I have been reading a bit from Eugene Monick’s book, Castration and Male Rage: The Phallic Wound, as part of my process in dealing with stuff that is emerging from the unconscious. Monick talks about the six stages of masculine transformation: the prenatal stage, the pre-oedipal stage, the oedipal stage, the adolescent stage, the stage of accomplishment, and the final stage – individuation. As I read through these stages and saw where and potentially how masculine transformation can get derailed, I saw signals that resonated – warning bells telling me that there is something vital that had interfered with my own personal masculine transformation. But before I get into saying more about that, I want to bring a vital quote to your attention – to my attention:
“. . . that . . . a crisis will occur in the man who failed to negotiate a prior stage of transformation is a surety. A man can cover his own sense of self-doubt, his fear of inconsequentiality, his lurking sense of masculine incompleteness for only so long. Disguises, compensations, substitutions may hide his lack of inner phallic strength, but there can be no long-term avoidance of psychological impotence.” (Monick, Castration and Male Rage, p. 33)
I know I read this passage a few years ago because the passage is mostly highlighted. Ouch is all I can say as these words expose what I refused to acknowledge. And so I am forced to look more carefully at the six stages to see just where I drifted off course. Of course in reading the descriptions, I see that some things are universal to males simply because they are males and not females.
In the prenatal stage where males physiologically change from female embryos, there is a primal fear that is embedded in the psyche, that of castration, “it represents the ever-present threat to masculinity of a reversal of the addition of maleness, a return, a regression, to primal femininity.” (p. 24)
In the second stage, the pre-oedipal stage, a “boy’s discovery that he a boy parallels his discovery that his mother is not a boy. A girl child also discovers, at some point, that she is different from her mother, but the difference is one of personhood, not of gender.” (p. 25) A boy’s discovery of being different and that the difference is anatomical awakens both a fascination of his difference and a fear or anxiety. During this period there are a flood of mixed signals. A male child shifts from neutral gender identity to a bi-sexual identity before shifting to a masculine identity. Monick goes on to say that this stage is vital in terms of identity, especially gender identity, “The beginnings of consciousness at the son’s early age involve an awareness of gender differences.
As I look to my own story, I wonder about the role of father in the process. For much of the this second stage, my own father was busy with training and going to fight in the Korean war. I get a strong sense that there is something here that needs to be uncovered, to be reintegrated. Something to think about.