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Mr. Nice Guy? Mr. Macho? Don Juan? The introverted? The aggressive? The depressed?
Towards a healthy masculinity.
Stepping out of the old shadows from our childhood, which invisibly encapsulate our life as men, demands the courage slowly to unfold a new inner version of masculinity and compassion.
“Life is of double nature, complete only in man and woman:
Divide them cruel a wall, the life from both must disappear”.
Quote by N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872)
To be born as a man is just as natural as to breath. Nobody need to wonder about it. Our biological gender show us the way, and ensure that we take the right steps in the dance of life. Apparently it is not at all this simple.
Already Grundtvig, a priest, poet and philosopher realizes, how much we men and women lose ourselves in the way we express our gender. He says that life quite simply disappear out of us, when we live in our traditional gender roles as either a man or a woman. Behind our walls we recite obediently, what stands in our genders hidden manuscript as actors in a play.
The wall between women and men leads us to live as half human beings.
What would happen, if we men and women didn’t have this wall in ourselves and between us, but began to detect “our dual nature”? What would happen, if we didn’t express our gender in this polarized form, as we as boys gradually were taught invisibly through our upbringing?
As Grundtvig says, we may be another kind of man, when we get hold of our dual nature – our opposite gender traits. What will that mean for us? How are we able to detect what we have to learn? Are we only half men and half women?
The questions are many.
Join the men’s group: “Man – who are you?” on Zoom the 3 of september 2020 step 1 – 4
Normality and Trauma
As long as we men forget to look at ourselves as a gender, but only as human beings, there occurs a blindness to many of the hidden dimensions and beliefs in our lives.
From my work since 1993 as a psychotherapist with men in Iron John groups and individual sessions I repeatedly see the patterns that we men often are trapped in.
We men more often than women:
- are afraid of closeness
- have difficulties in describing and expressing feelings
- feel superior and better – our old patriarchal attitude and dominance in relation to women, skin color, LGTB people etc.
- are often being imprisoned
- rape and abuses women
- are soldiers, waging war and kill
- self-medicate by drinking, sex, alcohol, food etc.
- don’t provide for our health etc.
It is as if we men as a group still don’t wake up and see where we are today, while the women in the last 40 years have seized their lives and focused on how their gender have been treated by men. Now it is the women, who gradually progresses everywhere in the society, in the universities, live their own lives, have their own work and economy and ultimately only need men’s semen to have a child.
And what happen with us men? We just sleep further, because the normal life of men have cut us off from feeling our needs – see our selves and there are many reasons why. Our upbringing to be strong, hard, competing, impatient, restless men have cut us off from deeper layers in ourselves. We have had to be this strong to avoid being girly boy, sissy, and feminine – a kind of “none woman”.
Quite imperceptibly we have lost our ability for closeness in our parents’ aim of forming a “brave boy”. The loss of our ability to sense ourselves and others have disappeared without us being aware and noticing it.
This is how trauma works: Overwhelming experiences split us from important parts of ourselves, our feelings are being paralyzed – we are being overwhelmed and frozen. We don’t have access to ourselves anymore and our inner world and who we love.
“Trauma can also be seen as the body’s response to a long sequence of smaller wounds. Trauma can be a response to anything that the body experiences as too much, too soon, too fast”. (Resmaa Menakem: “My Grandmother´s Hand, 2017)
The prize we pay for normality and our privileges is that we as men are being disabled in our relations towards both women and other men. When we look around, we don’t have any tools to look through the filter of the invisible traumas. We men are like endangered lizards: in the fight for survival, they lose the tale and run away, but the prize we pay is unnoticeable and invisible, because the loss and the pain disappear out of our consciousness.
That is how the shadows of thousand years of patriarchal expectations rest over us men as the privileged in the hierarchy – as the provider of the family: “Pater familias” – like the one who has the unrestricted power over family members: women and children. The wounds and the traumas make us blind to the pain of our gender. It has been “normalized”.
Join the men’group: “Man – who are you?” on Zoom the 3 of september 2020 step 1 – 4
The bridge is the artificial life – the abyss is life itself
To better understand men’s situation I have chosen to apply a quote from Toltojs roman about Anna Karenina: “The bridge is the artificial life – the abyss is life itself”. (1877).
On the bridge many men live in the demands and stress of everyday life – we chase from one thing to another – without awareness of how exhausted we are. It is as if we have “fallen asleep”. We reach a lot – we tick all of our chores without ever getting done and without being satisfied. It is as if we are caught in the rat race, when we run from one task to another or getting stuck in the honey trap: all our projects and tasks look so attractive, that we are not aware of how we are increasingly sinking into “the honey sweet paste”.
On the bridge we live in the vertical dimension: Standing upright – puts our whole life under control ranging from the work tasks, the women and the children to the leisure times of a marathon race.In the vertical dimension we believe that we have control over everything even the weather. We develop into “human doers”: It is through actions that we reach our goals.
