We’ve established how being in touch with ones emotions is fundamental for day to day functioning, relationships and general wellbeing. However, the phrase “in touch with” has a very subtle gender bias when talking about emotions and mental health. It’s been proven scientifically, psychologically and socially that women, mostly, are the more talkative sex. Whether it’s venting, talking to themselves, or messaging friends, they know that talking helps. Of course, it’s not that easy for everyone as self-harm, smoking, drugs, drinking and eating etc is also a common way of dealing with emotions, but for the most part – women don’t mind talking. It doesn’t threaten their identity to ask for advice, it doesn’t make them feel or look inferior, and it’s almost “okay” for women to be externally emotional. However, is this same men?

We’re not suggesting that men must and need to start talking about their emotions, and they need to adapt to more feminine ways of dealing with their own thoughts and mental issues, because we’re equal before Allah as His servants, but we have been given our own natural dispositions. For men, just talking simply doesn’t always cut it. Neither are we saying that talking is just a woman’s way of dealing with things, rather we are saying there should be balanced approach in life – just like everything else. Achieving this balance is difficult – because the way “balance” looks like, is different for both genders. As mentioned before, it’s okay for women to look and be emotional, females are almost expected to cry, vent and talk to friends etc but for men, it’s not okay. Why? Is it because men would be seen as monsters in all their plight of anger, or maybe it’s not manly to cry about a long and stressful day, or possibly because simply talking about sadness/anxiety would mean something must have gone wrong in their upbringing. There is also this other, bizarre sort of expectation of how much men should and can be “in touch with” their emotions, as if we can only take in small doses of men’s emotions, i.e it’s wonderful for a man to cry upon the birth of his child, it’s understanding why a man would cry at the death of his parent – but it’s absurd for a man to cry about feelings of self-worthlessness. This shouldn’t be the case, not ever. It’s time to get over the societal standards we have all put in place upon men – and to simply say “it’s okay to talk, but if you don’t want to, that’s also okay.”

So, if men don’t want to talk, even after encouragement and the burning of social barriers – how else can they regulate, understand and deal with their emotions? It’s time to simply accept the fact, some men, will never want to talk – not because it hurts their ego or anything like that, rather because it doesn’t work for them. After ample amount of research, studies have shown that there are significant differences between male and female brains. Firstly, the limbic system (a system in the brain concerned with instinct and mood which controls basic emotions and drives) is bigger in women than men, which makes them naturally more in touch with their emotions. This causes a number of differences, and some of them may not seem totally related to dealing with emotions, but they are. For example, women perceive pain more intensely than men, and this is because the left side of their amygdala is activated when pain is perceived and for men it is the right. The left side has more internal functions (women) and the right side has more external functions (men). This could be the reason why women may bottle things up, and feel like talking about their emotions and what hurts inside, and men prefer to do physical things that flush out their emotions, because in reality – it does the same thing as talking for women. There are also a number of other reasons that relate to this concept, i.e women are generally better at social thinking and interactions, and men are more abstract and task orientated, which could be why women prefer to discuss, whilst men prefer to do.

Therefore, the best way for men to regulate and deal with mental health issues they may be facing, may not be to talk – rather to do something active. Of course, this is not a blanket statement for all men as there will always be differences, but generally we can say physical activity is probably more effective. This doesn’t mean a full on football match, or a rough game of rugby, or running – because activity isn’t always fitness related, it could be painting, calligraphy, cooking, anything that works for you. There are lots of new initiatives that have introduced meetings for men where a group of men can come together to do certain activities and meet other men that may be struggling with mental health problems too. You don’t necessarily have to talk about anything, but you will have a physical and social network behind you, so at least you know that you are not alone, and you don’t have to deal with anything alone.

At Inspirited Minds – we are here for you. We won’t judge you by your gender, because that isn’t what matters when it comes to dealing with mental health.

If you’re one of those people who prefer to do physical activities to deal with your emotions, then comment below on what you do, and if you prefer to talk to someone – comment who you talk to. I’ll start, when I’m frustrated, I box and when I’m upset and just need to tell someone all of my irrational and emotional thoughts – I FaceTime my best friend very late night!

Your turn!

