Paul Howell has many years experience of "men's work". Here he offers his reflections on, amongst other things, the current state of masculinity.
---This is article #94 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
My friend Glen keeps hassling me for an article for the #100Voices4Men series. I admire Glen, he's an intelligent, stubborn and relentless man, leaning into a complex and messy arena, but I sometimes wonder why he bothers. What's the point of gender politics?
I'm more often confused and frustrated by the lack of genuine debate than I am inspired by what can often seem like the man vs. woman vs. man vs. woman merry-go-round. For me, the term Man refers to someone who has made a sustained effort to carve his values from experience and walks a line somewhere between humility, wisdom and curiosity and has by some miracle, managed to retain enough vitality and a discerning vision to do some lasting good with what's left.
My contributions to the conversation have been formed at the coal face of what is often referred to as 'men's work', over the past 8 years. I'd like to be reporting back with some good news…unfortunately that seems to be illusive. Regarding the fate of humanity the great illuminator Carl Jung was 'not optimistic', neither was Freud. Dr Robert Moore, the grandfather of the men's movement and a Jungian, who's life's work has distilled the core archetypal structures of the masculine psyche / soul (King, Warrior, Lover, Magician) will only say that he is not a despairing man, preferring hope and the hard work of awakening.
My personal journey started running a small men's group, and moved personally and professionally into working with culture change in classically gender biased organisations, for example, the fire service, the police and engineering companies.
Through time with Moore, reading and listening to untold volumes of Jungian and other depth psychology texts, mythology, my own therapy and parallel explorations, working with abandofbrothers, attending The ManKind Project (MKP) New Warrior Initiation and being part of an MKP men's group...
I naively attempted to set up the UK version of Boys to Men, which later became JourneymanUK (JMUK). Over 4 years I developed the USA boys to men material and delivered dozens of ‘man’ weekend intensives including the JMUK Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend and its associated mentoring circles for boys and men.
In addition to this my 1:1 client base has been consistently 50% male over 13 years.
The following is a summary of what I have learned so far...
The State of Masculinity
Masculinity is adrift - rudderless and largely impotent in the face of manic passivity and denial. It has taken a blow to the solar plexus and is struggling to raise a meaningful heart felt and coherent response to the critical nature of our shared global ills. Stuck in a narcissistic trance, masculinity is spiralling down; cut away from its capacity for empathy, it's failing to counter endemic political corruption and the daylight robbery (a phrase derived from 1690 and Tyrant King William III who taxed people based on the number of windows in their house) of true democracy which has long ago taken place.
The fatal blow to masculinity came through chronic shame, developmental and acute traumas accumulated over generations of war and the daily struggle to survive. Beginning with the industrial revolution; we have been plotting our demise with great fervour ever since. Comfortably numb, we have simply lost touch of what is not just of utmost importance but now also urgent; our human connection to each other and our utter dependence on each other and the earth.
Masculinity, with a capital 'M' was dethroned; usurped, most recently by the shadow magicians of the corporate world and their shareholders who deny filling the trough with ungracious entitlements whilst systematically brainwashing future generations with the empty and destructive values of capitalism.
By replacing Justice with mere law and any kind of generative Realm with mere organisational and institutional power, we are deconstructing the psychosocial frameworks on which humanity depends.
On the side lines, religious fundamentalism opposes new age spirituality and somewhere in the distance the good earth faces the imminent catastrophic and systemic collapse of its (our) ecosystem; a fact we seem happy to remain ignorant of.
If mature masculinity is supposed to enable men to be stewards, protectors and servant leaders of noble communities and creative cultures we seem to have lost our way somewhere.
And this is nothing but a commentary on humans: all humans! We are all culpable, however, if denial is what you're after - good news! The number of dissociative and numbing distractions are growing in direct proportion to the size of the problems we face. That's how denial functions - until it doesn't. When denial (the secrets we don't know we are keeping through the active suppression of the facts by parts of the psyche that would rather not know or may indeed not be capable of dealing with the truth ) is illuminated, it presents as a crisis.
To read part two of this article see: Gender Roles - the primary task
---Picture credit: Perspective
Paul Howell offers personal coaching and counselling, training and facilitation, and workshops for men at Clarity Coaching.
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men's Day 2014 by clicking on this link---#100Voices4Men---and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
The views expressed in these articles are not the views of insideMAN editorial team. Whether you agree with the views expressed in this article or not we invite you to take take part in this important discussion, our only request is that you express yourself in a way that ensures everyone’s voice can be heard.