Thursday 19 September 2019

Stella O'Malley: 'Roy Keane has locked himself into a 'hard-man' persona - but it takes real courage for men to be able to shed a tear'

Roy Keane pictured during his time as Ireland assistant manager. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Roy Keane pictured during his time as Ireland assistant manager. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Stella O'Malley

Stella O'Malley

Roy Keane's in trouble again. This time it is because he took a swipe at Jon Walters for crying on 'The Late Late Show'. To be honest, I'm a Roy Keane fan so I tend to cringe when he comes out with these so-called hard-man remarks.

As anyone who watched Walters's interview will have seen, he made a courageous decision to explore a difficult subject. Ryan Tubridy gently suggested that he didn't need to go there if he didn't wish to - but Walters specifically said that he had spoken about the death of his mother previously and it had made a significant difference to a lot of people.

So Walters made the emotionally generous decision to discuss the tragic story about how his mother died when he was a young boy and also how, just last year, his brother died. In the same week, his wife had a miscarriage and his daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis.

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Walters knew that being brave enough to show your emotions in public can cut through a lot of the fakery that is so prevalent on chat shows, and so he bravely chose to move us all to a deeper place.

The polarisation of society continues - usually exacerbated by social media - and so Keane is being demonised as the villain of this particular piece for making flippant remarks about other people's emotions.

And yet, when we consider that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Roy lost his own father, we might realise there was probably more to this than meets the eye.

It couldn't have been easy for Keane to carry his father's coffin as the photographers watched him with an eagle eye, waiting eagerly for Roy to reveal his emotions.

An image of hard-man Roy Keane shedding a tear would have created quite a stir - but it seems that Keane's persona has become a prison for himself, and so he doesn't reveal his vulnerabilities.

Yet, just as Walters insightfully realised on 'The Late Late Show', sometimes having the courage to cry is a lot braver than keeping your emotions in check and maintaining a fake facade.

People who live the majority of their lives maintaining their facade can feel outraged when someone breaks the rules and lets their emotions spill out.

People who are afraid of tears are usually quite disconnected from themselves and fearful of examining their own emotions and yet this is exactly what the world needs - more authenticity and less fakery.

Those Friday nights when 'The Late Late Show' presents a series of groomed and polished famous people, who offer perfectly prepared witty and charming versions of their lives, are not only boring but can also be quite destructive.

A study in 'Time' magazine showed that Instagram is the most damaging social media for our mental health. Why? Because beautiful people with perfectly manageable and successful lives make ordinary people feel inadequate as we automatically compare our messy and emotional lives with the images of perfection upon our screens.

This is why, when someone like Walters comes along and describes the series of tragedies that happened to his family, we can all feel united in compassion that actually life can be difficult for all of us and some of us can be dealt terribly hard blows.

Crying introduces a vulnerability that people can either connect with or deny. When someone cries we have the choice to either gather our inner resources and be courageous enough to join the person in their vulnerability or else we can choose to shy away from this deeper emotion because we just don't have the emotional capacity to handle it.

This is why people become so outraged by any hint of fake tears as this is correctly perceived as profoundly manipulative.

Psychologists agree that feeling connected with our fellow human beings is a fundamental human need, but the challenge is that we cannot have genuine connection unless we are willing to be vulnerable.

If we remain aloof, perhaps by hiding behind acerbic wit or throwaway comments, we might be entertaining company but we will remain slightly disconnected in our relationships.

Perhaps Keane was employing a commonly used defence mechanism this week?

Maybe, in the heightened emotions of the aftermath of his father's funeral, he might have been particularly vigilant about not expressing any emotion to the public as he knew that we would feast upon it like vultures.

Keane has locked himself into the 'hard-man' persona but he has shown himself to be courageous many times, both on the pitch and off it, and so, for his own sake, I hope he takes the opportunity to be brave and authentic enough to be able to cry in the company of his loved ones.

Irish Independent

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