on responding to emotional attacks, as I believe I'm much more likely to be emotionally attacked than physically attacked.

That sounds interesting, and yes, I meant verbal expression. I'm a second degree black belt and I find it tricky to respond to emotional attacks, it'd be nice to practice techniques for not being angry for ten minutes after a car cuts me off in a crosswalk.

It's not an emotional attack in the sense that attacks need to be intentional, but tools for recognizing the source of emotions and letting that tension release is a life skill that is not explicitly taught much. I definitely didn't learn it in karate, but I did learn it in meditation practices from other sources. Combining it all holistically would be interesting.

I’ve been in Bali recently, and although it’s still a very patriarchal society, I’ve had a distinct sense that masculinity is more fluid than in — say — Thailand, which might feel like it should be similar. There are Balinese guys with flowers in their hair, and I’ve seen none of the aggression that occasionally raises its head in Thailand.

That kind of disproves the "patriarchy causes male aggression" theory, doesn't it?

Maybe? So? What point did you think I was trying to make?

You can have emotionless warriors or you can have emotional pacifists. You might even have emotional warriors, but emotionless pacifists is a hard sell.

If the State monopolizes violence to the point that we can’t hash things out with our fists, and there’s no room in our society to emotionally vent, then what’s left? It’s not like violence disappeared from society, it just takes different forms when suppressed.

I mean, sometimes I think about the days of yore when people could punch each other and the fight would resolve itself, and maybe that happened in the past and maybe I'm just thinking it happened like that.

I think with physical violence, it can escalate. You punch me and "win" the fight, next time I come back with a few friends and the fight may get worse over time. And that's just assuming it's only punches. If knives or guns are involved, it can escalate really fast, and perpetuate unresolved for years, if not generations.

And I agree with you that the violence is just taking other forms. One can't punch another, so instead, we shame that person, humiliate them, embarrass them in front of their friends and loved ones. I sometimes have fear of posting on public forums, saying something that will make someone angry, and then receiving an onslaught of comments ridiculing me and beyond.

So while I think some conflict can resolve itself through merely putting on gloves and duking it out, I think more often than not conflict resolves itself much better through communicating in a nonviolent way.

That is the thing, though. Violence had social norms around it. It was not the case that you could escalate forever.

I remember one message from a father to a son, for example, that said "never throw the first punch unless he is X inches taller than you". Of course, this might have been a tad to noble for the time, but still, there were norms.

There's a lot of room in our society to emotionally vent; it just happens in private relationships and on internet forums. The challenge is that the emotions are often uncontained, and uncontained emotion is closely related to violence, as you say.

I agree about spaces to emotionally vent...goodness, the internet lets me vent about anything, at any time, with almost any audience of my choosing, through words, sounds, and video.

On the second part, I would say that emotions are often unarticulated, which may be similar to what you're saying. For me, what I've been trying to practice is that when I start to feel angry, to say "I feel angry" instead of "what is wrong with you??" I've noticed in traffic that if someone cuts me off, I'll have a reflex to cuss out the guy or say something about him being an idiot, and then I'll pause and go, "I really just felt afraid that I would crash." I could tell story after story about how the emotion is not being clearly articulated, and that when it is, it can really realign the situation.

But, to quote James Pennebaker, author of Opening Up (a book that I read and loved) and lots of work on journaling and emotions:

"Verbally labeling an emotion is much like applying a digital technology (language) to an analog signal (emotion and the emotional experience)." --from https://c3po.media.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/45/2016/..., an article I have not yet fully read.

So, in conclusion, maybe my unarticulated is your uncontained analog signal :-D

I'm not sure I understand the bit about digital technology, but this seems to me to be pure gold: "For me, what I've been trying to practice is that when I start to feel angry, to say "I feel angry" instead of "what is wrong with you??""

:-) glad that part was helpful!

Regarding the digital technology part, for me it's basically saying that we have this messy, organic, chemical mix of things happening within our bodies, and then we condense all of that into one word, e.g., "happy."

What fascinates me about language, and frustrates me, and does many other things to me, is the fact that when I use the word "happy" it may be describing a different internal messiness than your word "happy," and yet, the more we have in common, the more I will often assume our definitions are the same. I can't tell you how many conflicts in which I've found myself from definitions that I assumed to be shared but were in fact different, e.g., "I'm ready to leave," lol.

Ah. Yes. And interestingly put.

What's even more interesting (to me, at least) is that venting might not be helpful.

"Does distraction or rumination work better to diffuse anger? Catharsis theory predicts that rumination works best, but empirical evidence is lacking."

[0] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bbushman/PSPB02.pdf

It is an interesting question. I've personally found that most venting and catharsis leads to repetition and maybe even strengthens existing patterns. Contemporary work on trauma (Bessel van der Kolk, Peter Levine, Gabor Maté) regards catharsis as retraumatizing and works instead with "titration", i.e. re-experiencing and expressing just a little at a time.

On the other hand, I've personally experienced a cathartic process that—as best as one can trace these things—brought real change, so there's no single answer about this.

To your point, that same stigma about LGBT guys being weak, feminine, and emotional is one of the many factors that stops a lot of people from coming out too.

Its understandable why we make those assumptions because those camp and effeminate LGBT members stand out so much.

The LGBT members that don't have those characteristics you would never know they were LGBT.

Don’t know why you’re being downvoted. This seems mostly true to me. One thing I’ve noticed is younger gay men still seem gay but don’t seem as effeminate as the older men. Maybe that’s just selection bias but it seems like the culture doesn’t ask for as strong of signaling as it did in the past.

Maybe like Brad Pitt as Achilles. Who was bisexual. Which, I gather, was common at the time among warriors.

Which, I gather, was common at the time among warriors.

The Greek concept of sexuality was quite different than ours, and their class system played a very predominant role in what we would call gender. Also, age.

From what I know, yes. Your "gender" status basically depended on who you could penetrate, and vice versa.

I agree. I wasn't making a value judgement, simply stating a fact.

Yeah, pretty much.

Yeah, I'm glad you pointed out that it's not just us men pressuring each other to speak/feel in certain ways. I think so many of us reinforce the emotional code on men and on each other. I'm guilty of doing it as well.

While a woman may have told me "don't cry (or be sad)," "don't be a baby (or express helplessness)," "don't be lazy (or feel too relaxed)," or "stop being so jealous," I have also told people "don't worry," "relax (or don't feel stressed)," "chill out (don't be angry)," and others.

