Archive for the ‘masculine’ tag
So far it is becoming clear that everyone has a charged energy response to mother and father. For sons, the complex that arises in response to his mother and/or those who mothered him, obviously will influence his relationship with other women in his future, an influence which for the most part is unconscious. Will he find the woman he needs in someone like his mother, or in someone who seems to be a polar opposite? The complexes and neuroses of the mother have been active in conscious and unconscious interaction with the son as well as between the mother and the father (or father substitute in the case of absent fathers). The son having been wounded, and not even aware of that wounding, with the energy that burst forth out of the mother’s activated complexes, is primed to respond to similar patterns of energy in later life. Nothing is going to be simple when it comes to relationships in the boy child’s future as an adult male.
“Consider the obvious, then, that we can hardly have a conscious efficacious relationship with the Other, when we have a deeply wounded relationship with ourselves. Consider, then, how difficult it is to have any relationship at all. All that I do not know about myself, all of my secret projects for healing myself of the wounds derived from my culture and family of origin, I am now imposing on you. All the complexes I have acquired in my life on this earth, you will have to suffer from me. How could I do that to you, while professing to love you? How can you do that to me, while professing to love me?” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 30]
Wow! Hard words from Hollis. But, and there is always a but, isn’t there? But, what about love? I fell in love. Everywhere I look people are truly falling in love. I can see it in their eyes, in the way they move in relationship to their new-found love, the person who becomes a Magical Other. Is love based on our wounds and our projects to heal those wounds? Are we demanding our Magical Others to stay magical and to continue to feed us, nourish us, out of the depths of our wounds?
I have to admit, that I am guilty of imposing my wounding on my love, my Magical Other. Over the years, it seems new wounds present themselves, old wounds actually, but long banished into the dark depths of unconsciousness. And each time I discover, feel and am overwhelmed by these wounds, it is to my Other that I turn to and somehow expect her to take in my pain and heal me as if she was my Magical Mother. And, at times, this flows in the opposite direction when it is I who meets the wounds of her life, her childhood, and become her Magical Father, the Other who will hold her in safety and security.
What is love then?
“Every relationship has its particular dignity. There is no such thing as an unworthy love or one to be ashamed of, because each experience corresponds to a profound individual need. And if and when it ends there is nothing to regret, because at that particular time the loved one filled our emptiness, no matter what happened next.” [Carotenuto, Eros and Pathos, p. 33]
These are powerful words, words that heal where often we use words that attack the self or other due to feelings of present discord within a relationship. There is no such thing as unworthy love. What we have a hard time understanding that love doesn’t owe us anything other than the experience. We need to learn to accept the gift of love whether it is for a short time or for decades. And, when that gift of love has disappeared into some other place leaving us alone with ourselves in spite of the presence or non-presence of the one with whom we shared love, we need to say thank you for that time of love rather than engage in interpersonal warfare.
As I walked the beach earlier today, I looked at the people along the way. Most were couples; most of those couples were men and women. It was easy to spot those who were in love and those who were in hate. The rest in the middle ground were for the most part, more into themselves than their partners, but not oblivious of their presence. Most of these others were obviously couples well used to each other’s presence.
I have to admit that both my wife and I are still filling our empty spaces with each other. In spite of more than forty years together, the well hasn’t run dry and there is no taking each other for granted. Not unlike young lovers caught in the throes of Eros, of Cupid’s arrows, we need to see each other and be close enough for touch when the need for contact presents itself. In absence of each other’s presence, we are left holding onto something empty.
And when the need for the Other is no longer necessary, when the holes are filled by whatever love was needed and offered? What then?
I was able to get close enough to this not so small snake as I neared the end of a small group tour at the Lamanai Mayan ruins. It is called fer de lance, although it’s more correctly called Bothrops Asper, a member of the viper family. This snake is very dangerous. Still, I left the safety of the raised path I was on in order to get down to his level and get this photo, not a great photo, but good enough as I didn’t want to get too much closer. Apparently the lance de fer is commonly found around Mayan ruins and it has been suggested that the choice of location for a Mayan site was dependent upon the presence of poisonous snakes as a protective barrier. Of course, that sent me in search of more information which took me to Och Chan, or God K of the Mayan religion.
