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May 26, 2024 43 mins

In this episode, my guest is Dr. Brendan Kwiatkowski, an educator, researcher, and speaker focused on the social-emotional development and well-being of boys and men. Brendan, who earned his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Edinburgh in 2023, conducted an in-depth study on the emotions, masculinities, and schooling experiences of teenage boys. His interdisciplinary research merges psychology, sociology, and education to humanize and empower participants by giving voice to their lived experiences.

Brendan's work explores why some boys are highly emotionally expressive while others are not, and how these differences shape their beliefs about masculinity. He teaches at a local university, training future teachers, and works directly with boys and men to help them connect with their emotions in healthy ways.

A key theme discussed is the concept of restrictive masculinity, which includes the harmful messages boys receive about suppressing emotions, needing to be self-reliant, and feeling the pressure to dominate. These beliefs can lead to emotional disconnection from a young age, often around age five and during early adolescence (13-15 years). This disconnection is reinforced through societal norms and personal experiences, such as funerals, where boys learn to suppress sadness because they see men around them doing the same.

Brendan emphasizes that expressing emotions is crucial but warns that doing so in unsafe environments can be detrimental. He notes that suppressed emotions can resurface in harmful ways, such as anger or violence, often displaced onto others. This is evident in scenarios like domestic violence spikes following sports events.

Brendan highlights the importance of creating safe spaces for emotional expression. Teenage boys often restrict their emotions due to fear of judgment, not wanting to burden others and the fear of being hurt by emotional closeness. He encourages honest conversations and support among boys and men to break these patterns of emotional suppression.

In the broader context, Brendan points out that while both socialization and biology play roles in shaping behaviors, socialization significantly impacts emotional expression. He also touches on the importance of understanding grief as a complex emotional experience, often involving a mix of sadness, anger, and even humor, which can be overwhelming without proper support.

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