Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse, the podcast. Today, I’m so excited for my friend and this like awesome local musician Matt Erickson to join me. I really wanted to talk about how the word sensitive is a very effeminate word in society. And I personally think that that’s bullshit. I think that it does not allow people that are masculine to express themselves, it really stops them from being able to do that. And I wanted to address that with none other than my awesome friend who is perfect to talk about this with. He is a local musician. He plays guitar for Oppressed Affliction. And you can find him on Instagram and Spotify. I’ll put the links in the description. Welcome on Matt. I’m so excited. This is so far overdue.
Matt: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited. I’m so excited to do this for like, how many months have we’ve been talking about this? I think it’s been at least four.
Marissa: I’ve been doing it. I’ve been doing this podcast since January. And I think you were like the second person I talked to so probably…
Matt: There we go.
Marissa: Thank you so much. I’m excited to talk to you about this. So I grew up female, and I am a heterosexual cisgender female woman. So I’ve never been told that I’m not allowed to feel what I’m feeling. Have you as a male growing up male, had that experience?
Matt: Oh, 100%. And so really quick, kind of the whole thing. I’ll just get what I am out there right on the table. And this is something that 10 years ago, I almost wouldn’t have even thought to say publicly, but I am a bisexual cis-gendered male. I grew up very much around my mom and my sister, and my sister’s friends. And I was always friends with girls, seemed to get along a lot better with them growing up. Really the only male figure I had a lot in my life was my father. So luckily, I think at some point, in that small group, everyone was like, “Oh, you can feel what you feel you can be sensitive, it’s good to be sensitive.” But somewhere along the line, I started seeing it a little bit more, like very subtle imagery, especially in you know, the media, and in movies and everything that like men aren’t supposed to have feelings. You were all supposed to bottle it up. And then one day I’ll die. Stealing that a little bit from John Mulaney. But I was told that a few times, like especially when I started crying, sometimes people be like, Oh, come on, man. Suck it up. Suck it up. Don’t cry. Don’t do that don’t show emotion. Like, in order to be a man in order to be respected, you shouldn’t cry like that. You shouldn’t cry in public. There were actually a lot of times where I remember growing up where I would cry in the middle of class. Literally, while someone’s trying to teach but I was getting bullied and I was, you know, sob story, sob story, sob story. I would be getting bullied in the middle of class, I would start crying about it. And sometimes even my friends in the class would be like, “Dude, you’re not supposed to cry, you’re a boy. Don’t cry in the middle of class. Don’t do this. Don’t show your emotions.” I used to be able to cry easier than I do now. But I think it has affected me a lot. Looking back at it.
Marissa: That makes total sense. It affects your ability to allow yourself to feel and process emotions. When you’re told over and over again, real men don’t cry. Real men don’t cry, be a big boy. You know. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t get sad, they get angry. And I think that that process is different. It disallows you from really understanding your emotional capacity. And it manifests into just rage. So I think that’s why and thank you for disclosing, you know, your sexual identity, I really appreciate that.
Matt: If I may, like the whole sensitivity thing. That was a whole other reason, though, that I would even keep… it was even just, you know, the social disregard for being even bisexual, or for being gay or LGBTQ. Like, God bless that, well, whatever, bless whatever bless that for. We can get into that conversation a whole other time. But, but bless the fact that I can come out and say that without you know, you know… a lot of people are a lot more confident than I am and their sexuality and being able to say that. Again, as I said, 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to say that and I think a big part of that was kind of like an effeminate trade that it was a sensitive trait that it was this, that or the other thing. And I was almost embarrassed about it to the point where only a few people knew about my sexuality at the time. And I was keeping something that was so important to my identity so far under wraps that I would literally only tell my closest friends. Luckily, in the past five or six years or so I’ve grown more comfortable in that fact. I’ve been able to express it to those that I love. And as recently as I think, it was last year was the first time I made a public post about it to Facebook. And honestly, the reaction to that was overwhelming. And I mean, it that was actually a moment where I started, I was at a show, and I was about to get up and play. And my cousin had called me and I’ll never forget this. He saw that I had come out and he can he said, what you did, takes a lot of courage. So thank you for that. I know this is kind of a little off topic. But I feel like it is an important story to still talk about sensitivity and being able to be comfortable in your own skin. Because he calls me and I started I actually started crying like in the middle of this bar right before I was supposed to play a metal show, because it meant the world to me that someone of my family was just like, “Dude, that’s so cool. Thank you for that. I had no idea.”
Marissa: So it’s really beautiful.