It almost sounds too good to be true. We really get something done and lift many big tasks at work and at the community level. But what are the challenges of living like that – directed by the forces from our Ego? It is discontent, anxiety, depression, divorces, illness etc. No time for charging the batteries up on the bridge, where we live “the artificial life”. We think that life can only be lived in a certain way, where we have the control over – “the on and off button”.
We believe that we are in control of it all, until life itself – our inner balance show us the way – that our bodies or psyche are unable to cope with the race and collapses.Where is “the on and off button? If we have the path of action as the only principle, life choose for us: We fall involuntary down from the bridge – down in the abyss – a crisis – a turning point.
We “fall awake” and it can be very scary – it almost feels like dying. We lose control of our activities up on the bridge.. We can no longer continue in the same way. There are no more power back. It is in the “falling down” in the abyss that we “wake up” and are able to discern – get a new awareness about who we are and what we want from life.
That is what a crisis can contribute to. Here our stop and “falling down” begins to work. Suddenly there is time to sense life, sense your own breathing, sense your body – sense the exhaustion – detect your inner discontent, discover your wife – or your children. In the beginning you almost experience that life stops. And so it actually does. Life pushes us out of the illusion that we decide everything for ourselves and starts to show us new ways to enjoy what is – a resting in the moment – without having to catch anything: Be present. The abyss is the place where we are falling down and becoming “human beings”.
We do one thing at a time, taking the breaks we need and let the process already underway develop organically – even though we don’t quite know what direction to go, because we have no control of the next moment. We are present – in the moment. That is the only thing we have. All possibilities opens up. The awareness of being present in the now – in the horizontal dimension of being.
The now contains not only our joy and successes, but also the pain and the wounds from falling down the bridge. We begin to realize that we no longer are able to reject what we feel. Life forces us to taste the discontent, the pain, the anxiety and anger that we pushed away and didn’t want to sense in our artificial life upon the bridge. Now we are presented for that we have a choice either to continue our lives as we usually do or we can begin to learn to meet the new challenges of live to us men: To be present in our lives.
Where the horizontal and the vertical are crossing each other, the now exists. In the now men’s and women’s inner wall disappear and we are able to unite the qualities from the actions and the beingness – qualities which aren’t tied to the Ego, the personality or the gender. In the now, our boundaries disappear and we step into another layer in ourselves and in our perception of life. It is in this moment our new masculinity is born.
To join a men’s group is very valuable for us men. We have the possibility to ask some of our many questions which long have rumbled within us. Being men only brings an additional dimension, when we examine the patterns we have been trapped in by the community social templates of what a “real man” is.
Many of us men have been neither used to share personal themes nor to reveal our vulnerability to other men. It doesn’t take long for us men in the men’s groups to begin to experience how much we have in common.As the heroes in our fairy tales e.g. “Iron John” we may as men be equipped for meeting our physiological, biological, psychological and spiritual challenges and transformations from baby, boyhood, puberty, adult, elderly to dying.
We need to get new tools that can help us along the way through life to:
- dare receiving support from others
- meet the dark place of loneliness
- dare feeling our pain from childhood- get out of mother’s and father’s shadow
- understand our love relationships
- learn more about contact – open and to close- give and receive – say yes, no, maybe
- dare closeness
- be able to shift between inwardly and outwardly directed focus
- realize that we have a choice, a responsibility and awareness
- dare to meet, melt and heal our old survival patterns of hardness, endurance, numbness, aloneness with accept
- detect the contempt for women/the feminine traits inside ourselves
- be aware of our search for power over others- be able to find the right balance between Being and Doing
All these themes appeared year after year in the Iron John groups I led in Denmark. One of my groups was named the Bear Gang. Once the men were given a task to paint an animal that they had identified with. Accidently most of the participants painted a lonely bear walking on an ice surface. A thick fur and no human beings or animal were nearby. Only the cold, the isolation and the loneliness surrounded the animal.
For me that became a symbol of the life situation of men.When we men start to learn from other men – about ourselves and our relationships, we will gradually become used to the inner focus, sharing our painful experiences and finding new supporting places inside ourselves, learning from the life crises we have experienced and take new fresh and caring steps with us into the world: We have “fallen awake”, and we will return to life on the bridge again with a new awareness of who we are – with a larger compassion and respect for ourselves, women, children – we will be able to regulate ourselves to diminish our stress and stay healthy, being able to repair our relationships when we have wounded the ones we love.
We learn to ground ourselves, being centered and meet other men, women and the world with our new power, trust, compassion, respect and openness – with our new masculinity taking responsibility as human beings.
Join the men’s group: “Man – Who are you?” on Zoom the 3 of september 2020 step 1 – 4
Read my article about regulating your nervous system – To be brought back to life again.