Whether you call it fate, synchronicity or just believing what you want to believe, in recent times I have been unable to avoid the message that there is a need to express your emotions. The excellent Stiff Upper Lip series on BBC 2 recently hosted by Ian Hislop looked at the British relationship over time with its ability to display how it was feeling along with the reaction from the world in general. It really got me thinking.
I can only speak for myself and from personal experience but I have reached that point in my own life where the realisation has been made that to store up emotions, especially the negative ones, and to then dismiss them as being ‘one of those things’ is not at all healthy. I don’t want to to label an inability to articulate how you are feeling as a strictly male concern as I have met, and been inspired in recent years by, men who have dared to raise their heads above the parapet and admit when they really felt down. It just seems, by and large, that men are not expected to flinch or admit that certain things are too much to bear. I can easily testify that the real strength lies in the total honesty that comes with admitting to an issue rather than sweeping it under the carpet, pretending all is fine.
All men care and subconsciously channel this into their lives in ways that are acceptable. An easy example to use would be those who follow football. Its tribal, red-blooded and testosterone filled appeal gives it an allure to many, and in my view the thrills and spills which come with being a fan is a safe way to experience the emotional rollercoaster of life. I’m undecided as to whether this is good or not. Players and supporters crying through joy or pain at victory and defeat is seen as acceptable in this environment although I doubt a man crying in another situation would get similar understanding.
I have followed QPR home and away for over a decade. I realise now that doing this is a sign that there is more to it for me than just simply enjoying watching a game. It is like a drug or bizarre spiritual calling where I am able to experience the highs and lows of promotion to the Premier League, near relegation and the pain of losing in a play off final, alongside many weeks of tedium and hopelessness. Football for me is the vehicle to experience what I want to feel and, in kind, attempt to make sense of the world. The weekly build up and the opportunity to release frustration, belief that this is the year for untold glory, standing by the team in times of crisis and go the opportunity crazy with every last-minute winner, are the perfect tools of escapism from the aspects of life I can never explain or control. During the ups and downs throughout my life, watching football has been a constant part of it and, as silly as it sounds, a win during a difficult period has often inspired me to carry on when all else seems futile.
You will have no doubt heard the famous Bill Shankly quote “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Obviously that is not true and I’ll get onto that shortly. I can admit, though, to shedding a tear of joy during the run in of the recent Premier League season when QPR defied the odds and avoided relegation on the last day of the season. If I am being totally honest, at that point in my life previous negative experiences had me believing everything good in your life always gets taken away, so to experience something that would not disappear the next morning meant a lot to me. I take issue, however, with Shankly implying that football is the zenith of our existence. I want to express my feelings and emotions in every aspect of life and to do so in a way that can improve the world in which I live. I’ll out myself quite happily now as a man who feels, cares, loves and cries whilst not being afraid to admit it. Millions of men and women must be itching to break the constraints within which they live for the long term, instead of experiencing emotional freedom fleetingly through escapism. Lets start an emotional revolution.