Matt: Thinking about it tears me up a little bit. And the other thing was, I didn’t know how my parents would react and they’ve come around, and they’ve and they still love and accept me. And my dad especially, I didn’t know how he would take it. But like when I did come out. He called me a few days later, because actually, I hadn’t seen him when he found out. He called me a few days later and said, I’d love you no matter what. And it was it was one of those rare moments that like I, feel like you know, my dad sometimes falls into that sensitivity trap that he like I’ve seen it, he tries to be very strong, he tries to be very stoic about a lot of things. So it’s kind of rare to see him show emotion. Luckily, as his kid, he shows it a little more towards me. So he said, I love you no matter what, and I accept you. And that was another time where I had like I was in the middle school. In college, I almost broke down. I’m someone that wears my emotions on my sleeve. So even if I’m not crying, you can see what I’m feeling. And that does a lot of times when the sadness is there does kind of convert physically to rage because I can’t express it at that moment. I’ve been taught still by the society at large that, you know, man up, sack up, take life as it is. And I feel that might actually be a big reason that I kind of suffer from a lot of anxiety, because there’s like these two parts of me fighting of express every emotion, but also don’t.
Marissa: I think that’s a big reason why male survivors have a very difficult time coming forward. And I know that you’ve disclosed to me outside of this, that you have not experienced significant sexual harassment or assault or abuse or anything, which is phenomenal. And I’m obviously very happy that that has not happened to you. But for the people that it has, those same emotions, anxiety and holding it in, and manifesting into rage. Those are all after-effects of abuse and not being equipped with the tools or resources to process that. And then on top of that being told to sack up or be a man or men don’t cry or you calling them a pansy. It really plays a huge role in the victimization and low-reported numbers of male survivors.
Matt: Oh, absolutely. And, and it’s funny that you brought up like the processing and everything. Like I kind of want to dissect a few things, because I’m gonna say some things that might also be a little hypocritical. I just, I’d rather be fully honest. So first and foremost, I do want to touch on the processes. I do remember growing up, I think my generation has made it so much more acceptable to be a sensitive, but being an artist. I think even being a musician, you’re supposed to bare your soul, you’re supposed to bury your emotions. So the fact that everyone wants to be an artist is such an important thing. And it’s so important to make sure that you can express yourself. Now that being said, I can actually speak very directly to this sometimes when you’re a metal head. It’s supposed to come out as rage. You’re not supposed to necessarily show crying or feelings like that because you’re supposed to be this big badass Rockstar. No. Fuck that man. Fuck that. I remember one of the times that I respected my favorite guitarists the most, Sinister Gates from Avenged Sevenfold. The time I respected him the most was when I saw after the drummer passed, they played a song that the drummer wrote. Rest in peace, Jimmy, but I saw a video of him onstage in front of 14,000 people. He had to kind of look away, start crying. And you could just see it in him that like, I mean, he was breaking down in front of 14,000 people and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. So the whole thing as well like. All these older metal heads are like suck up Don’t be a pussy, it is prevalent. And I will admit, sometimes it takes a toll on me. And sometimes it makes me almost feel like an imposter, it also starts to bring on that imposter syndrome of, Oh, I’m not tough enough to be this metal guy. I’m not tough enough to be this musician, badass. But then I’m like, wait a minute. The whole reason I got into it was to express myself fuck that I’m gonna feel the way I feel and hopefully be able to write about it.
Marissa: But as a musician and an artist, especially in the scene that you’re in the metal scene, how do you find that balance between being the tough screaming rage monster that, you know Avenged Sevenfold, and Atreyu, and all those big metal bands, like they manifest their rage into their music, versus the sensitivity that it also takes to be an artist and be able to wear your heart on your sleeve? How do you find that balance?
Matt: So a lot of times the macho-man persona, it’s almost like a face to wear. And part of that, I’ll straight up admit is kind of for marketing reasons, like I can portray myself as whoever I want to be on Instagram and Facebook, I can show you at my best all the time, and I want to show my best. I really do. And the thing that I think I have more respect for when I see, you know, guys like Jared Dines admit to things like this, is when they’re able to be vulnerable and say, I am sensitive. I am nervous. I am a wreck. Like when these big names can say that I think the balance is still being able to show yourself and showing it through your music. But also still being able to be real with your followers and with your friends and family. And that’s all I ever try to be. And it’s bullshit to ever try and market yourself as someone else. And on the same course, this is something though that I do struggle with. Because of that pressure to be that person sometimes will be joking around. And I’ll say something that I’ll catch myself as being toxic masculinity. I think it’s all about context. And sometimes I use that toxic masculinity to get a few cheap laughs. And it sounds horrible to say, but sometimes it happens. But I never want people to ever think that they can’t go to their closest friend. They can’t come to me. That they can’t go to their family. They should have someone to go to. And if any of my friends or family are listening, I hope they know that they can do that for me.