I try as much as I can to let people feel whatever they are feeling, annnnnd I'm still human and project a lot of my cultural expectations on others and myself. Really grateful to have this space on HN for this conversation and to further the conversation :-D

If they say stuff like that, they aren't friends.

The polite response is something like: "I hear that as shaming, and it offends me."

Western society? far from western society only. Exact same thing across most countries in Asia.

Women definitely have their share on the stigma, too many times have I seen women using mental issues to emasculate men.

There's a part in Brene Browns "Daring Greatly" where a guy says that his wife and daughter would rather he die on his horse than to fall off. Brown comes back with a very impractical response to the effect of "well then they have work to do too".


I have few male friends I can share feelings with and most of the females I've dealt with just don't want this while wishing for men to be more sensible.

It's worse outside of western society.

> it's not only the men causing it.

One thing I find fascinating about humans is that we are so compulsively cultural that we will actively propagate cultural practices that are harmful even to ourselves. When you are young, you absorb whatever culture is around you completely uncritically, and then you immediately turn around and start broadcasting to the next generation.

Cultural changes and evolves, of course, but it's really hard to uproot a norm or more once it's settled in, even if it's one that causes you personal pain.

> Cultural changes and evolves, of course, but it's really hard to uproot a norm or more once it's settled in, even if it's one that causes you personal pain.

Terence McKenna lectured on this at length. Here are some apropos quotations:

"As a global civilization, we can no longer afford the luxury of an unconscious mind. When you can pull down the fusion processes that light the stars on the cities of your enemies, when you can sequence DNA, when you can map the heart of the atom, then it is entirely inappropriate to have an unconscious mind, because the power that is given onto you is a kind of god-like Promethean power. So how can we switch on the lights on our animal nature…? I think it is very simple: we have to de-condition ourselves from culture. We are sick, we require medical intervention… into what is a galloping, cancerous state of neurosis - the growth and spread of ego. Ego is like a calcareous growth in the psyche of human beings, and if it is not treated, it creates the kind of society that we have. A society based on hierarchy, male dominance, accumulation of physical goods,suppression of the weak by the strong… This is why the psychedelics are so socially sensitive, because they dissolve de-conditioning. Every culture is a scam. Every culture is a lie. A shell game, run by weasels, for the amusement of rubes. If you do not want to be a weasel or a rube, then you need to inform yourself of how the shell game works, and what lies beyond the carnival midway of civilized values. And the way to do that is to go back to the plants, to the original gnosis."


"Culture is an effort to satisfy this weird desire human beings have to close off experience, to live with closure, to force closure. That is why cultural trips are so bizarre; why they don't make sense to anybody but the Witoto, or the Guaraní, or the Americans, or the Japanese. If you are not inside a culture, it seems crazy. Cultures do not make sense because they are not trying to make sense. What they are trying to do is produce closure, which then somehow makes a human being, who is living in the light of closure, a more manipulable, a more malleable, a lesser thing… The message coming back at all of us is: live without closure. That is the honest position given that you are some kind of a talking monkey, some kind of a primate, some kind of creature, on a planet, in an animal body,in a time and space. In the face of that, life without closure is the only kind of intellectual honesty there is. If you have to inoculate yourself against the various means of closure that are around,psychedelics do that. That is why they are so politically controversial and potent, because more than any other single act that you may voluntarily undertake, they pull the plug on the myth of cultural meaning."


I am not sure if I watched yours or if the speeches overlap, but these are my favorites:

Terence McKenna: Don't Believe/Follow/Consume/Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV1RC2zlymQ

Dissolving the egoistic boundaries of society (Terence McKenna): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7sfZiRLqOE

Sorry for the offensive phrasing, but was this guy known for things beyond telling people to do DMT?

You missed magic mushrooms

He was a great raconteur.

Culture has a political element. Creating a new culture or building an authority over one would be as difficult as any political movement. Subcultures are usually built around selling a product where there's plenty of incentive to put the effort in to make it happen.

I think the young execute on a unique position to see the culture of their elders and actively choose to fill spots where it could be improved for their own benefit and drop customs that are no longer worth it.

> Cultural changes and evolves, of course, but it's really hard to uproot a norm or more once it's settled in, even if it's one that causes you personal pain.

I don’t know if I believe this in general. Certainly we are happy to utterly change our lifestyles whenever a convenient new technology comes about. How much have smart phones or social media changed us culturally in the spans of a couple decades? If culture can change quickly over convenience, surely actual pain would drive it to change even faster. It seems that those “hard to change” cultural aspects are actually _useful_ in some way, and therefore they survive.

Adopting new technology may seem like change, until you go up a level and see it as consumerism. Then you see that nothings changed.

It’s not just adopting technology, but the package of lifestyle and cultural changes that go along with it. Perhaps it is “consumerism” in some broad sense—we adopt our culture quickly to our convenience and entertainment.

You stand out of the pack, you die. That's what our DNA tells us.

> I participated in men's work ..

I'm a little confused, who are the they you are referring to? People are hired on to perform tasks in return for remuneration and feelings should be reserved for outside the job. Getting emotionally involved with ones co-workers is a recipe for disaster. If you're ever invited to a workshop on diversity, don't go. James Damore and Professor Alessandro Strumia would know why.

I love HN...I've been waiting for this topic :-D

I'm a man who has focused on and has been building tools to get better at expressing my emotions since 2012, including an app called iFeelio, in which I answered the question "how do I feel" over 4,000 times across 4 years and a class called Emotional Self-Defense, which I've run in the US, Europe, and Africa. I have realized and re-realized many things along the way.

One thing I've seen is that each culture seems to have rules about which emotions one is allowed to express and not allowed to express, based on the specific contexts. We often say that men aren't allowed to express our emotions, but I don't think that's the case. We men (in the US) are often allowed to express anger, confidence, feelings of triumph, horniness (maybe), calmness, and maybe even excitement. We're often not allowed to express tenderness, sadness, confusion, uncertainty, fury, etc. And funny enough, when watching our favorite sports team, we're pretty much allowed to express all of the emotions above and more. On the other hand, in the workplace, we're not allowed to really express much at all.

Women may have a different list, as well as people from the Midwest or California, those born in the 60s, digital natives, engineers, or really any different culture or sub-culture.

That being said, I'm glad to see programs like MKP and Evryman providing the place, and moreover, the permission, to express all of the emotions. (Save a Warrior is one I recommend for military vets—I was a witness on one of the programs and it really helped to open my heart and the hearts of the other guys.)

