“Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else painfully being born,”
said the playwright and former Czech president Václav Havel.
“It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself—while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble.”
Many males are having a difficult time during this transitional period. Too many men don’t feel useful, worthy, peaceful, hopeful, or manly. The psychologist Herb Goldberg, author of The Hazards of Being Male, says,
“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”
Sigmund Freud said,
“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”
Men are struggling in both areas. Many men are struggling in their relationships. 80% of divorces in the U.S. were initiated by women. Male unemployment was one of the main reasons for the conflicts that pull couples apart.
Regardless of the reason for job loss, when men find themselves unemployed, it can signal such a catastrophic moment in their lives that it can trigger a serious depression. The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), a group which aims to tackle male suicide, published a report showing that 42% of men feel the need to be breadwinners (29% higher than women) and 29% of men worry that if they lost their job their partner would see them as less of a man.
Problems with men’s love and work lives are related to the increased suicide risk men experience. Suicide rates, on average, are four times higher for males than for females, but increase dramatically as men age. In his book, Dying to Be Men, Psychologist Will Courtenay, reports the suicide rate for males:
- 65-74 are 6.3 times higher than for women of the same age.
- 75-84 are 7.0 times higher than for women of the same age.
- 85 or older are 17.5 times higher than for women of the same age.
What’s a man to do? In my book, 12 Rules for Good Men I offer several things that would be helpful for men to do including the following:
- Join a men’s group.
My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 41 years. She cites one of the main reasons for our success is that I’ve been in a men’s group that has been meeting for 42 years. The poet, Robert Bly, observed that
“younger males need to be in the company of older males in order to hear the sound that male cells sing.”
Being in a men’s group is critical for men in order for us to feel fully alive as men and as human beings.
2. Break free from the Man Box.
All males grow up with a set of beliefs about how a man is supposed to be that keeps us cutoff from being our true selves. Things like, “big boys don’t cry,” or “suck it up and be tough.” In her book, Building Bridges: Men’s and Women’s Liberation, Psychologist Ann Neitlich, says,
“It has long been clear that women are oppressed by society with men carrying out that oppression. What has not been as clear is the societal oppression of men, with devastating effects on the lives of men (and women).”
3. Address and heal our anger and fear toward women.
Male anger directed at women continues to be a major problem. Men’s fear of women is not as obvious. Anais Nin reminds us,
“If a person continues to see only giants, it means he is still looking at the world through the eyes of a child. I have a feeling that man’s fear of woman comes from having first seen her as the mother, creator of men.”
This universal male experience was studied by the anthropologist David Gilmore. In his book, Misogyny: The Male Malady, he says,
“The unreasonable fear or hatred of women finds social expression in the concrete behavior—in cultural institutions, in writing, in rituals, or in other observable activity. In all places around the world, there has been a tendency for men to fear and hate women.”
These feelings, though universal, can be healed.
4. Undergo meaningful rites of passage from youth to adulthood and from adulthood to elderhood.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you don’t initiate the young, they will burn down the village to feel the heat.” I suspect we saw an example of this on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol when a mostly male insurrection occurred.
The renowned story-teller and scholar Michael Meade observed,
“When a culture doesn’t provide formal Rites of Passage or initiations, people find their own. Or they don’t find them and never really find the traction of their life. And when a society or culture doesn’t attempt to create circumstances in which that can be worked on creatively, then you get usually destructive versions of them.”
5. Understand and heal the father wound.
Most men I know have grown up in a family where a father was absent physically or emotionally and this family father wound undermines the foundation of most men’s lives.
“A father may be physically present, but absent in spirit,”
says psychologist James Hollis.
“His absence may be literal through death, divorce, or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have acquired.”
The father wound is often passed on through the generations. However, a new generation of men are healing the wound and becoming the fathers they know they are meant to be.
6. Find your mission in life and do your part to save humanity.
I believe each of us is called to help create, in the words of my colleague Charles Eisenstein, “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible”. When I was an undergraduate student at U.C. Santa Barbara the philosopher Paul Tillich was a visiting professor. I am still moved by his challenge to us:
“Every serious thinker must ask and answer three fundamental questions:
1. What is wrong with us? With men? Women? Society?
2. What would we be like if we were whole? Healed? Actualized? If our potentiality was fulfilled?
3. How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? What are the means of healing?”
This challenge is even more important in 2021 as it was when Tillich came to our campus in 1964.
Here are some recent programs I’ve developed that can be helpful to men and the women who love them:
This on-line program is one of the most popular. Both men and women suffer when relationships are under stress. Too many men are blindsided and don’t see the warning signs until its too late. Whether you are in a good relationship that you want to be great or in a relationship that is hurting, this program may be for you. Check it out here.
This on-line program recognizes that most of us grew up in a home where a father was absent physically or emotionally. He may have been absent due to divorce, death, dysfunction, or just because he was working too much. Whatever the reason, his absence impacts our adult relationships. If you are living with a found wound check out this program here.
Irritable Male Syndrome is a problem for millions of men and women often bear the brunt of his anger. In this on-line program, for women, I help you understand the impact of IMS and how you can protect yourself, the man in your life, and your relationship. If you’re a woman dealing with male anger, or you know one who is, you can learn more about the program here.
If you are not on our mailing list to receive our free weekly newsletter (you can stop at any time if it no longer serves you), you can join here.
The post The Future of Man Kind: Healing Men, Healing Relationships appeared first on MenAlive.