Unpacking All Of The Male Emotions (and Behaviors) From The Lawrence and Nathan Blowup On ‘Insecure'
This article originally ran in Essence Magazine on December 23, 2021.
Let’s talk about the men on Insecure, ladies!
In a 2017 study conducted by researchers at Stanford University, it was reinforced that men and women have true-to-science differences in our brains which contributes to the differences in how we think, how we act, and how we don’t act.
As a sex-typed organ (meaning that the differences in the brain are reflections of the anatomical differences in gender), the male brain is wired to experience more intensity of emotions (re: larger amygdala) with less recall of details (re: hippocampus), while this same brain is less likely to verbalize a full range of thoughts (re: Broca’s area) and more likely to act (re: cerebellum).
The combination of these factors result in a brilliant and complex human that, with the intersections of socialization-based identity, results in men who have a lot of emotions but nowhere safe enough to let their gender-based guard down until….Episode 9 of the final season of Insecure.
Listen, the way that Lawrence showed up this episode, I assumed he had been in therapy for that “lost year” in Episode 4. Yes, his friend did hype him up a couple days before Tiffany and Derek’s going away party, but honey, he was ready, ready to see Issa.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Lawrence was anxious – He was considering not going to the party because he would run into Issa. Men get anxious but don’t always have the space to process it because our society makes it seem like they should have all the answers. They are “the leaders of the house” or “the pillars of the community,” when, in fact, they probably experience more anxiety than women because they have a larger amygdala (see above).
2. Lawrence was insecure – He made a few swift decisions in his life while he was trying to balance his career-based dreams and “doing the right thing” for his son. So while he showed up to the party, looking nice and confident and handling his business with his child, there was hesitation in various scenes that displayed his uncertainty, and very minuscule elements that the average person may not see, all definitely a reflection of his mental health. For the common man, society doesn’t give grace for the grey space of insecurity. See, insecurity isn’t bad – it just means that one isn’t secure in self, the world, the future, or a decision that has or hasn’t been made.
3. It’s not always safe for Black men to be vulnerable. While I am proud of Jay-Z, Kanye, Kid Cudi and more, in being open about their mental health and participating in therapy, we have to acknowledge that this made national (and international) news because of its rarity. And, while the writers and producers did not write “therapy” into the script, it is clear that something transformative happened with Lawrence because he…changed.
4. Listen honey, Lawrence said – It’s now or never. And that kind of courage is a reflection of growth and change. Whether it’s in the form of self-talk, encouragement from a friend, or fear of ____ (of whatever), Lawrence used the four step problem solving process (1. Identify the problem, 2. Acknowledge the emotions, 3. Suggest 2-3 solutions, 4. Implement a solution) and the 6 step communication process (email me – so I don’t go over this word count 😊 ) to tell Issa exactly what he thought (cognitive) and what he felt (emotions), and what he is willing to do (behavior).
5. Fight. At various points in the show, the word “fight” was mentioned. And oftentimes when Black men are associated with a “fight,” it is related to a conflict that is rooted in emotion and void of solution. But in this episode, Lawrence fought with himself first (his own insecurities, fear, passive approach to life, falling victim to what everyone else thinks he should do, social standards of being a Black man – let alone a smart, handsome, respectable Black man). And this fight, this internal struggle and battle, this back and forth and tug-of-war, is the real fight. Not the scene in which Nathan hit him first (I watched it several times to be sure that’s what I saw because I was about to write a whole piece about Nathan), or in which Issa walked away and he kept fighting for her attention. No, the real fight for him…and for most Black men, is the internal fight to be a puppet to social standards or to be the most authentic version that God created him to be.
But, I get it…because those social standards start at conception when parents start dreaming of “who their son will be,” instead of just watching and observing who this man will choose to be.
6. The village. Issa manifested this conversation through her subliminal thoughts. Kelly intuitively predicted that Lawrence would resurface in Issa’s life. Condola saw his yearning and need to connect with Issa and opened the door for their conversation. And Tiffany and Derek created the space.
Oftentimes, men lean in on men….and women experience the outcome of the lean…but in this season, we saw the ways that the women manifested his interaction with Issa and the ways that women can support the mental health of men. Yes, we can and should say “Go see a counselor” or “Let’s talk about it.” And, while I support those direct methods (I’m a pretty direct person), I also recognize that women can show up in some non-direct ways for men’s mental health too. When you think about the man or men in your life, what are some ways that you show up for him/them? What are some things you should keep doing…and some things you need to let go of?
Ultimately, I am proud of Lawrence. I am proud of his transformation, for his courage, for his insight, for his assertiveness, for making a decision that he will not regret but that he can recall and teach his son as he matures, dates, and marries his own spouse. And, I am proud that all of this is connected to a healthy version of his “mental.”
Only 26.4% of Black and Hispanic men ages 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4% of non-Hispanic White men with the same feelings. Men, please reach out to a counselor. There are many Black men who look like you, understand you, and are ready to help. Check out www.therapyforblackmen.com for more resources.