Jocko Willink: When Should Men Control Their Emotions?

It’s always fascinating seeing hyper-masculine men talk about controlling and managing emotions. In this video, two very masculine guys get into the topic of emotions, when to express them and how to manage them.

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Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

Jocko Willink & Echo Charles Discuss How To Control Emotions

Despite multiple jokes about repressing emotions the two seemed to have a fairly healthy view of masculinity and emotions. Their conclusions around how to think about how to control emotions and when to express them are not something you hear every day from a group of men that look like them or come from the military.

Jocko Willink is a retired United States Navy SEAL who is passionate about men’s groups and men’s issues. He received the Silver Star and Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War and was commander of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi.

In this video, he and Echo Charles – Jockos’ podcast and MMA training partner – discuss men’s emotions and the dynamics of impactful men’s support groups.


At first, some of the comments and jokes in the video sound harsh:

  • “Don’t express yourself”
  • “REAL men only get angry on the inside”
  • “Stifle your emotions”
  • “Don’t show people what you’re feeling”
  • “Keep your feelings to yourself”
  • “Bury your emotions”
  • “You don’t have to be transparent all the time. You have to win the game”
  • “You are playing emotional chess with human beings”

Yet Jocko and Echo both go on to encourage the expression of emotions as part of improving yourself as a man – releasing stuck emotions from big past events. The last thing they say you want to do is to isolate yourself from men’s groups and retreat into your emotions!

Jocko Suggests That Expressing Fleeting Feelings Is Not Helpful In Any Way

They suggest that expressing the small things is a waste of time and doesn’t benefit men’s growth in any way:

  • “I’m hangry”
  • “I’m grumpy”
  • Getting angry at your kids

They go on to suggest that the solution is in managing your emotions by:

  1. Determining if this is a fleeting emotion – hangry – vs. big charged emotional trauma that you’re holding onto from past events.
  2. IF it is real trauma a man is holding onto then yes, get help and get that stuff out because if not it will eat you alive and lead to healthy behavior.
  3. And if it’s a fleeting feeling – hangry etc – then keep it to yourself. Own it and deal with it on your own.

jocko willink emotions how to control stifle echo charles

But Jocko Says That Significant Emotional Issues Do Need To Be Worked Through

What we love about this video is how Jocko expresses that in all seriousness he has seen many good men torn apart inside from not expressing their feelings after significant life events – including childhood. He means ongoing depression, PTSD, anxiety, past abuses and so on. These ongoing emotional struggles and more serious men’s group topics will rip your life apart if they aren’t felt with. 

They also explain that many people don’t feel safe opening up to their partner, their friends or their coworkers about these bigger, traumatic events they’re internally still feeling and how that can lead to anxiety, depression, unhealthy behaviors like drinking and even suicide.

How To Know When To Express Emotions

The one point they didn’t touch on is how you can figure out if you actually need to express an emotion. Many of us downplay our emotions and will say that it’s not a big deal when it reality it’s polluting our days and nights.

What’s the key difference between something you should express vs something you should not? I thought this was incredible learning to pass along to our online men’s groups. 

The answer is time. Being “hangry” will last an hour or a day at most. It’s nothing more than a mood that will pass.

Feeling unworthy because of family drama from when you were younger or experiencing PTSD after a traumatic experience will last for months, years and decades.

If some emotions are repeatedly showing up in your life and affecting your well-being and fulfillment, then it will be beneficial to seek the support of men’s circles around the matter.

Now you may have felt a knee-jerk reaction to any notion that implies reprising your emotions as a man, but this isn’t a new concept. Buddhists and many other teachers say to NOT let your anger out – keep it in and learn how to work with it.

In Conclusion: What Jocko Suggests With Emotions

To summarize, Jocko and Echo suggest:

  • Deal with the small passing feelings on your own: moods, grumpy, complaining, annoyed, hangry, anxious, etc. Do not express those unless it serves the situation in some way.
  • Find support for the more significant emotional matters you are facing. The ones that stick around over time. The ones that have significant consequences if repressed.

And point #2 is….

The reality is that everyone has trauma. Everyone has things they’ve been through that they could benefit from letting go of. Everyone can benefit from talking through whatever it is that they’re facing. No matter how trivial it may feel to the man, the reality is that a lot of these common men’s issues can eat away at a man behind the scenes are really hinder a man’s personal growth.

So we highly recommend a professional counselor and/or men’s group to talk through those more significant things you might be feeling in your private life. And if you can’t find this in your own town, perhaps you’ll choose to go the route of learning how to start your own mens group. 

Or you can just check out one of our online men’s groups to see if it’s a good fir for you.