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To My Sons: Shit I Know

Sheridan Taylor

Our hero gives some hard-learned advice to his sons and you, dear reader. Nowhere here will you find our hero exhorting his sons not to be weak, not to feel emotions, not to be scared. These are the wrong lessons our fathers, and their fathers before them, learned, and they have cost us. It is impossible not to feel fear, loneliness, or any other emotion, uncomfortable or otherwise.

Emotions are nothing more than physiological responses inside our bodies to external stimuli. We feel fear when something scary happens, just as we feel joy when something joyful happens. We cannot do otherwise. Emotions are signals from our body to our brain, telling us something it wants us to know, exactly the same as pain or hunger.

As a boy, I learned that allowing my father to know I was scared or sad would draw disapproval from him. It was weakness. Strong men don’t cry. Strong men don’t feel fear. This told me that if I felt the signal in my body that I couldn’t help but feel, there must be something inherently wrong with me. This caused me to hide my emotions. Then, deny them. Then, suppress and repress them. Then they exploded. And I went insane and tried to kill myself to stop the pain.

My father learned stupid shit, believed it, and taught it to me. It’s taken me 50 years to unlearn that fucking garbage and learn to love myself. The last 8 years were the ones I really put in the work. I decided to do things differently when my oldest son was born and break the cycle. I decided to become a dad, not just a father.

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