NOUCADEMY #2: Caroline Hehenberger on masculinity & male role models

As a psychologist and dating expert, Caroline Hehenberger supports people in developing themselves and their relationships. Based on psychological insights, she teaches targeted methods in her work to overcome crises and problems to achieve personal goals.

In our NOUCADEMY, we had the opportunity to talk to Caroline about the topic of masculinity and the importance of emotions. But what does being masculine actually mean? How can I break away from classic role models and be more myself? How can I deal with my emotions properly as a man and what role do outdated role models perhaps play? That's exactly what we asked our expert!

The meaning of masculinity

The concept of "masculinity" has changed again and again throughout history and is strongly influenced by culture and society. Accordingly, many ideas of what is "masculine" are outdated and problematic.

"The fact is that the traditional image of the strong, independent man who never cries and shows women the ropes limits rather than supports most men," says Caroline.

According to the psychologist, the first step in breaking away from this is to question one's own image of what "masculinity" actually means. What ideas have you acquired in the course of your life? What image has been lived out/shaped in one's upbringing? What are the opinions of the social environment?

In comparison, one can ask oneself: "Do I actually see it the same way?" Quite often insecurities arise from gender stereotypes, since very few men can really fulfil the "criteria". 

She adds: "However, with the realisation that the whole issue is not that black and white, the foundation for more self-acceptance can also emerge."

The best way to deal with emotions

“In German, we have a saying that goes "An Indian knows no pain" and "Boys don't cry". Many men have grown up with these or similar sayings. While this approach to education is supposed to help create "strong men", in reality it inhibits children's emotional development and promotes psychological problems later in life," Caroline notes.

However, the ability to deal with one's own emotions properly can still be learned in adulthood. You can start with a mindful approach to your own feelings - that means consciously noticing, acknowledging and allowing them. Many men tend to suppress emotions, tone them down or transform them into more socially acceptable emotions or behaviours (e.g. sadness into aggression, insecurity into boasting, etc.). So giving expression to one's own feelings in whatever way they occur is already a big step!

Die richtige Umgang mit Emotionen als Mann

The effect of emotions on our well-being

Our emotions have an important function for our body and psyche: they are ingenious guides that show us very precisely what we need for our well-being. By consciously or unconsciously not listening to our feelings, by suppressing or ignoring them, we are not doing our mental health any good. In the long run, this can even lead to serious problems such as burnout, depression and suicide. Men in particular are very vulnerable to the latter - suicide is the second leading cause of death among young men worldwide.

But by dealing with your own feelings in a healthy way, you can not only prevent negative things - you can also actively contribute to feeling happy, satisfied and balanced. And it is also essential for the quality of relationships to be able to deal properly with your own feelings and those of others. 

"Because ultimately we can only form emotional connections if we also have good access to our own emotions," Caroline Hehenberger finally emphasises.