(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.
Last of four parts
This last wound operates in two spheres, public and private.
In the public sphere men are expected to sacrifice their freedom for others: to go to work for the family, to go to war for the nation.
Where historically a woman’s role in the family required her to remain emotionally alive and responsive, a man’s role requires just the opposite.
Our culture maintains — and rightly so — that men are more efficient workers and warriors when they are not inconvenienced by tender feelings…. [For example, a man] rarely has the luxury of working when it pleases him or selecting only those tasks he enjoys. The weather, the economy, or his boss dictates what he does, when he works, and how long he toils. Historically men have had to put aside what they really wanted to do and spend most of their waking hours providing for their families. This has required them to shut down their senses, dampen their emotions, and focus on the task at hand.*
Provider and Protector. That’s our assignment, and woe betide those who can’t measure up. To fail is to be less than a Real Man.
Inevitably, of course, this public role seeps into the private sphere, where men — no less than women (who since the advent of feminism are much better at talking about it) — lose their freedom to be the human beings they really are.
That’s what this whole series has been about — the ways in which men’s needs get denied or neglected, which in turn robs them of their emotional and psychological freedom:
~ how the mom-wound splits them off from their feminine side and confuses their relationships with women,
~ how the dad-wound deprives them of deep masculine knowledge and the chance for healthy, nurturing connection with other men, and
~ how the feeling-wound buries their deeper selves, without access to which no human being can experience real joy, confidence or integrity.
It’s as a result of these four wounds that
Most men don’t have a life. Instead we have an act, an outer show, kept up for protection. We pretend things are fine, that everything is cool, and sometimes we even fool ourselves. But ask a man how he really feels or what he really thinks, and the first thing he thinks is, “What am I supposed to say?” The average man is deeply unhappy, but he would be the last to admit it.**
* * *
What to do about all this?
Well, I’m a therapist, so my answer grows out of that context.
At its best, therapy is about going past surface appearances to deeper truths in an atmosphere of safety.
That’s what men need to do, with themselves and with each other.
This was a more popular idea some years back, when the Men’s Movement was begun in hopes of freeing men in the way feminism tried to liberate women.
The interest may have waned. The need remains.
Men still need to open this can of worms and start to untangle them.
We need to finally learn how talk to each other about what we don’t usually talk about, in places that make that a safe risk to take.
We need to have the courage to at least attempt this. And we need to seek out other men with the same courage.
Our health and our happiness depend on it.
So do our sons’.
So do our wives’ and our daughters’. Because finally the wounding of boys and men is inseparable from the wounding of girls and women.
It’s never been easy to be a human being. And men can’t avoid getting hurt by life any more than women can.
But all this suffering-in-silence?
*Marvin Allen, In the company of men.
**Steve Biddulph, The secret life of men.
* * *
”The strengths of masculinity and manhood,
unfortunately, are being used
against men at times. Normal
masculine strengths [like] assertiveness are being misconstrued….”
Dr Elizabeth Celi talks about men’s health, domestic abuse and social bias against men in a 2009 interview on Australian tv (9:42).
* * *
What are men’s issues?
“Watch this short flash video [6:54] to get a beginning idea. Societal forces like chivalry, misandry and the onerous male sex role of provide and protect have been having the unfortunate consequence of obscuring the needs of men…. We have worked for over thirty years to free women from being bound to their rigid sex role. Now it is time for us to consider the male side.” From the National Coalition for Men.
September 28th, 2011 at 6:51 am
That is an incredible four part series Steve.
I have never before been able to put all the pieces together to come up with such a clear and understandable rationale as to why the blocks or detours were presenting themselves as challenges while pursuing goals along my path. Thank you for putting this out there in such a clear and easy to follow recipe.
September 28th, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Thanks, John. Glad you found it helpful. 🙂
September 28th, 2011 at 11:06 am
This has been a very enlightening series, Steve. Thank you!!
September 28th, 2011 at 7:04 pm
Thanks, Lisa. 🙂
September 28th, 2011 at 12:33 pm
WOW You obviously saved the best for last, really really good stuff
September 28th, 2011 at 7:05 pm
Thanks, John. Just curious: why did you think this last part was best?
January 9th, 2012 at 12:04 pm
Discovered your blog recently, love it, and have been “catching up” since- hence, the late comment. I really enjoyed your explanation of what society does to men. There is certainly a disproportionate amount of attention paid to women’s issues vs men’s. I watched the video you posted & read their website, and found a lot of interesting things I’d never even thought about. However, I also found most of their claims about sexual assault are abhorrently incorrect. I completely support changing the dialogue and societal views of men, but I fear this site may not be doing it properly…
January 10th, 2012 at 7:46 am
Glad you like the blog, Alisha. It’s been a while since I viewed that video, but I do recall hesitating before posting it, since parts of it (and the website which generated it) struck me as a bit strident. Eventually I decided to go ahead in hopes it would stimulate discussion. But I do think it’s essential to find ways to advocate for either gender without casting aspersions on the other. Human dignity is not an either/or proposition.
January 10th, 2012 at 6:41 am
Thank you for sharing your opinion Alisha. After all, it is with open and frank discussion that we can better understand and deal with the issues and focus on solutions.