Marissa: There are a couple things that you said that I want to kind of touch back on. And I’m trying to scribble notes as you’re talking because you say so many great things. So one thing that you said I want to address is that there’s beauty and vulnerability. As a person who has a fan base and who has a presence in a platform, being able to express yourself. It humanizes you. When you express yourself as a person, as a human being that has emotions and baggage and bad days. I think it makes you relatable to people. And I think that’s why we like who we like.
Matt: Oh 100% and that’s again, why I’m so drawn to those people that make like, you know, the My Chemical Romances of the world. Panic At The Disco’s. So raw and so emotional that you can feel their pain, you know, when you can bare your soul like that in your art that is still just as humanizing is just making a social media post. Boys from a young age are taught that ballet, that music, that poetry. All these things are girly. You’re supposed to play sports, and you’re supposed to play basketball and you’re supposed to want to blow shit up. And don’t get me wrong I did all that stuff, too, because it’s fun. I was very lucky that I had parents that supported my music from a young age. They knew that playing music was going to be important for me. That being said, I do remember kind of trying to be steered away from the violin, because it was less masculine. And it was more that it was boring. But I look back at that and thinking like, wait a minute, no, but the other thing was I had wanted to play trumpet since I was four. So like, they were just trying to steer me back to that. But I do remember though a lot of boys that started on clarinet, on flute, on violin, on all these things. They were kind of poked and prodded on a little bit. And luckily, as the years went by, I noticed that go away. But that is something that is so systemically wrong with our society. That we want to push people to do more of the arts, but at the same time, we have kids, we have adults, we have certain people in our lives that say no, the arts are not for boys.
Marissa: Boys should be collecting bugs and playing with GI Joe. And anything outside of that is not, it’s not a boy activity. And that’s so inherently, first of all, it’s inherently incorrect. Also just it’s such a horrible baseline to create for somebody because those are resources and tools to help get over emotional trauma.
Matt: Exactly, I mean, I used music all through my years from when I found it. I kind of had a rebirth in middle school where I didn’t like music for a while, it was boring. But then like seventh grade, something switched. And I started feeling more, I started listening more, I started understanding more about myself. And I was tormented all the time from elementary school through the later I’m sorry, the early parts of high school, people did not like me. They thought I was a nerd. They thought I was weird. I was picked on relentlessly. And sometimes, you know, it got the better of me. But I would go home and I would practice trumpet; I would practice guitar. So in my experience, the arts have done nothing but help. The other thing is, is that I’m also trying to make my art a career. So now, the whole, your own worst critic comes into play, but then I can’t express myself in any other way. So then it’s kind of this, this sort of cycle of, I feel like I can’t express myself, but what I need to express myself with feels like it’s not good enough. And all this stupid stuff that like turns into just depression, and depression, naps.
Marissa: It’s a vicious cycle. You want to express yourself to make your music as good as it possibly can. But you’ve been wired to not express yourself. And that’s frustrating, you know. And that’s why so many people have such severe anger problems. Because men specifically have been trained not to feel. If you’re feeling like crying, you’re not masculine enough. I want to know, from your opinion, where do we start to change it? Because there’s a clear generational problem. Us in our age group. And I want to say maybe the age group above us and below us are kind of caught in this pickle between our parents were raised in a very, “Boys will be boys, and men are strong. And women are meek,” kind of mindset. And they’re stuck there. You know, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to change that. And the people younger than us are doing such a phenomenal job about being inclusive and accepting. And so where do we start?
Matt: I don’t want to say where we start. But I want to say where we can continue, where we can continue that is almost making sure that we take those lessons, and we enhance them. And we make sure that people understand that no matter what your race, creed, whatever your sexuality, whatever you are as a person, is accepted. That is first and foremost. And a big part of that, I believe it’s also just through education. I think the more you actually educate people, and we improve our educational system, the more we’ll actually be able to have an emotional intelligence. People will be able to have different thoughts, and they’ll be able to read stories that have more complex emotions, and earlier age. So to sum it up, where we are isn’t necessarily in that bad position, it can always be better. And I think that where we can continue is by making sure everyone’s included, making sure that everyone is educated, making sure everyone is more cultured than I am. Making sure people understand that it’s okay to feel to look for the deeper meaning in the stories. And to also make sure they understand that it’s okay to have something that may feel effeminate, but isn’t it’s just expressing who you are.
