Big Boys Don’t Cry


The cultural impact upon a man!

This is the core of men’s issues – the are conditioned to “hold in their emotions!”

For boys and men, it’s socially acceptable to experience and express anger, instead of sadness, fear, or hurt feelings.

Male teens in counseling often brag that they DON’T cry—they just get angry or seek revenge. They’re thoroughly socialized and proud of it.

But is there a reason why?

Listen to this presentation on why men can't cry

by Tom Golden

Tom Golden, LCSW is an author, speaker and psychotherapist. His book, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing focuses on the unique ways that men and boys heal from trauma and loss and has been acclaimed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and many others.

This short talk was given at a conference on Boys in 2007.

It covers the basics of how men and boys tend to process emotions in a unique fashion and it does so fairly quickly in less than 25 minutes. A good deal is omitted but it should give you the general idea.

Find his ebook “The Way Men Heal” available on Amazon… or subscribe to his video site at

By contrast, men have told me—with regret and not pride—that they haven’t cried for 20n years or longer. Men have a hormonal reason they can’t cry.

Men often worry about their inability to cry and speak of it as a loss or a failure. Women blame men, shame men for not crying. The spigot, which often has been closed in his early childhood, feels rusted shut. Men want to cry, but don’t know how.

The bottom line is that men can’t cry, don’t cry openly because of cultural and physiological reasons.

This problem is worsened , they don’t feel they have permission from other men to cry.

It’s sad that society does this to boys. But it’s especially sad when parents, sometimes inadvertently, other times intentionally, discourage boys from experiencing and expressing emotional pain.

It’s also sad when boys are encouraged to be aggressive—instead of sensitive. Instead, parents need to be a safe haven for the full range of their son’s emotions.

As a male leader of other men in recovery, it will be a major factor when you appropriately “give the man permission to cry.”


In my own work with men, I have seen when men are given permission to cry in a safe environment, the spigot that has been for years, even decades rusted shut suddenly burst forth. I have seen men cry face down on the floor laying there sobbing huge crocodile sized tears.

According to the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) John Sommers-Flanagan, Ph.D., who is a counselor educator at The University of Montana.

Experiencing calmness after an emotional storm can be therapeutic. This is partly because holding back strong emotions requires physical effort. When strong sad or painful feelings are present, the body seems to want to naturally express those feelings, as if to unload an extra burden. Holding onto emotions may cause a lump to form in your throat or stinging in your eyes. Letting sad or painful feelings come out can be a great relief.

Research shows that identifying and expressing feelings of sadness, fear, or emotional pain promotes health. This is true whether people write, talk, or nonverbally express emotional pain. The body, unburdened by the need to inhibit or suppress feelings, responds with improved immune functioning.

Generally, boys and men have more trouble acknowledging and expressing painful emotions than girls and women. Some people believe this difference partially explains why males are more violent than females. Others have suggested that inhibiting sad feelings contributes to the fact that, on average, males die younger than females. Most researchers and theorists agree that inhibiting sad, hurt, or fearful feelings is a health liability for boys and men.

It could be argued that biological differences cause males to have more trouble expressing painful feelings (perhaps higher testosterone levels interfere with emotional expression). However, it’s also obvious that boys are systematically taught to inhibit certain feelings. For example, one study showed that mothers—yes, even mothers—were less emotionally responsive to baby boys than baby girls. There also are many gender-based emotionally hardening edicts present in our society, summed up in the old expression: “Big boys don’t cry.” The message to boys is loud and clear: To be accepted, you need to walk, talk, and act like a man (which does NOT include crying because you’ve gotten your feelings hurt).

See the full article:

What can be done about this cultural conditioning?

1. Expose it for what it is.

2. Give the man the opportunity to express his feelings about being conditioned to never show emotion.

3. Express your validation of his feelings: give him permission for him to cry if he feels like it.

4. When he expresses anger in response to your leadership, remind him that that is a learned.

NEXT: Learn about the Male Brain vs the Female Brain