Meanha Begum

Author Meanha Begum

Meanha Begum is currently studying a degree in Islamic Psychology where she has been given the blessing to explore her passions, Islam and Psychology. She relishes in the insight of an Islamic perspective to incorporate into psychology, to help those who have never been given a chance that every devout muslim, and non muslim deserves. Which is why she considers Inspirited Minds to be a huge blessing in her life. She has been brought up in a heavy western environment, where Islam was once far from her reach, but through trials and tribulations, she has managed to come out stronger and closer to Allah than ever before. It’s simply her experiences, ideas, and open nature that pushes her towards wanting to help others out of their vulnerable places, through their journey, and into happiness, with tranquil souls.

More posts by Meanha Begum
  • Not sure why you’ve emailed me for my comments on this article, because I am female! Nevertheless, if my forthright views can be of any use, here it is.

    As opposed to your statistics, I appear to be using both sides of my brain in equal proportions. I find liberation through physical activity as well as talking and employ both as per the situation. I tend to talk about things that are taboo and generally left unspoken whilst dealing creatively and silently with most of what the masses natter and whine about freely because it’s the in thing to talk about whilst sweeping all the important matters under the carpet with the hope that it will miraculously disappear, hey presto! Since I seem to be the exception and not the norm, my views have always been (sometimes commended with a ‘wow’ and then) dutifully sidelined as not representing the majority, therefore redundant. Up to you to find a slot for the ‘strangers’ like me.

    In my humble experience, I find that prevention is better than cure and that THAT is where we Muslims (who are backward late comers to the non-scientific, yet hip and happening western mental scene of head shrinks) should be directing our efforts towards.

    It is meaningless to keep pumping out ‘mental cases’ via a closely guarded misogynistic patriarchal system that nurtures and fosters psychopaths and then run in circles trying to figure out if the left or right side of the brain should be used to deal with it or if men should talk more or not!!! The west has already been there and done it and knows that it’s all a complete hogwash and so now they have moved on to normalizing the ‘madness,’ instead of dealing with the root causes and nipping it in the bud. This accepting of madness compounds the ‘madness’ further, but because it effectively makes everybody mad, it seems that everybody appears content with this. But for how long? You want a reality check? WW3 Armageddon is at hand.

    As Muslims, we need to ask ourselves if we are going to follow those before us down the same lizard hole as, Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wassallam feared and prophesied that we would, or are we going to turn to the ultimate source of guidance and wisdom – the Qur’an – and just simply make the necessary changes to stop misinterpreting the Qur’an to support the misogynistic NWO male supremacy theory and instead simply humbly accept and obey it?

    Islam is perfect. God Almighty Allah views male and female equally. No problem with God or Islam. The question is, are we living Islam? Or are we preaching one thing and living another? The Muslim ummah today must surely win the award for the height of hypocrisy. Females are raised (both in Muslim and non-Muslim families) to accept the role of being mere objects of pleasure for man because man is the breadwinner, although statistics clearly reveal that he most certainly in not!!! The concept that man will be the one, who spends on you, therefore shut up and take the crap because you are caught in a catch22. So the girl is broken at a young age to make her slavish to man, not God, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that unislamic practises such as dowry have crept in. A woman’s earnings are no longer pocket money for herself. She is expected to go to work and help bring the bacon home (no offence intended) as well as be a housewife and punching bag for latest NWO mental case – man – the great kalifa, who is diligently driving us down the road without breaks to WW3 and the hellfire.

    Instead of obeying Allah and ordering man to lower his (lustful) gaze, woman is wrapped like an Egyptian mummy and no wonder she loses her cool!!! How are we going to handle more complex psychological issues, when such basics as making Mosques open to women have yet to be established around the world? And I don’t mean hiding her behind curtains and partitions and in basements upstairs and downstairs in mother’s chamber! I am talking about simply following the Sunnah of giving women space behind the men in the Masajid. And while you’re at it make sure the carpet for women is of the same quality as that of men!

    Rather than trying to find ways to survive a thriving corrupt patriarchal system, shouldn’t we be channelling our energies towards establishing a just and fair system within the ummah… indeed, within the home?

    Respect for women – as God decreed it – must begin at the houses of worship and the home.

    My point is, we don’t western or eastern or northern or southern systems to help us. We have Islam. The perfected way of life. Let’s stop preaching it and practise it for a change. Everything will fall into place in sha Allah.
    It’s a rant. Oops sorry, but that is my uncensored response.