I'd love to chat with anyone on here about this, either in the comments or on Twitter, Telegram, keybase, or whatever people on HN use these days. Check my HN profile for those usernames.

Thanks for your comment, it's cool of you to share your journey with us. Unfortunately iFeelio on Android doesn't seem to work well anymore, if at all... :-(

Edit: Moodflow seems like it could be good so I'll try that. Just in case this helps others.

Yeah, ironically using the app, I realized that coding made me quite frustrated and then my hard drive failed in 2015 or something and I lost the most current version of the apps on both Android and iOS :-/

That being said, I have been thinking about how to get it fixed and even develop v2.0, possibly through open-sourcing it. Do you think you or someone else you know might be interested in that?

In the meantime, the magic sauce is really nothing too complicated...I used a note app on Android before developing iFeelio and it worked pretty good.

I would open up the note pad, type down the date, time, 1-3 comma-separated words for emotion, and then 1-2 short sentences about how I was feeling. Similar to an I-statement from NVC.

An example would be:

2019-09-28...01:09...grateful, tired...just checked HN and saw that a few people replied to my comments, and it's also 1am so maybe I should go to bed soon.

I made the app mostly because I wanted to enter the date/time automatically, password protect it, and create some ways for me to sort/filter/search previous entries.

I don't think it's going to become viral but I'd wager to say it could be useful for some. I want to track my emotions, too, to see if there's any patterns.

You'll have to keep running it over the next 4-8 years to filter out the short term cultural changes. The expression of sadness will likely ramp up from it's locked up baseline now to 2024.

I'm a little confused...what do you mean that the expression of sadness will ramp up?

It's an art thing. Hard to compress into a short comment. As the Trump capture on sadness fades there will be a natural reversal into an excess of the expression of sadness. We are seeing the start of it in films where there are women crying. Not that Trump controls that stuff, but rather he is tapping into a deeper principle.

The cult like approach to certainty we see on the web will fade over time as well. Expressions of uncertainty will become more acceptable.

Can you please decompress your short comment into a fuller one? I am interested in your thesis, but I still do not understand.

To echo my sibling comment, I'd love to read a lengthier explanation of this idea. Perhaps a blog or some resources could be handy as well

You're throwing swines to the pearls, it doesn't work that way either.

Whats wrong with stoicism. Feelings are fleeting in general didn't lead me to positive places. I think we should put a high value on people that can handle their own problems.

I've participated in some of this work and agree that having feeling-sharing be the top line item is misleading. Feelings are involved, but the core of it is to face what one has been avoiding, in order to become stronger and grow. There's plenty of room for stoicism in that.

The way to overcome pain is to acknowledge and include it instead of denying it. The difference is huge, and most of us need help to get there—personally contactful help, not idea help. I found it pretty liberating to be able to get such help from other men, in a group no less. The point is not to become a gushy feeling-sharer or a sensitive new-age male. It is to no longer be governed by unconscious feelings and the wounds of early experience.

The organizations that practice this work are not super clear about that distinction, which I suspect limits their appeal to many men. I went because of a friend I respect, who in turn went because of a friend he respects. Had either of us only read an article like this, I doubt we'd have been interested. Its subtle ironizing, which approaches belittling ("chastened menfolk", "There, there"), would have turned me off. The photos would have turned me off too, and I've sat in a lot of workshops (though usually with few men and many women).

Edit: an interesting thing to me was the gap between practice and theory. Even though there were parts of the theory behind that work which I didn't necessarily find appealing, I met quite a few men there who struck me as having a kind of integrated masculinity (maybe not the best phrase, but it's hard to find words for these qualities). They seemed strong and open at the same time. I found myself admiring them and wanting to be more like that myself. None of this had much to do with expressing feelings or being emotional; I would use the word presence instead. They maybe even seemed a bit less emotional than most men I meet—more able to take in what is happening without being reactive.

So I would say the theory doesn't work as well as the practice. You barely ever get that! usually it's the other way around.

This is stoicism though. To process things instead of holding them inside, bottling them up, or putting them off such that they salt our enjoyment of life. However there's a social component of this feelings-sharing which is the subtext of the parent comment. Not all issues need to be shared, and in fact it's a kind of emotional vampirism to prioritize sharing emotional context without focusing on the explicit purpose of sharing to process and confront the issue.

Agreed. What dang referred to admiringly as “integrated masculinity” sounds a lot like stoicism to me.

>The way to overcome pain is to acknowledge and include it instead of denying it.

Publicly? It's one thing to be denial, it's another to acknowledge it to yourself but still elect not to engage in a public display of this. The strongest men I've ever met were not in denial of their emotional state but didn't need to engage in public displays like those listed in the article.

I agree, but this is a subtle question.

On the one hand yes, there's no need for emotional display for its own sake. As far as I've observed, that is mostly a cultural (or really a subcultural) marker anyhow; some communities value it, that's fine. I'm not personally that comfortable with emotion as a tap that gets turned on and off on demand. (During the group I mentioned above, I told them that if they kept asking me what I was feeling, the only feeling they were likely to get out of me was anger about being expected to feel something.)

That sort of cultural practice is a different thing, though—completely different—from deep feeling coming into experience as part of a healing process. The latter is not a tap and there is no quality of display about it. It is more like a flood that rises from forgotten places, and the healing comes from surrendering to that flood and allowing it to change whatever changes. Maybe after that you become more emotionally expressive, maybe not; I personally think that matters less than people in these communities say it does. But you become more integrated, gain capacity, become less reactive, less conflicted.

The subtle part comes up when you say "Publicly?". Yes and no. I don't think there's any need for ongoing public emotionality. I do think there's a deep reason why healing can't fully happen in isolation. It's because our wounds happen in relationship, usually in early relational experiences, and what is wounded relationally can only heal relationally. Personally I have found that frustrating—I would rather go off somewhere, resolve my issues myself, be a self-healing organism. But I've come to see how this impulse to isolation is actually an aspect of the wound itself, and so not a way to heal. Wounds don't heal themselves—they just repeat until something changes. As far as I can tell, there's no way to avoid connecting with others if you want that to change. But others' mileage may vary, and in any case this connecting needs to happen in safe, closed environments with strong containers, not in random public settings.

A small group of trusted men hardly counts as public.

Very well said.


I agree. I find that the healthiest people in my life don't seem to be the types prone to endless rumination.

I think this is where meditation (and stoicism) deviates from some types of psychotherapy and most support groups. Meditation teaches you to look at feelings dispassionately, which helps you lessen their power. This is very different than treating each emotion as if it is "correct" and in need of resolution via lots of introspection.