I don’t want to tell too much here but perhaps save a bigger tale after I have been to Hell (Xibalba) and back a trip that will occur in the near future. For now, it is enough to know that the snake again figures in the original story of creation and again involves a woman. There, I hope that either sends you searching for more or whets your appetite for when I return to this topic sometime next week.
“Everything, everything, seems to ride on this thing called love. We love nature, we make love, we fall into and out of it, we pursue love and ask it to save us. Romantic love, by which we mean that élan, that heightened ardor, that intense yearning for the Beloved, that frantic grappling, that profound sorrow when the Beloved is lost, that anxious uncertainty about the fixity of the Other – all this and more is both the greatest source of energy and the chief narcotic of our time . . . one may even suggest that romantic love has replaced institutional religion as the greatest motive power and influence in our lives.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, pp 42-43]
I met this woman more than forty years ago. It was love at first sight for both of us, the classical tale of Romantic Love between two strangers who cross each other’s life paths not even searching for love. Whatever plans and dreams that had been in placed disappeared as all of our energy shifted, all of our individual histories vanished as if by magic. Hollis has it right, for both of us, Romantic Love was our ticket of escape from childhood and youth woundings. We looked to Romantic Love to save us from our own histories, to open a doorway into a Garden of Eden where love is everything, and love would last rever.
Unlike the tragic stories of Tristan and Isolde/Iseult, or Romeo and Juliet, My love and I survived our unconscious submission and submersion into Romantic Love. Like all who fall in love and get married, there was (and remains) an implicit contract that this love must last and stay as the foundation of the marriage. The differences that brought us together, a magnetic attraction of opposites, and not just opposites in terms of gender, were not seen. Each of us was caught in private projections which kept the real person hidden beneath a veil.
“Many marriages simply evolve beyond the implicit terms of the invisible contract. Whatever complexes or programmed ideas of self and Other may have inspired the marriage, the psyche has moved to another place. It is not so much that people fall out of love, but that the original controlling ideas have waned in favor of others – or the complex has decided that the Other cannot meet the expectations of the original agenda.” [Hollis, p. 44]
So this is the answer which perhaps explains why more than forty years later – the psyche has stayed in the same place for both of us. In spite of being different in just about everything that can be compared, we still meet each other’s expectations of Other. That and the fact that in bumping into each other over and over again, we dared face the realities and contradictions which forced us to continually re-evaluate the Other. The shock and pain of withdrawing projections didn’t result in a withdrawal of love. Rather, the withdrawal of projections allowed us to discover newness in each other. With all this newness, we remain awed by the magic of the other, still looking to each other for salvation, for safety, for love.
And I will begin today’s post with some words from David Tacey:
“The problem with surface-level intellectual discourse is that it fails to see the extent to which the archetypes of ‘slow-moving planets’ influence our lived experience. Much sociology of masculinity and gender theory strikes me as hopelessly inadequate; it calls for change and demands instantaneous release from stereotypes without even beginning to reckon with the powerful archetypes that regulate our lives, all the more powerful for not being seen by the intellectuals. … <snip> … It is astonishing how often we are told that masculinity is merely a construct of society, one that can be exploded simply if we stop believing it.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, pp 9-10]
Of course, it is hard to understand what one can’t see, that is, archetypes. Sociology and most psychologies don’t have any room for more than is on the surface, that is the experiences from conception to adulthood, in their attempts to understand the masculine. For a while [and still for too many] there was the belief that if we treated baby boys as gender neutral, then the issue of negative masculinity would simply disappear.
Perhaps even better, have male infants never exposed to toys that are male-oriented, such as toy guns, cars, etc. Add to that the play experiences which instil gentle cooperation in place of competition. We have been trying this as a society for several decades with little, if any, improvement in the issue of masculinity, or the erosion of patriarchy. Rather, we have created more business for counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Now, more than ever, men find themselves disoriented in the world and at a loss to understand who they are as men.
The need to go into depth is vital if we are to construct a societal approach to helping young males become psychologically healthy men. For, it is only through becoming psychologically healthy that we will ever be able to move away from the unconscious participation in patriarchy. The archetypes, that is, the energies that lie buried in the collective psyche of humans that contain the codes for understanding how we relate to both the masculine and the feminine.