    All praise to Allah for that which is correct and true. May Allah forgive my imperfections.

    • Meanha

      A’slaamualaykum Sona – you’ve received the newsletter because everyone on the list gets every new post , including all of our male viewers who received the posts from last month which was dedicated to women. It’s important for us to know about all aspects of mental health with the hope of understanding a little bit better from every angle. Jazakamaullahu Khairan for your response and discussion. We would hate for you to feel like your opinion has been sidelined, as every opinion matters here however I did mention through out the article that none of it were blanket statements, and nor did they apply to everyone. I also emphasised the that there are and always will be individual differences, but the aim of this article was purely for the societal barriers and taboos around the problems that men face regarding mental health today.

      I’m sorry you feel that we’re talking about unimportant, and things that have already been “done” by the west – however, a lot of people feel that even in the west, these taboos and misconceptions still occur. Hence why the article was written, to diminish current taboos. Although I agree that we do need to get to the roots of these problems, but that can never happen without acknowledging the problem, and after acknowledging the problem, you need to regulate the problem to then deal with the problem and its roots. I’ve not mentioned that we shouldn’t use the Quran and Sunnah because this is a necessity for a muslim to function, but it is important to remember that the Prophet (saw) was the best of counsellors and advisors where he would take the time to listen to his companions and even race his wife. Allah swt has also made having a sound mind a condition for many obligatory deeds, and therefore for us to even consider bringing a fair and just system to the Ummah, we do have to look after ourselves, mentally and physically, like you said – within the home.

      Although you may think that sides of brains and talking may not be the matter that needs to be raised – but it is for some. Some people may need these concepts and proofs to simply understand themselves, or their partners, or relatives a little bit better. Some people may need for it to be written down to help themselves and others and some people may simply want to know more about it but don’t know where to start. I would also like to mention that these are not my own statistics, but statistics I have shared from sources such as Psychology Today, and other mental health sites/books which are often used for education purposes.

      In Shaa Allah we aim to raise awareness of mental health within Islam, how to deal with it within Islam, and also practice Islam to the best of our ability. May Allah make it easy for all of us, Ameen.

      Jazakamullahu Khairan!

  • Meryem Belhaj

    Wa’alaikom salam,

    First of all I wanna say I really love the text. It’s so true and I recognise people I know in it. It’s true that not all people talk about their stuff, especially when you get the extra pressure of being as ‘manly’ as can be.

    In this case I have the privilege of being a woman. Not wanting to cry is a choice, not being able to is an oppression I guess. When I feel the need to cry I can. No one will think I’m not fulfilling my duty as woman because of it. Unfortunately men experience this quite differently. I find it sad though and because of this part I actually feel kinda sorry for those men. We should all be able to express our feelings, no matter our gender.

    As a response to your question: I don’t like expressing myself either. I sometimes find it hard or useless talking about. However, when I want to I’m able to. My family, my friends, my grandfather, you name it. I’d rather go and work out, it takes away some stress and I don’t have to talk when I don’t want to. Ultimate!

    Greetings,
    Meryem

    • Meanha

      Jazakamullahu Khairan for the comment Meryem – what you said is so true. It simply isn’t the same for men, and it is a sad reality for them, no matter how many times we say that crying is okay – will it ever be okay for men? We can hope and work towards it In Shaa Allah!

      I agree, working out destresses me also, there’s nothing quite like a furious session of skipping!

      Much love, Meanha.

  • Imam Monawar Hussain

    Wa Alaykum Assalaam wa Rahmatullah, Sister Meanha Begum

    I wanted to thank you and your colleagues for the regular, hugely thoughtful and reflective papers.

    May Allah ta’ala accept your work and grant you tawfiq to continue to serve his creation.

    Was salaam,

    Monawar

    • Meanha

      A’slaamualaykum Imam Monwar Hussain.

      Ameen, and you! Jazakamullah Khairan for your comment, me and my colleagues really do appreciate it! We’re so glad that it’s finally reaching more and more people, especially those at the forefront of the Muslim community such as yourself. Alhamdulillah. It’s responses like yours that make our work worthwhile.

      May Allah reward you immensely for all your efforts for the ummah, and your kind words to us.

      BarakAllah Feek.

      Wa’slaam,
      Meanha

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