I thought that the way "introspection" is supposed to work was as a way of asking oneself: "wait, why am I feeling this emotion in the first place? Where does it bottom out, so to say?" Because that in turn tells you what strings to pull at in order to "resolve" the emotion in a comprehensive way. While this cannot be done without regarding the emotion as at least putatively "correct", I'd say that it's far from incompatible with a Stoicism-inspired approach, properly understood.

I think you need to understand the origins of the emotion, but you can (after understanding it) see it as mistaken.

Say you are pissed because you did not finish a job, but your job performance is increasingly better. Your emotion is not guiding you anywhere useful. It can be useful to understand dispassionately, and then choose to endorse it (that is, this seems a feeling that points to a correct direction, I will thing about solutions) or not (that is, this seems a feeling that does not point to where I want to go, thank you for your message, but I would rather not act on it).

Sometimes feelings are mistakes, like a optical illusion. Sometimes they are not.

If the healthier people have by definition less emotional suffering, then of course they're going to complain less.

I second this. We all have unique brains, and it seems to me that some people are naturally less prone to anxiety than others. I know plenty of people who seem to have naturally low anxiety, and as far as I can tell, they never needed to have some profound realization to become like this, they were likely born this way, they have lucky genetics.

Anxiety means your brain has more of a tendency to worry about potential threats. Possibly because your amygdala are more easily activated. It may just be that, back when we lived in the savannah, being easily aroused by potential threats, and being overly careful, was in many ways beneficial for survival. However, we live in a time of relative safety, and it seems that being someone who worries a lot about potential threats is not generally a useful trait.

I'm not saying that there's nothing you can do to manage anxiety, that is obviously false, but I'm saying there's a strong genetic component, and that judging people who appear more anxious and telling them just suck it up shows a fundamental lack of self-awareness and understanding of how the human brain works.

I agree: one's goal has to be to create a fulfilling life (whatever that means to one) with the nervous system you actually have. Wishing things away rarely works with mental/emotional realities. There's many ways to manage the reality of your specific self; e.g., I'm pretty anxious, so I start every day I can with a nice relaxing bath, during which I am free of anxiety. However, I don't try to make myself be free of anxiety when I have to speak up in some tense situation; then I use mindfulness techniques to just be aware and persist despite it all. Sometimes I do things to change my internal self, sometimes I just treat it like a person that needs certain random things to be at top performance. It depends.

I'll throw my anecdotal experience in life thus far in the ring. I turned 30 this year and I haven't really ever experienced anything more than mild stress, and even that is fairly infrequent (once or twice a year at most, and always because there is something that a reasonable person would say is worth stressing over).

I have been this way my entire life and as far as I'm aware it didn't come about from some life experience, I think I was just born like this. My mother used to laugh that everything was "like water off a duck's back" to me.

All throughout school and University I never once was stressed about any piece of assessment or any exams. There were a few I was woefully unprepared for and knew I would likely fail, but it never really bothered me. It wasn't that I didn't care, I just never saw the point in worrying as worrying is never going to change anything.

My wife is the opposite. She stresses about everything, many things that are completely out of her control. I have learnt a lot about how to support someone in that frame of mind, even when I don't understand why they are stressed.

This does have downsides. Many people, especially in professional contexts, mistake my stress free and easygoing nature as laziness. I also have relatively low empathy, though I'm not sure if that's a side effect, cause, or completely unrelated.

I've studied the area of developmental psychology a lot, and all evidence points to neuroticism, anxiety being not genetic but a result of developmental trauma. Adverse childhood experiences, missatunemenmet with the primary caregiver leads to an area of the brain responsible with affect regulation not being developed properly. Infants learn to regulate affect from parents (the mother or the primary caregiver).

Another case of reverse causation.

>I find that the healthiest people in my life don't seem to be the types prone to endless rumination.

Rumination is unhealthy. And believe it or not, one of the antidotes to it is being able to communicate ones feelings effectively. In my experience, more expressive people tend not to suffer ruminating thoughts.

Seneca said in his third letter to Lucilius, "Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with yourself." I have one friend with whom I'll speak this boldly--some men have no-one. (I also think more women are in this position than society may assume)

I find that the extent to which men (and to a lesser extent, women) have this support varies between secular and religious (or at least Christian) communities. Christianity (as I’ve experienced it, anyway) promotes sharing feelings—for example, many churches have some notion of small groups or community groups in which (among many other things) people share things they struggle with and are supported and prayed for by others.

Stoicism is not about suppressing feelings though, it is about realizing that the ones you have are inconsequential and should not control you. But while you are trying to rein them in, the solution is not to simply bear them in silence. If you have someone who can help you on the path to equanimity, you should feel free to share feelings with them.

Stoicism requires apprehension, not repression, of one's feelings. "Handling their own problems" is precisely what these men appear to be attempting.

Stoicism is tragically misunderstood by most people.

Its fine to be stoic and self-reliant, the problem is that occasionally even a stoic man needs to voice concerns, and he is then looked down upon by his peers for doing so. This is why having an unbiased, third-party therapist to just listen can be so healthy.

This is true but I think that is what close friends are for. Everyone needs support I just think the goal to be not to let your feelings master you.

That's true too, but even then its hard to know sometimes who your close friends are, and what they will think of you for relieving that kind of information to them. Sometimes, the stoic man doesn't have a close friend. You can reply with "well they should get more/better friends", but therein I think lies the catch-22. Reveal your inner self, and maybe you'll get a close friend, or maybe you won't have any friends.

Solitude is preferable to fake relationships.

Wisely spoken

> people that can handle their own problems

I grew up west coast, spent a lot of time with people who I could "share my problems" with. It taught me to be pathetic when I'm down, to really reach for it. I don't like who I was when that was an effective means of attention.

I really wish the response would have been "You're having a hard time coping with the harshness of reality and acting immature, do your best to get it together soon."

>I think we should put a high value on people that can handle their own problems.

Try as I might, I have no idea what this has to do with feelings. Are you making an assumption that people who acknowledge or express their feelings are not handling problems?

And of course, as others have pointed out, stoicism doesn't suggest not pondering over feelings.

There's a subtle line between repressing and ruminating.

This may be colored by my experience of mental illness, but generally I've learned/grown more from pondering and sorting out feelings in the past rather than right now. It's easy to fall into a trap of "worshipping your pain" (or your hypomanic euphoria for that matter).

