The different narrative of men and emotions

Mr Gugulethu Mbatha of the Unisa Alumni Office; Mr Sabelo Muhlungu, President of the Unisa Convocation; Dr Shahieda Jansen, Deputy Director: Academic Support and ICT, Western Cape; Mr Solly Matheba, Convenor of the Pretoria Alumni Chapter; and Mrs Amanda Tlale, Manager: Alumni Relations at Unisa.

During the last alumni chapter event of the year, men from the Pretoria Chapter gathered to learn more about the emotional competence of men. The event took place on 22 November 2019 and had a significant impact on those present.

The attendees were welcomed by the President of the Unisa Convocation, Sabelo Mhlungu, who encouraged the group to escalate their involvement in Unisa Alumni activities and to learn more about the initiatives of the Convocation.

The guest speaker at the event was Dr Shahieda Jansen, Deputy Director: Unisa Academic Support and ICT, Western Cape. The topic was “Men are emotionally competent: reflections on best practices in male-focused emotion work”. As a psychologist, Dr Jansen has vast experience in this field, her nexus being to work with men and, more recently, teenage boys.

Dr Jansen ensured that the attendees’ competitive spirit was high by commencing her session with a group physical challenge. The members of each group participated optimally and worked together to win the challenge.

After the challenge, Dr Jansen commented that the ability to cooperate and operate in groups is a sign of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is reflected in men’s ability to be flexible, to embrace diversity and to respect each other’s perspectives in a group setup.

“It has been proven throughout the ages amongst groups of men and confirmed that if men are given tasks to do, and not necessarily forced to talk about their emotions, they will show emotional intelligence,” she said.

Dr Jansen often works with men in group sessions and found that, as soon as women are absent, men express their feelings in their own way. “During therapy it is important not to start with what the problem is but to start with who the man is and what kind of man he wants to be.”

The pivotal question to ask is: “What kind of manhood is important to you?” Dr Jansen explained that manhood is often summarised by “characteristics like good values, honour, integrity, courage and responsibility”.

She added that in her years as a therapist, she developed great respect for male vulnerability. “Although this is often hidden by men as it is seen as a sign of weakness, in their effort to conceal their vulnerability the best medicine for men are other men,” she said.

“I find that men learn a lot from each other, especially when there are role models present in a group. When working in these groups, a therapist must have a good sense of humour as this is often used by men as a method of emotional regulation,” said Dr Jansen.

Another important aspect is women’s role in a boychild’s development, which goes way into his adulthood. Dr Jansen pointed out that much of manhood is tied up with women. “The first person a boychild bonds with at birth is a mother. From there, it is a woman who will be centrally involved with the development of his manhood. The roles of a mother and father are diverse but interconnected.”

This brings to the fore the importance of interaction between fathers and their children. Dr Jansen quoted from an anonymous source to end her address: “I used to think boys need their fathers but men need them, too.”

The Alumni Relations Office has already started planning next year’s visits and events across the continent. High on the priority list is strengthening the relationship between the university and its esteemed alumni. The programme will be available in February 2020.

Written by Cilla Boucher, Alumni Relations Officer at Unisa

Publish date: 2019/12/12