Men: The freedom-wound

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 men and boys is inseparable from the wounding of women and girls.
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?
Enough already.
*Marvin Allen, In the company of men.
**Steve Biddulph, The secret life of men.

One response to “Men: The freedom-wound

  • alexis

    I’ve always had the sense that men walk around [life] in a bemused state, afraid to acknowledge that they seem to have gotten a raw deal. They have! I empathize and these postings are right on, Steve.

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