OTOH I'm very appreciative of the dispassionate attitude encouraged by stoicism and meditation, etc. -- but that kind of wisdom is acquired with work, like building muscle. "You should lift heavy things!" is both an interesting aspirational model and dangerous advice if it isn't culturally obvious that you can get hurt lifting heavy things while not in shape.

(Edit: stoicism/meditation etc. are more or less like "second-order repression": as you acknowledge your fingertips or your breath, you acknowledge that you have feelings in order to theoretically understand them (locus of control/illusion of self). The danger is that letting go of first-order repression, you can let yourself have feelings about your feelings -- feeling good about feeling miserable would be the common type.)

Why not have feelings about your feelings?

It has nothing to do with feelings and that is my point. Dwelling on any feeling no matter how serious will every make your life better.

I like to think of my self as happy Sisyphus enjoying pushing the rock up the hill. Thinking about the futility of the effort is by definition futile.

Stoicism is different from denial. I think denial is more what the article is about, since it talks about the higher suicide rate of men, etc.

IMO, not being suicidal is far more being in denial than the other way around. Or, in the very least, thinking that life is some gift. It totally could be, but not like this.

> IMO, not being suicidal is far more being in denial than the other way around. Or, in the very least, thinking that life is some gift. It totally could be, but not like this.

It's not a gift compared to what? Nonexistence?

No man is an island. And it is hard to know if you ARE "handling your own problems" when you do not seek other people's input.

"Handling your own problems" a lot of the time means "making other people responsible for my emotional well being."

I do love stoicism though and I think meditation and stoicism are excellent paths to understanding yourself and managing your internal state.

I generally take "[h]andling your own problems" to mean taking responsibility for your own problems.

I'm seeing a lot of agreement in this thread, though. Healthy, deep relationships with family and close friends are important to keep you grounded, and therapy can help everyone. Many seemingly desirable positions of status that men and women strive for involve incredible amounts of stress, and people naturally have differing levels of stress tolerance, so at some point self-knowledge becomes very valuable. Having good people around you is a great way to build that self-knowledge.

Are you going to work? Are you reasonably content? Then you are handling your problems.

Some people really seem to want men to be very emotional and assume something is wrong if they don't appear to be showing strong emotions. Often, they're just fine, and there's no there there.

If you keep picking at them, you'll probably generate some emotions, however.

I'm not sure the point is expression per se, or always being emotional, but rather being okay with introspecting on emotions when they do come up and more to the point, what's causing them.

I'd compare it to a tooth abscess. It's not like it's so painful you need to scream. It's just kind of there, occasionally causing problems. But if it goes untreated long enough, the bacteria in it can kill you. There are some parallels there with loneliness, which a lot of men suffer from.

So I'd say this is more the realization that "Oh, this pain is because of this source. I'm gonna go deal with that source." The process of dealing might involve making your emotions known (such as when breaking up).

Of course, if you're legitimately not in any kind of pain, then great. But most people are, in one form or another.

> "Handling your own problems" a lot of the time means "making other people responsible for my emotional well being."

This is new to me. Making other people responsible for my emotional well-being is being dependent on other people for our own happiness. Stoicism does not suggest that you do this, on the contrary.

Stoicism as a personal philosophy or cultural norm? For the former, I’d say nothing. But for the later I think it’s unfortunate. There are many ways to live a life and many philosophies. Stoicism may work for you, but maybe the next guy needs a good cry without getting harassed for it.

In my opinion, this is a great book on stoicism: https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Good-Life-Ancient-Stoic/dp/1522...

Sharing your feelings doesn't really mean breaking down crying when anything remotely bad happens to you in life. It can just be talking frankly and openly about challenges you face in your life. Is that at odds with being stoic?

Not at all. I'd say the motivation for talking things through lies on a spectrum between brainstorming and bitching, and people have a need for both, just be aware of which one you're doing. A complaint can be stoic.

Yep. I fear there may be a narrative being pushed here.

Indeed. For me, being stoic is the only way. Crying about problems does nothing so why do anything at all? We all have the power to choose to be the best person we can be given our circumstances. That is what I try to do every day.

For me, men who need to share their feelings are weak. This is what women do. But we can't all be women. Men need to learn to enjoy their advantages: superior strength, speed, and resilience, but accept that problems won't just go away if you cry about them. Either solve the problem or accept it and don't give it another precious moment's thought.

Predictably downvoted. Apparently I'm not allowed to express how I feel.

You managed to insult many of both genders in a two-sentence span.

That's their fault, not mine. Read the drivel from celebrities on your carefully filtered twitter feed if you don't ever want to be offended.

Can you please not post like this to HN? We're trying for something a bit more thoughtful than the usual internet assaults. I'm sure you can make your substantive points more thoughtfully.

It's not an assault. I am sharing my philosophy. It's what keeps me happy and why I don't need to go to support groups. But I guess that's just not welcome here.

Of course you're welcome to share your philosophy if you do so in a way that's substantive and relevant. But please do it without being so aggressive. "Read the drivel from celebrities on your carefully filtered twitter feed if you don't ever want to be offended" is the sort of flamewar style we don't want here.

It's not primarily that a comment like that is so bad in its own right. It's that it tends to produce worse from others and, compounded over time, that destroys the community.


I think we're starting to hit a critical moment with this.

As men we have an unbelievable amount of expectation on our reactions, communication, behavior, past behavior, and others behavior. (Their friends and their partners)

On top of all of this: Men spaces have been mostly eliminated.

"Men spaces have been mostly eliminated."

An organization that was once called "Boy Scouts" is no longer catered only to young boys. And yet the Girl Scouts remain female only.

Same goes for virtually any space that used to be male-only. It's become socially unacceptable (and often illegal) to exclude females from anything, while it's still perfectly OK to exclude males.

What’s an example of a male-excluding space you’ve seen that couldn’t have a female-excluding counterpart?

1. Women-only workout areas in gyms - quite common, never seen one for men

2. All-female colleges (many), there is perhaps one or two all-male, if they even still exist

Just google something like "women business network".

Also the "WIN" network.

Boy Scouts

That's mostly it being a victim of its own success; here in Canada, Scouts long held a better reputation than Guides. Something fundamentally different about how the organizations and parental leadership approached the kids, I suspect.

Scouts are not integrated. Troops are separated by sex. They are safe in their spaces.


That second sentence breaks the HN guidelines badly. Would you please stop doing that and follow them instead? I don't want to have to ban you.


>Men spaces have been mostly eliminated.