Awareness of the archetypes and their place in the psyche allows a person to begin to know themselves, a beginning that is expanded upon when one realises that the movements of the archetypes within the psyche are found in their projections onto others. How does one react to authority figures? How does one react to passive men, passive women? What type of person is one: introvert, extrovert. How and does one have one’s energies (anger, joy, fear, etc.) activated? These are vital questions that will guide one to awareness of the archetypes that are at work. Armed with this knowledge, it them becomes possible to change one’s personal relationship dynamics. And through the change of the personal by enough people, the collective dynamic shits.
It is another beautiful day here in Puerto Morelos. This morning I tried meditating in a different location other than tucked in a corner of the studio apartment. I was able to enjoy the sound of the breeze, the feel of the breeze, and the sound of the water lapping against the pylons of the pier. I sat at the far right corner which sticks out even further into the sea. Because of the hour and time of day, I did keep on my bathing suit while meditating. It was an experience worth repeating, only tomorrow [weather permitting] I will go there two hours earlier, before my morning coffee with my wife. While I meditate, she does yoga, so this is a shared experience in its own way.
Meditation is vital for me. Because of my history as a child and as a youth, I have lived in a self-imposed straight-jacket as I tried to contain the demons that haunted me. When it became too much to contain, it was in meditation where I first found the path to ease the strain and thus be able to move forward into another day of masking the psychic pain that wanted to swallow me. I needed meditation, but didn’t really know why.
“Well, meditation is dealing with purpose itself… Generally we have a purpose for whatever we do: something is going to happen in the future, therefore, whatever I am doing now is important — everything is related to that. But the whole idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. In fact, meditation is dealing with the question of whether or not there is a such thing as ‘purpose’.” [Trungpa, Meditation in Action]
Today, I know why I meditate. I know that this act of letting my ego consciousness give up control, in a way disappearing for a while, allows my body to feel the freedom from the prison of memories. While I meditate I don’t have any history of pain, of confusion, of betrayal or of being someone who has committed his fair share of betraying, confusing and of inflicting pain. I become a being, simply breath, sitting in my space which disappears leaving me freer than it is possible to imagine. I cease being a victim and a victimizer.
My body appreciates this momentary space where all is released, as does my spirit. I breath, I sit, I am. And, that is enough.
The sky is wild this morning. One minute it is dark with ominous clouds flying by as if they are on a freeway, and the next minute there is glorious sunshine. And the speed at which this is all happening makes the mind swirl. The wind has been blowing all night following a long period of rain yesterday late afternoon and all evening, and is still blowing strong creating whitecaps and pounding waves along the shoreline. Sometimes nature serves as a good metaphor for what is happening within one’s psyche. I know that in today’s case, it is quite the mirror.
I didn’t sleep well and it wasn’t because of the rain or the wind. Rather, it all had to do with the stirring of shadow contents within, stuff that lies below the surface of my awareness. I was asked why I was a naturist, why I needed to be naked when the rest of the world, the civilized world was doing well with their clothing on. I wasn’t able to give a satisfactory answer nor did I think that there could be a satisfactory answer in terms of having another person who is not a naturist, understand and accept. Of course, saying that, I open myself to the possibility of being very wrong. I don’t really have an excuse for not finding the words to answer this question, even if it is just for myself.
Because of my long involvement with depth psychology, I knew that the answers did exist, somewhere deep within my psyche. So this morning, I opened up the door to the question during my time for meditation which then lasted longer than usual. It was essential to let the question stew for a while, allow the contents within to become stirred up in the darkness of the unconscious. Later in the morning, after sitting for a while in silence with my morning coffee, not actually thinking but also not banishing thinking, I went for a long, two hour walk along the beach. I refused to force an answer but I also left an opening as if an opening in the clouds, for whatever needed to come to consciousness to have an entry.
As a child I was sexually abused, emotionally abused, physically abused in my family of origin by my biological parents. The sexual abuse extended to include my maternal grandfather and more than one parish priest. I was a docile child, the eldest of a large group of children. It was my job, the expectation that I came to embrace that I was there to please others, to take care of others, to put others before myself. I forgave my parents before they both passed away, enough years before their death so that I would be able to include them in my own children’s lives as grandparents. It also gave them time to acknowledge their part in my wounding – but that never came to be.