Marissa: Things are only feminine and masculine. When we assign a label to it, you know, so instead of saying, “Oh, that’s like a girly toy,” why don’t we say, “That’s a cool toy.” I don’t care. They shouldn’t be assigned a gender label, because they’re things, is a huge important first step. You mentioned something about characters in movies, I want to say that the vast majority still in 2020, the vast majority of the heroes of movies are male, it’s usually from a male perspective, not always, but the majority. And nine times out of ten, that male will show anger and not sadness. And will show anger and not fear. And will show frustration and not anguish. So we are characterizing people in the media, and in movies, and in video games, and in music, as macho and angry and aggressive. And the second they show sensitivity, It’s usually a character that’s if they show weakness or sensitivity it’s usually a character that is either a female or homosexual in some way. Has some sort of caveat as to why they’re sensitive, because we need it to make them more effeminate in order to show that that’s a normal emotion for that character. No men can also be sensitive, that plays a role in males. survivors.
Matt: So really quick one thing I do want to point out the movies thing I 100% agree with. I think that’s totally true, the productive, they’re predominantly male, they’re predominantly cisgendered straight men, that usually express their emotions as anger, and those are going to be the popular movies. Now, one thing I do want to say is, is when you step away from just the movies, and you go to TV shows. I used to write off a couple of these shows, because I thought they were just childish and dumb. But then I actually sat down and watched them, you know, I was so into, like, Family Guy and American dad that I didn’t really want to watch any other cartoons anymore. First and foremost, I’m just going to start with a classic SpongeBob. Listen to me, I’m serious. He is this. He is successful at what he does. He loves what he’s doing. He has a lot of friends. He’s well respected in his community, you might not be like the most masculine person in the world. But at the same time, he still shows emotion. But they don’t say whether or not he’s masculine or not. They’re just portraying him as SpongeBob. And, and he’s a guy that has male characteristics and doesn’t care. And I think you know, the fact that we grew up with that is incredible. The other thing I want to say though, is I used to sleep on Adventure Time, and Steven Universe. Two shows that the current generation is growing up watching in their very formative years. I watched Adventure Time, from the time I was about 16, till I was about 19. I remember so specifically watching Adventure Time and seeing Finn cry in almost every other episode. But he was the main hero, he was fighting everything. And he was doing so well. They showed his emotion. And I thought that was groundbreaking to make sure that a character that kids could look up to, wasn’t just angry all the time. But he was anguished, he showed his tears. And then when I saw Steven Universe, I was even more like holy shit, like, damn. The reason I’m listing to these examples is because I just also want to make sure that if people haven’t seen them, that they go and watch them. And they understand that there are characters that are there. I don’t disagree that a majority are going to be these people that just show anger and rage. And I think it’s an important thing to portray. So to continue, we have to make sure that movies and TV shows aren’t just showing the females and the effeminate males as having emotions. But also the more stoic men, pull back the curtain a little bit, make sure they feel something. I think we’re on the right track for the next generation. There’s always going to be progress to be made. And I think that the groundwork has been laid, I think sometimes we take away a lot of credit, from the boomer generation, I think there were some very deep held beliefs about boys being boys and all that crap. But I do want to still throw them some credit, because we still got a lot of our morals from them. And a lot of them like my parents, especially, I’ve actually been very open to ideas that I have. And I think they’ve learned just as much from me, as I have from them. Just learn from each other.
Marissa: And I know that I had a very similar conversation, just this part in a past podcast episode with Rob Crowther, and Risa Pappas. that we are resilient people, like people, humans were resilient. The problem is, we’re uncomfortable with change. And I think that’s where a lot of the disconnect between the generations comes from, is because you grow up in a society that does things a certain way, and when the next generation comes, and they change that, it makes you uncomfortable. And what we need to do is recognize that change is good, change is progressive, and to roll with the changes. So we can all be on the right side of history. I would really like to see our generation and the generation that are having kids now, create that more open culture of empowering people to feel and process those feelings in a healthy and productive way. And maybe the amount of depression and anxiety and self mutilation and suicide, all of that will subside, because people have healthy coping mechanisms. Like you with music, and me with art and writing. And I would love to see a world where that’s encouraged
Matt: When we talk about sports or anything like that being a masculine trait. It is still though a valid process of showing emotion and processing through your emotions. You know, when I was younger, and I would get upset before I knew about music, I would actually go outside and I would shoot basketball.