I mean sure it's illegal to exclude women but there are plenty of things they're just not going to show up to.

Want to be around only men? Go to a BSD meet up. (or join most channels on freenode.)

(note I'm not saying any of this is good, but there are plenty of places that are pretty exclusively attended by bales.)

Its not illegal to have a private club with membership rules that exclude women. There are still several golf clubs that do so. In fact in the US its not even illegal to openly discriminate in hiring as long as the business has less 14 employees. In California that number goes down to 5 employees and local laws may be stricter still.

Not sure how open those men's spaces of the past. would have been to more emotional openness. Could see it going either way.

That's not really surprising, is it?

Any minimally functional group eventually lead to opportunities.

The outgroup (women in this case) want to access those opportunities. Any push back against that will be labeled as misogynistic or ridiculed.

Men have no other choices than to open up the group and let it become just another open space for everyone.

What is surprising is how some groups: 1) just lay down and accept this unilateral loss... 2) even when it is never reciprocated.

I understand the feeling but I think this is too zero-sum. You know who has the most positive reactions by far to men doing healing work in men-only circles? Their wives/girlfriends. Not because the men somehow become more 'feminine' or lose power, but usually because they get something that they badly needed and were stuck about for a long time.

This is using anecdata to dismiss another poster, and isn’t the kind of comment you’d tolerate from others in a sensitive topic.

It’s wonderful that’s been your experience of women, but don’t invalidate what others experience — particularly with a citation free comment.

For those wondering why my comment is flagged: dang engages in political censorship, and flagged my account because of my views. I look forward to the upcoming rules on social media censorship, and the accountability that will bring to dang’s actions.

We banned you for breaking HN's guidelines (with multiple accounts) and ignoring our requests to stop. Someone breaking the site guidelines to promote opposite views would get banned just the same.

There's nothing wrong with anecdotes on HN. On the contrary, the threads here are supposed to be conversation, and anecdotes are the life blood of good conversation. https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

As a group men are our own worse enemy. We aren't fearful of or controlled by women. It is other men that choose to align themselves closer to women's beliefs at the active detriment of healthy male attitudes and behaviours that force other men to fall in line.

Men aren't obligated or motivated to open up men only social groups until other men start to take issue with them (and usually for their own self interest).

What were the men's spaces before? Legitimate question as I may be too young to have known them.

Gentlemen clubs, country clubs, bars (although I don't think it should have been single gender), other than this.. I can't name many of the other ones. They were mostly gone by the time I became an adult.

Anyways, I have heard of discrimination that men have faced when trying to create "safe"/support groups that were men only.

I don't think I understand the desire or the concern here. Look around the BBQ in the back yard at any party anywhere in 'merica and you'll find the guys hanging out and chatting away from their wives. Look at sports teams in your high schools, colleges, and local clubs and you'll find men hanging out together. Look at Men's bible study groups or similar if that's your thing. Go to the local men's barber shop and find a bunch of guys getting haircuts. Invite your buddies to your place to watch the game...

> Look around the BBQ in the back yard at any party anywhere in 'merica and you'll find the guys hanging out and chatting away from their wives.

I don't know about your experience. But my experience: BBQs are typically a party situation with your household and others. If it's just the guys that's a friends thing.

> Look at sports teams in your high schools, colleges, and local clubs and you'll find men hanging out together.

I haven't heard of such of a clubs.

> Look at Men's bible study groups or similar if that's your thing.

I'll agree with you on this. That qualifies for what I was suggesting. It's a social thing and gets people to talk.

> Go to the local men's barber shop and find a bunch of guys getting haircuts.

Is that an environment that guys would open up? Most of these places tend to be "mind your own business and lets not talk that much" kinds of places.

The Freemasons are still here, and though numerically shrinking as postwar members pass on, we're experiencing a renaissance as a new generation of men come through with a greater interest in the spiritual and philosophical aspects of the craft.

Would recommend it wholeheartedly.

The workplace used to be a male space.

There were all-male colleges and many all-male secondary schools (mostly private) in the US till the 1960s.

It's worth noting that many institutions you would not have thought of as "men's colleges" per se were indeed all male -- Caltech didn't admit women as undergrads until 1970.

"Male", not "men", but Boy Scouts.

However, MAN spaces are everywhere, Japan especially is having great success creating spaces that are exclusively occupied by a single man for weeks, and sometimes years at a time.

Having gone through this retreat (the NWTA) with the MKP, I can easily point to it as the most legitimate and profound event I've had/attended in my life. Its important to take in context, I'm in my mid 30s, and was emotionally ready for the messages and teachings. Doing the work in a safe space was nothing short of life changing. In my work life, personal life, and love life. And most of all for my own quality of life.

For anyone who is actually interested, I would recommend the book Iron John, by Robert Bly (https://www.amazon.com/Iron-John-Book-about-Men/dp/030682426...). The first chapter is usually assigned reading before attending the NWTA, but when read with an open mind I found the entire book to be profound. Profound isnt the best word, but I experienced the content as if I personally was being spoken to through the pages; my problems, my struggles and my victories. Spoken to with support, compassion and understanding. I re-read it every year.

Beyond sharing that however, seeing how much vitriolic hyperbole is being thrown around within 2h of posting, I dont feel it productive to share anymore. You might say that the vulnerability it requires of a man to speak to other men (and women!) who are openly hostile (and often deliberately misunderstanding) about this topic can be nothing short of herculean.

I participated in a Bly-based "New Warrior Training" and men's group in the mid 80s. It helped me work through a seriously damaged childhood. And generally to be emotionally present, with more range than manic/angry/depressed. I also did lots of est/Landmark work, complemented it well, and helped me learn to be more stoic.

I recently did the NWTA and found it shockingly profound and powerful. I’m glad to hear the effects have stuck with you.

They have! I went through it in 2017, and the unfolding and cascade of realizations and perspective shifts have not only flipped my life (for the best), but also instilled permanent changes in how i participate in communities, interact with people, and support the ones I care about.

When you think of the typical archetype for men learning to cope with emotion, it's generally by overcoming personal hardship or difficult challenges through perseverance. But we see where this fails in situations where you have no control such as in a warzone, as there is no real way to overcome. Maybe addressing emotions directly, after the fact as it were, culturally signifies that the individual failed to overcome the situation from which the pain originated, and since there is a huge association in Western culture between masculinity and self competence, the stigma is now against an individual's entire masculinity.

As a man, I agree sharing emotions is important. Too many males in society don't have someone to cry with or listen to their problems.