The patterns learned in early childhood that continued through to a few years after I was married with children of my own carried over into how I interacted within the family in which I was husband and father. It carried over into my career as an educator, coach and then as counsellor to students, staff and people within my community. I was well trained to put myself behind me and do my utmost best to be a good father, a good husband, brother-in-law, coach, neighbour. This is a story I knew well, one that I wrestled with through midlife and my own course of psychoanalysis. But where does this almost primal urge to naturalism come from?
It was soon after the sexual abuse from my grandfather, the last time I was sexually abused as a youth, that I found myself in a quiet meadow in a nearby small forest with a book of poetry. It was a warm late spring day, about six months following this last incidence. Feeling the warmth of the sun and feeling the words of classical poetry, I soon found myself naked. Over the next two years, my last two years at home, I took every opportunity, weather permitting to hide in this forest and meadow in order to be free.
Leaving home, I found other opportunities, especially the opportunity of sleeping in the nude, to recapture this sense of freedom. A job at the other end of the country found me enjoying social nudity in swimming pools and saunas with my co-workers, other young adults. The exhilaration of body freedom acted as a sort of barrier that banished my history of being abused.
Yet now, the pull to nudity is again strong so I look to these roots and it dawned on me that it is being nude where I claim control of my body, control of my identity, control of my sexuality. My body is not about pleasing others, making life easier for others. Do I remove body hair or make sure it is groomed for my own sense of well-being, or do I allow the needs of others dictate what I do or don’t do with my body hair? It comes down to control. Am I in control or do I defer control to someone else?
Now, in my sixties, I am saying this is my body and I will care for it, and my identity, and my psyche as best I can. I will not be a child and give control to another. I am a man, not a child victim continuing to seek approval, seeking to please others while disregarding my self.
I wonder if this is an answer, or just the beginning of an answer?
I have written earlier that patriarchy is destructive of both men and women. It is important to remember this. It is also important to understand that in spite of many modern men becoming sensitive and heart-based, patriarchy is still thriving. Men might be abdicating their authority to their wives, to their mothers, but this abdication does nothing to dismantle the negative power of patriarchy. All one has to do is to take a good hard look at our corporations, our assemblies, our religions – any of our social and economic enterprises – and see that men are still in charge.
So what is a man to do? Jung suggests:
“. . . if the connection between the personal problem and the larger contemporary events is discerned and understood, it brings release from the loneliness of the purely personal, and the subjective problem is magnified into a general question of our society. In this way, the personal problem acquires a dignity it lacked hitherto. [jung, CW 6, par. 119]
These are powerful words for modern men to hear. The work of becoming more conscious of oneself has done a lot to bring a sense of balance between the power of the mind and the power of the heart. Being stuck in one or the other leaves us disconnected from a larger life. If we are truly interested in acquiring balance then we must see that the society within which we live is a part of us. Patriarchy is a part of who we are. We have to own it rather than see it as an enemy somewhere out there, a collective shadow that needs to be attacked and destroyed.
We need clear eyes, head and heart if we are to find a way through the darkness that is patriarchy. Patriarchy is our shadow, our collective unconscious. We need to listen to the gods and goddesses of mythology, we need to listen to our dreams, we need to listen to our children and our women; we need t listen to their pain, their arguments, their logic and heart. We need to also listen to the spiritual voices without getting caught in their webs of timelessness, a web that would have us wait with calm and abiding patience. And, we need to listen to our bodies.
It seems a task almost beyond what I am capable of doing. But it is a task that I must do, that each of us must do. Joseph Campbell has helped show the way with his book, Hero of a Thousand faces. We are each heroes bent on crossing through the darkness of patriarchy; are collectively one larger hero. Our future as men and women depend on crossing through the darkness if we are to deconstruct patriarchy before patriarchy deconstructs our very home, the planet earth.
