As I watched my beloved Blues crash out on Saturday in the Preliminary Final, I reflected the 2023 journey from a psychological point of view. Essentially, following Carlton’s meteoric rise in 2023 has done wonders for my mental health. Now you’re probably thinking, no wonder given my team’s amazing success due to their extraordinary winning streak. No doubt, this has played a significant part. However, I think my improved mental state has been mainly due to an accumulation of one percenters, to use a bit of footy speak. Chief amongst them was being more connected with my fellow Carlton members in the journey.
Well before Carlton turned around its footy fortunes, I was added to a group chat dedicated to the Navy Blues. This was comprised of a group of old friends who I used to go to the football with many years ago. During the depths of our form slump, which included losing eight out of nine games after drawing our first game and winning the next three, the banter in this group was a wonderful source of solace and humour, mixed in with a healthy dose of stupidity and immaturity. Losing became fun and pouring your heart out was the perfect foil for the despair of losing. Unwittingly, we became a bunch of blokes expressing their emotions via the misfortunes of their football team.
Men find it hard to express themselves
It isn’t easy for men to express themselves. Believe me, I’ve been trying to get them to do it for 24 years in my professional life through Man UP – Prahran Psychology’s Male focused mental health program. Men usually must do it indirectly or surreptitiously, hoping that someone will cotton on to what we are trying to say. Although the chat in this group may not seem to have been the most open dialogue about emotions, for a bunch of blokes it was pretty good. We all felt each other’s pain and were supportive of each other’s efforts to say what we felt.
Male emotion and mental health
As Carlton’s fortunes improved and then exceeded expectations, our feelings were reflected and then amplified in the group banter. Just like men shy away from supposedly negative emotions like sadness and fear, we also tend to put a lid on the so-called positive emotions like joy, excitement and happiness. Now, I don’t take such a binary approach to emotions, instead believing that there are no such things as good or bad emotions……..they are all there to tell you something, potentially something invaluable. This aside, the group chat allowed us to take a ‘think and do’ approach to how we felt. If something came to mind, we posted it. In general, what we wrote was met with encouragement and praise.
Take the lid off
Just as Blues fans across the country took the lid off (an expression which in AFL speak means it’s okay to be excited about your team potentially playing finals) their hopes of potentially winning a flag, so too did the lid come off our ability to express our emotions, and it was grand. In the end, a Grand Final was not to be for the Blues, but it didn’t matter by then. All that was left were feelings of pride, kinship and gratitude. Ultimately, winning or losing was not the point, as we had no control over this. What we could control was the means by which we could express ourselves. The result was the airing of a range of emotions that helped us to not only watch, but feel season 2023. Bring on 2024!