On the other hand, I do worry about "emotional masturbation". Simply put, sometimes we indulge ourselves in sadness/fear/anger because it makes us feel something and feeling something is better/more exhilarating/exciting than feeling nothing at all.

For example, I have some insecurities. Sometimes I feel like talking about them may be pro-actively bad because I am indulging myself and making my insecurities occupy more mental space/brain power.

Talking about emotions is just one part of it. Society in general needs to be better educated and equipped with mental health tools. Things like cognitive behavioural therapy, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, transactional analysis are all ways to understand and deal with our emotions.

It's no good just blurting out whatever it is you're feeling and like you say, turn it into a masturbatory indulgence, but we should still promote talking about out feelings because suppressing them is no better than having an emotional wank.

Am I the only one who sees men sharing their feelings all the time? To me it seems like men simply process things differently than women, so women and the feminized psychiatry field don't recognize it's happening.

We live in an age where men are being villainized at every turn, and this is just another way men are being told they don't measure up... because they aren't sharing in a way that women recognize. With all due deference to my trans friends, men are not simply women with penises.

> because they aren't sharing in a way that women recognize

Agreed. The conspiracy theory part of me wonders if this is a natural way of challenging and verifying perceived strength, thus the trope of a wife accusing the husband of not talking about his feelings enough.

Not to say that's the only time it happens (I've asked my wife basically just this), but I think part of being human is to want a stable, emotional foundation so to speak. And once we've tested and verified a leader/friend/family member who appears to be strong in ways we are not we then rely on them to help us in that regard.

Every social issue has islands where it's nonexistent, islands where it's bad, and islands in-between. Groups alleging unfair treatment are usually both right and wrong depending on where you look, for example there are places where everybody is racist and places where nobody is. By analogy, a person lucky enough to live somewhere that nobody was racist would probably not see any point for affirmative action. Does the NYT have a birds-eye view that can see every island? No, absolutely not, their articles are all written by individual people with normal human-sized social networks. But stories like these can provide some insight as to what other people's lives are like.

Men aren't sharing feelings in a way I understand most of the time, and I'm one of them. I could never get my friends to truly open up unless it was a one on one conversation.

That's not how men process things. Men process things by trying to eliminate perceived unnecessary information and take action. Women are more inclined to want to sit down and discuss all the details of whatever is going on, many of those details the man would not perceive as useful.

This is the age old men vs women problem where women feel like men don't want to talk about problems/feelings and men feel like women just want to blabber on without ever solving anything.

> That's not how men process things. Men process things by trying to eliminate perceived unnecessary information and take action. Women are more inclined to want to sit down and discuss all the details of whatever is going on, many of those details the man would not perceive as useful.

I'm a man. Sometimes I do the former, more often the latter. And I do feel shamed for that, sometimes.

Expecting men and women to fit into neat, stereotyped boxes like this is a big part of the problem.

I didn't mean every single man on the planet any more than the article did. It's not helpful to change conversations from one level of abstraction to another.

If you're going to draw the line that way, then I'm more on what you call the 'man' side in not liking to talk about problems/feelings much. But if that leads you (speaking generally—I don't mean you personally) to deny your pain and avoid your demons, then you are doomed to repeat the same painful loop forever, and ultimately to inflict your unprocessed pain on those closest to you. That's a situation that calls for eliminating unnecessary information and taking action if ever there was one. What's needed are ways of taking that action, i.e. processing things, i.e. facing-healing-overcoming rather than denying, which actually work.

I think the difference, in purely the speaking aspect is that men are more hierarchical while women are more communal. A man will ask a trusted man, usually higher in that particular hierarchy, for advice. Women will gather in groups and complain as a mechanism for problem solving, emotional release, and bonding. Men bond and have emotional release in different ways. I think both groups tend to have similar benefits from their respective actions.

So you're telling me how I process things? Really....

This might be one of the issues of our times: men unable to talk about their feelings, unable to maybe even care about themselves because we learned we shouldn’t and we are afraid how we are seen if we do.

Sometimes beeing strong means to become vulnerable.

I agree - it's impossible to know what you are truly needing without having a pretty rich inner emotional landscape with a lot of nuance.

For instance -

Feelings: https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/feelings-inventory

Needs: https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/needs-inventory


Yet the needs exist, are often projected onto others (partners, co-workers, kids, whole countries, etc) and then action is taken to try to get /them/ to meet needs that one doesn't even know they have. At best, this tends to be frustrating, at worst...well we can all look up the stats on violence perpetuated by people raised as men in the West versus people not raised as men.

It sounds like you're saying this is a high priority issue. Why do you feel that way?

It is a legitimate question. I feel that way, because as a society we are in a state of transformation right now.

By pure rational thought many young men have accepted to treat women like equal human beeings, just as many women have understood that the traditional division of gender roles might not fit all social encounters.

The issue is, that understanding and doing are two seperate things and switching between the old and the new paradigma when it fits us seems to be common place.

So many men end up getting the worst of both worlds: they are not the strong leader of the family any more, but they were still raised in a way to hide their feelings, just like many women are expected to be strong while they might not always have been raised in that way.

The thing we aim for as a society here is defintly worth it (I could experience for myself how amazing a relationship of equals between man and woman can be), but there are many people who struggle with this and it leads to all kind of societal side effects like depression, suicide, drug abuse and violence.

To be fair in times when the man had to be strong this was also a problem, because there are always people who simply don’t fit the role society wants them to take and if you force them into it bad things happen.

Communicating your own feelings is important for mental health. Anyone who struggles with this: get help. Write letters to a person that you never send — writing will help you to think and reflect.

> "By pure rational thought many young men have accepted to treat women like equal human beeings"

You make it sound as though men have never considered women as equal human beings until some recent enlightenment. I find this world view to be absolutely apalling, and arrogant. You're denying a history where the vast, vast majority of relationships between men and women (eg. marriages) were cooperative, reciprocal, and built upon a foundation of mutual respect.

> "The thing we aim for as a society here is defintly worth it (I could experience for myself how amazing a relationship of equals between man and woman can be)"

A relationship of equals betwen a man and a woman is not some novel new concept we should aspire to, it is completely normal and has been for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

I know it sounds unlikely, and it may even be unbelievable, but I suspect there could be men with emotions posting comments on Hacker News. Not me of course, that would be ridiculous.

GamerGate, male suicide rate, incels, falling male graduation rates, mass shootings.

Pride comes before the fall because we stop grading ourselves objectively.