She knows I am taking her photo and she knows that she is loved regardless of reason. Reason doesn’t seem to enter into this at all. If anything, reason interferes with any hope of understanding. I married this woman 42 years ago. The journey of a marriage, of my marriage, is a curious journey that teaches so much about self and about other. As I mentioned earlier, this series will turn often to James Hollis’ book, The Eden Project. I bring his words here:
“A marriage vow is a guarantee of nothing certain, but it purports to be an expression of intentionality which is serious. long term and in depth. One of the implicit demands of marriage is that issues are to be faced and worked through, rather than evaded.” [p. 13]
This sounds rather straight forward and filled with common sense. But unsaid in the statement is the fact that much of what needs to be faced is not even recognised by either party. So much of what takes place and causes disruption and disconnect lays beneath the surface in the unconscious contents of both individuals as well as the dialogue of unconscious between the two. This makes the task much, much more difficult. Hollis goes on to say:
“the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves. Since much of our relationship to ourselves operates at an unconscious level, most of the drama and dynamics of our relationships to others and the transcendent is expressive or our own personal psychology. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others, and with the transcendent, then, is to render our relationship with ourselves more conscious.” [p. 13]
And this is where it gets most difficult, especially for me. It takes a lot of rearrangement of my thinking to accept that to do right for my marriage, I must devote a lot of energy to understanding myself. My patterns and habits have always focused on devoting time and energy to understanding my partner (not a great lot of success there since she still is a mystery woman to me) and to using every trick in the book to figure out what is needed and wanted (often contradictory). I function best as a caretaker, as a giver. Spending time on my own needs has been difficult, though necessary during the past few years as I am always feeling guilty about stealing time and energy from my partner, from the marriage.
I know that I am not alone in responding like this; many of us are tired of all the “me, me, me” that we have heard from other mouths. Most of that “me, me, me” has not been about doing the work of “I” or “self;” rather it is all about trying to satisfy needs and wants for which we don’t have the foggiest notion. Trying to feed the “me” is a losing proposition for we mistakenly take the desires and instincts at face value. The extra food, that more expensive car, the next husband or wife is not really about what had been there before being wrong or insufficient. All this wanting is a desperate act of trying to fill an emptiness within ourselves, an emptiness that we download onto others and for which we blame others. So, I have to re-think this business of getting to know the ins and outs of who I am, my psychology if I am to escape that forever repeating cycle of failure.
I look again at the photo of my wife and smile. The work behind and ahead is worth all of it.
In looking for a new way to be masculine in our modern world, I guess one would have to first ask the question: “Is it necessary?” Men effectively rule the world, but so far that isn’t playing out well for most men, almost all women and their children. It isn’t playing out well for the planet either. Men continue to demonstrate that they have no qualms about raping the planet, women, other men, and yes, even children. Of course not all men are rapists. The fact is most men are as much a victim of the patriarchal power juggernaut. Many men have opened their eyes, that is have become conscious of the negative effects of unconscious male behaviours, the immature and instinctual behaviours that continue to blindfold many who hold the reins of power. These men are ashamed of what has been done in the name of men and the masculine.
I watch my son and my two sons-in-law acting conscientiously to be good fathers, good husbands and good caretakers of the world. I see them wrestling and trying to balance the “world of men” within which they work and the alter world of family. At times they become too guided by their female partners, seeking to be gentler in atonement for their gender.
It is as if the only way to be sensitive enough of their world and the people within it is through denying their masculinity, or at least disguising it so that it isn’t so “in your face.” There is no guide map on how to leave behind the destructive patriarchal model and move into a new relationship with the world and the feminine. David Tacey says it well in his book, Remaking Men:
“We must unpack and disassemble patriarchy, while at the same time, developing new meanings and metaphors for masculinity, which must never be constructed as the ‘enemy’ of men or women. I believe that we need to find a ‘third way,’ or a ‘middle path’ between the extremes of patriarchal nostalgia (Iron John) and matriarchal identification (Oedipus). The zeitgeist urges us to defend the feminine, but the development of masculinity forces us to differentiate ourselves from the mother. The answer to this dilemma can be found, I think, in the masculine commitment to the feminine soul, or anima.” (p. 7)
The middle way, a middle path. That sounds about right and it fits with my following a middle path in terms of spirituality. The middle way where one doesn’t fall into the mind trap of macho or effeminate, the path of Iron John or Oedipus.