Marissa: Athleticism and doing activities that are at this exact juncture labeled masculine isn’t a bad thing, right? You know, I just I don’t want them to be labeled masculine or feminine.
Matt: It’s just to make sure that no matter what your coping mechanism for your emotions are, that you don’t belittle another’s about it. I think that’s the big thing. It’s calling for equality and making sure that the oppressed don’t become the oppressors. If that makes sense. You know, don’t shame others for their coping mechanism. But make sure they understand that what you’re doing is healthy for what you are, it’s being able to identify yourself. It’s being able to express yourself, it’s being able to find a way to process your sensitivity, and for being able to make sure that you can still feel.
Marissa: And to tie it all full circle. I mean, that’s a really good point. Bullies are usually people who have been hurt and don’t know how to process what they’re feeling; that sadness, so it just becomes anger. But now I want to come back full circle, and talk about how that contributes to men disclosing abuse. Not being able to portray your emotions for fear of backlash. For fear of bullying. For fear of victim blaming. How can we change that?
Matt: I think first and foremost, it’s taking away a lot of the stigmas of mental health especially, I think that’s first and foremost. I think it’s making sure that people need to understand that their mental health needs to come first. The important thing is to never label someone that does that “crazy,” or anything like that, or weak. Probably one of the strongest things you can do is to go to someone mental health, you need to invest in that. That is number one. Number two, is making sure that we never tell survivors that you’re a guy, you can’t be assaulted in that way. It’s so important to understand that sexual harassment and sexual abuse goes both ways. A man can be raped. A man can be abused. A man can have these encounters, part of hyper-masculinity and toxic masculinity is that you should enjoy being touched by a woman. That is such a toxic way of looking at the world. Because then it can lead to so many women that have taken advantage of men get away with it. and then the guy is just stuck there. Anxious and depressed. It’s just so unfortunate.
Marissa: Thank you for saying all that I think you’re spot on. I can’t speak for males. I’ve never been a male. But from the men I’ve spoken to and from the people I interviewed for my book Breaking Through the Silence: #MenToo , a lot of those people, maybe they weren’t all abused by women, maybe some by other men. But either way, they don’t have resources. They’re blamed because they should have been stronger and able to overpower the woman. Or their sexuality comes into question or they asked why didn’t they like it? Or I mean, it’s just it’s so silly that we’re changing the world after the #MeToo movement. Everything is changing for women. Abusers are starting to be held accountable for hurting women, for sexually assaulting women, for raping and beating women. But men are kind of still out there fending for themselves. And I just don’t think that’s fair. And that’s the inspiration for my book, Breaking Through the Silence: #MenToo , because their voices weren’t being heard. I think that we are one survivor community, and everybody should be supported and resources should be available for everyone, not just women.
Matt: I just expect every human being to be held accountable for their actions. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Marissa: I completely agree with that. I don’t understand why some people can be tried and hold more value in society than other people. Why some people who are convicted on rape charges will get a day or six months, and other people will get 6 years, 10 years. Isn’t it all the same thing? I mean, the FBI qualifies rape as the second most violent crime behind homicide. So why isn’t it tried and taken the same seriousness and severity.
Matt: And the thing is, is like making sure that male survivors are able to get their voices out without feeling shame. And the thing that anyone should realize listening to this is that at the end of the day, I think the biggest thing in the world right now, that leads to a lot of our societal issues is a lack of empathy. I think that is the biggest thing. But it’s so important to look at the stories of abuse victims. Just because they’re not your stereotypical situation that they can’t feel. You know, you have to make sure that you understand. You can feel something deep inside your soul that is wrong about the situation. And you can learn to listen to them. But I think some people have become so cynical that they tune out feelings. I think they don’t want to feel anymore. So they just, they only care about what they’re feeling and they don’t care about anyone else.
Marissa: There’s definitely more work to do. Is there anything else that you want to talk about that we have not covered?
Matt: It’s so important to have a community of humans that care for each other, and to make sure we maintain that social empathy. I think that’s the best way to put it. It’s like no matter what’s wrong with the world at the end of the day, remember that we’re all on this pale blue dot together.
Marissa: Thank you so much for everything for talking with me about this and being open and honest, I really appreciate your time and your feedback and your perspective. I think that you’re such a smart and grounded individual and I just have so much respect for you. So thank you.
Matt: I really Appreciate that.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!
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