> Sometimes being strong means to become vulnerable.

This is true so long as you appear vulnerable, not weak.

I don't think it is about appearance. It is about dialogue and communication. If you want to really talk about things that affect you and your life, these things will quite often be topics you struggle to openly speak about.

I talk about topics that are so hard to talk about that people lie to themselves about it. Things that you don't want to be real are things you try to hide and emotions that don't fit your role in society are part of this.

Becoming vulnerable is the price you have to pay to talk about these kind of topics. And if it happens that you look weak as a side effect you have to pull through it. But this is not about looks, this is about beeing able to interface with the world around you and exposing your true self is the price you have to pay for meaningful conversation.

What is the difference?

Give examples of vulnerability that is not also weakness.

Vulnerability is being strong and weak at the same time. It's having the strength to know what the end goal is and not get distracted by emotional hurdles while being weak in submitting to authority and peers.

The easiest example of vulnerability I can think of is leaders from other departments asking my opinion on work processes or product ideas. One could argue that's not weakness but I believe it is, in that leaders who believe themselves above everyone else at the company will make policy and standards that ignore important aspects of product development and delivery.

An example of weakness is confessing personal issues to your manager or a peer, so much so they think less of you but generally don't tell you directly. The "vulnerable" version of that is handling your issues as you see them, asking peers and mentors for comments on your work and how you can improve, and simply not talking about them outside that.

I'll admit part of my judgment is shaded by personal bias from my own weaknesses, but that's how I see it.

I prefer to use the term "open" instead of vulnerable, to avoid exactly the situation you're pointing out. And you can be open without being weak or vulnerable if you have self-confidence. Not faked confidence, but the genuine kind that comes from dealing with your shit instead of repressing it and putting on a mask of fake confidence, strength, stoicism, invulnerability, etc.

Yeah you can be open too and this means by definition you are confident about the topic at hand and that you trust the other person enough.

But if all you ever do is only talk about topics that you can confidently speak about with out risking something, then you are missing out on something. And sure you can also go and deal with it on your own till you got the confidence to talk about it without exposing yourself, but there are connections you will be never able to form if all you ever do is deal with yourself.

It’s not confidence about the topics. It’s confidence about yourself.

Again, that sounds like reverse causation...

What's causing what? I don't see cause and effect here, I see one adjective versus another.

Shield-down && (buff vs scrawny)

I wouldn’t take this as a representative sample of all men.

In my experience, sharing feelings makes me feel worse and substantially reduces my appeal to others. I prefer to just deal with my problems logically and avoid such navel gazing.

sharing feelings === navel gazing ?

What is illogical about discussing feelings?

Is it illogical to ask for food if you are hungry?

Depending with who you share it and how you share it.

It displays psychologically lack of preparation for hard things in life or even weakness.

So it can easily lower the Sexual Market Value of a man.

If he just feels worse, it's certainly illogical to keep doing it.

It's fairly common for people to have adverse reactions to therapy. Not everyone reacts the same to this sort of thing.

That's kind of a spurious argument to make without drawing it out a bit. Exercise doesn't feel good (at first) if you're morbidly obese, but that's because you really need it.

Adverse reactions to therapy might mean that therapy isn't for you. But more commonly, I think it probably means that you don't have the right therapist and / or you have some really heavy, painful shit that you need to deal with but don't want to. Otherwise you wouldn't be having "adverse reactions" to simply sitting in a room with another human to talk about your life.

Everyone is exactly the same. Everyone feels good about exactly the same things, and bad about exactly the same things.

What I just said is clearly ridiculous.

It should not be a surprise that some people don't feel positive about talking about their lives. If you can't imagine it, I'm afraid you may lack imagination.

I've got a pet peeve for articles that focus on events as if they were isolated in time, one of a kind, or unprecedented.

No mention of similar mens groups that occurred 30 to 50+ years ago? There's the Mythopoetic men's movement for one.

MKP has been around for 30+ years and as far as I know is the keystone organization of that movement.

You're right that the article would be better if it weren't so ahistorical.

>There's the Mythopoetic men's movement for one.

Funny enough, that movement coined the term "toxic masculinity."

It's almost as if Journalists are under amazing pressure to deliver articles that are basically skin and bone.

I feel this article demonstrates why gender equality is damn hard for us right now.

I'm male. I believe that has had a significant effect on my upbringing.

I'm an individual. I believe a whole lot of things have had a significant effect on my upbringing.

Why would I want to try to resolve my issues within this gendered framework? Am I really primarily male? That seems like a forced choice to me.

You can't discard the different pressures specific to each gender, and how each gender deals in their own way with those issues. This reminds me of schools that deal with boys like they are "broken girls", they are ignoring their natural gender attributes when assessing what's acceptable behavior.

Are you saying that there should be different standards of acceptable behavior for boys versus girls. Or are you saying if the schools paid more attention to how boys normally behave, they would accept a more broad definition of “acceptable behavior” for all children?

Yes, people are different, you need extremely flexible standards to accommodate this. Right now the standards are far too rigid, and we have enough data now to know that on average they harm boys far more than girls.

So, yes to the second interpretation I mentioned?

There shouldn't be different standards for boys vs girls, but the standards should be permissive enough to allow for both, which currently just plainly isn't the case in many situations. Sitting still and talking is okay, Roughhousing and climbing trees is not.

That is not to say that one gender will always pick one set of behaviours over the other, people are still individuals obviously, but as a generalisation there is a difference.

Group belonging is a fundamental part of the human condition. We are social, tribal animals. You may, of course, choose not to belong in groups that are defined by being male, but people are members of lots of groups with boundaries drawn for lots of reasons. Given that many men have similar experience by virtue of being men, it seems a reasonable attribute to base a group on.

>Why would I want to try to resolve my issues within this gendered framework? Am I really primarily male? That seems like a forced choice to me.

It is a forced choice. The model of gender as a binary state rather than a spectrum is an obsolete and harmful social construct.

If it’s not a binary, it’s still a very much bimodal distribution. Ironically, the notion that gender is either a binary or a spectrum is a false dichotomy. It’s obviously a bimodal distribution with most, but not all, people clustered around one of the two peaks.

Well yeah... that's exactly what it is. By "spectrum" I didn't mean to imply an even distribution.

Agree in many ways, from the other mode of this bimodal distribution.

> gender equality

The way it's going about right now is "equality for me but not for you" by using over exaggerated claims.

Please don't take HN threads further into ideological flamewar. It's hard to get out once we go there.


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