Where it used to be the case that mental health was pushed to the periphery and rarely given much thought, in recent years the significance of safeguarding and protecting our mental health has never been made more apparent. If anything came out of Covid-19-enforced lockdown, it was that mental health must be made a daily priority, much like exercising our muscles and brushing our teeth. For Hugh Jackman, it’s something he’s particularly passionate about, particularly as there continues to be a stigma that surrounds such conversations. Looking to challenge these deeply entrenched (and outdated) ideas of masculinity, Jackman has opened up about why he turned to journaling every day to address his own “stunted” emotions.
In an interview with Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, the 53-year-old star shared that he no longer subscribes to such outdated notions of masculinity and that men should feel empowered to eschew these traditional attitudes in the knowledge that our mental health and wellbeing will only be enhanced the more we open up, to both ourselves and others.
“A lot of what I grew up with in Australia, a very patriarchal society, is being entirely challenged and broken down daily; this whole idea, when I was growing up, that somehow girls became women but you had to make boys into men – had to push them, challenge them,” said Jackman.
The actor added that as a child, he thought talk of emotions and feelings of fear were deemed off-limits and not to be discussed. “I was actually quite a scared kid. I remember being scared a lot, but you weren’t allowed to be scared,” said Jackman. But now, Jackman assures that more people are reversing such attitudes and ensuring that emotions are openly discussed.
For Jackman, journaling came into his life by way of his therapist who recommend he incorporate it into his daily routine as a tool to unpack his emotions and think more about their significance. “I, in the last year, started a journal that starts with two words: ‘I feel.’ It was a bit of homework, and I sort of went, Journaling, ugh. And now every morning I do it, obsessively, because I realised how stunted I was,” he said.
Since introducing journaling to his life, Jackman says the habit has highlighted just how confused he has felt at times about his emotional responses. “I would write ‘confused’ a lot, and my therapist said, ‘Confused: that’s a red flag. Confused just means there’s more than one thing you’re feeling. Just list what the things are.’ I realised how stunted I was around that.”
The practice is one Jackman recommends to all men, and it’s also changed the way he now parents his kids as he wants them to be more open about their own emotions. “In the last year, I’ve changed the way I talk to them. Prior to a year ago, I thought my job was to keep fear away from them – don’t burden them with your worries,” he said. “Now I’m literally the opposite, and they love it. I don’t try to indulge myself with them, but I just let them know they’re not the only ones [who are worried]. I’m 53, I’ve done a lot of things, and I still feel all those things.”