Part 2 of 4….So what about gender roles? I didn’t get into men’s work for men or boys; I did it for myself. I knew from a young age that something was not quite as it might have been for the men in my life and it has been my personal quest to make sense of the discord that led me to this.
It is without exception the masculine aspect of the collective psyche that is acting out detrimentally to the greater degree and with far more risk of negative consequences than would be produced by the equal and opposite force in the feminine.
It is the masculine soul that needs healing MOST. It didn’t matter where I went: MKP, ABOB, Boys to Men / JMUK…my experiences in the corporate arena or with private clients – pathologically adolescent masculinity is dominant. In places where one would hope to find respite the walk never matched the talk. The process of maturation in men seems arrested regardless of where I went.
The MKP rhetoric focuses on men not having to compete or prove themselves to each other, but rather to strive to compete with themselves to become ‘good’ men. this only seemed to drive to the surface high levels of shame, a lack of deep self-worth and underlined the apparent absence of belief in the essential goodness of the masculine soul.
The single common fact shared amongst the men in these circles, almost without exception,was an inability for men to authentically bless other men…I do not mean simply affirm someone else’s behaviour, I mean to see what is unique and ‘golden’ and assert the gifts inherent in another man’s simple authentic presence.
This competition theme runs deep in men. It arises from the adolescent hard wiring of the ‘hero’ archetype and will seek the marshalling it needs until it finds it or it will implode (see suicide stats for men) hopefully in healthy forms that contain and affirm it rather than dominate it or worse, ignore it.
This is what fully developed rites of passage do – locate a person psychologically within themselves, their community and their environment. Without this process we drift indefinitely in the adolescent stage of development: ‘me’ rather than ‘we’.
Belonging is the greatest human need and as men we struggle for it. And yet defining ones sense of identity from outside oneself is not something people at adult stage development do. Adult identity has come to its centre of gravity within the individuals own value structures. Recognised in a deep embodied felt sense of security, connection and self worth, a mature adult would be able to tolerate being judged and have faith that ‘I’ will not suffer a catastrophic collapse of identity.
This deep life affirming felt sense is something that chronic shame will not allow. Rather, a shamed person clings on even more fervently to the rules and suddenly, if they are stretched and you are not sufficiently internally resilient you have a cult in the making. This way only…!
Expressed in subtle and often almost imperceptible ways and brilliantly masked by protocols and procedures, symptoms of developmental trauma lurk close to the surface amongst many men. Any man who didn’t receive adequate nurturing during primary developmental stages will be compensating – running too hot or too cold in key life areas: workaholism, porn addiction, passivity… etc.
A paralysing fear of being perceived as ‘weak’ passes on implicit messages about ‘what men do’: essentially, withhold genuine affection, do not express vulnerability or sincere appreciation, avoid healthy conflict (a function of shame), whilst instead positively affirm anything that comes from within the current ‘safe & known’ paradigm and often decline to engage with anything from outside or do so simply to deny that ideas from ‘outside’ have potential value.
To read part three of this article see: Shaming and Blessing