Before I address the questions I raised about gender wounds in my last post I’d like to clarify some terms. When I write about men, males, women, or females, I’m addressing sexual gender. When I use “masculine” and “feminine” as adjectives, I mean the qualities we associate with our inner masculine and feminine sides.
From an early age our egos build our identity on society’s messages about the characteristics and roles considered appropriate to our gender. We do this without knowing that we all have a masculine and feminine side. Gender wounds are the result of getting stuck in fixed ideas or lost in collective judgments about what we can and cannot be and do because of our gender.
Our “feminine side” reflects our drive for species-preservation. Jungians describe the feminine principle as the maternal, nurturing qualities of fertility, caring, creating, protecting and birthing new life; being, receiving, and containing; relating to otherness with honesty, harmony, mercy, and emotional intimacy; being physically and emotionally connected to and present with oneself, nature, and otherness; diffuse awareness of subtle energies; integrating information with intuition, subjective feeling, and creative imagination to see holistically and create meaning; reverence for paradox, mystery, oneness, and completion.
Our “masculine side” expresses our drive for self-preservation with attributes like the ability to separate oneself from external and internal distractions that threaten our territory and safety; the need to discover and manifest our individuality; penetrating, competitive, productive activity to meet our goals and satisfy our basic needs; focused concentration and rigorous self-discipline to sharpen our knowledge, skills and abilities; logical thinking that makes clear distinctions between details and helps us understand and resolve complex matters; aspiring to noble ideals like justice, freedom, purity and perfection.
Obviously, neither of these principles is in any way “superior” to the other and everyone has the capacity for both. Don’t you? So in answer to the question, “What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings?” I would say that women with well-developed feminine sides are simply trying to express the disappointment and rejection they feel when their need for emotional closeness, honesty, harmony and communication is not met by men who are emotionally distant, unexpressive, or silent.
In The Hidden Spirituality of Men, the trail-blazing theologian Matthew Fox writes, “A lot of self-preservation seems to require silence.” Fox quotes the medieval philosopher and mystic Thomas Aquinas who observed that there are “various kinds of silences: That of dullness; that of security; that of patience; and that of a quiet heart.”
Some reasons Fox cites for why men might be silent about their emotional and spiritual lives include:
- Because Western culture is still a dualistic patriarchy that values thinking over feeling, material wealth over spiritual, scientific fact over intuitive knowledge, men over women, and heterosexuals over homosexuals.
Because men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.
Because many men carry wounds inside they would rather forget or put aside than admit are there.
- Because communication between boys and fathers is often cold or nonexistent in our culture, and too many elders “retire” to the golf course rather than mentor younger generations.
Patriarchal cultures obsess over our masculine sides and repress our feminine sides. Although boys generally feel more pressure to conform, neither gender is immune. As a semi-reformed emotional stoic, I know that life feels like an endless desert with no oasis in sight when we can’t feel or express our emotions, especially grief and pain. And I believe that the depression and hopelessness felt by so many today is due to psychological and emotional ignorance. The remedy? Self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.
“and too many elders “retire” to the golf course rather than mentor younger generations.”
I’ve been following your recent posts on the masculine and feminine principals and I’ve been tempted to reply so many times but then deleted every one of them. But the quote above is extremely pertinent to me and something that I have intuitively understood my whole life. I’m only 22 right now but I have always felt a great pull to the image of the “wise old man” or just the inner awareness of a psychologically well-rounded man inside of me, who guides and directs, uses their emotional maturity, intellectual strength, wisdom and compassion to foster consciousness in others.
It is not until I got into analytical psychology that I could conceptualise and link this deep yearning inside me to the archetypal image of the wise old man or father figure. Now with my knowledge and self-awareness, I realised that all my life I’ve had an inner image or guide or sense of direction that has lead me to feel that this image is something that I would like to be myself, that it would lead me to good things. I just get a great feeling of meaningfulness from it- a powerful sense of responsibility to myself and others to grow psychologically. It always erupts an emotion in me that is very powerful, something deep and profound. When I realised this, that was the point when I could connect with the concept of the archetype on an emotional level and feel it’s reality on an experiential basis, instead of just taking other’s words for it from books.
Anyway, about the above quote, I think we have lost this so strongly in our age, our cultural and in our family and relationships, it’s a deep wound. Self-centeredness, narrow mindedness, lack of intuition and feeling, materialism etc. are all death to the potential of healthy wisdom figures and the shepards of life. I know now more then ever that we cannot solve life’s problems on a grand scale, we can only work on ourselves and become more conscious people and that in turn will influence and affect the lives of others that allow us in. Consciousness and the strength to bare it, is the biggest gift you can give to others.
Amazing blog by the way, recently discovered it, thank you.
Hello Larry. Welcome to my blog. And thank you for your kind words about it. By the way, may I request that the next time you start to reply to one of my posts, please don’t delete it? I need to hear your thoughts, and those of any who feel an inner stirring about something I’ve written. As an introverted feeling type, I’m the feminine version of the silent, apparently “unemotional” male. My true self is anything but unemotional but even after all these years of inner work I still tend to keep the most tender and vulnerable aspects of it well guarded in the everyday world. So my point is that writing is how I communicate at the soul level, and reading written responses from people who resonate with what I say is deeply nourishing.
I suspect you may understand this well. Just as I understand your life-long sense of having a “wise old man” in you. You do, of course, and a wise old woman too! It is my belief that when we develop both kinds of thinking and perceiving, (masculine left-brain, feminine right-brain, masculine thinking and feminine feeling, head and heart, and so on), the wise old man and wise old woman merge together into the Sage: an image of wisdom and enlightenment and expanding consciousness. Of course, this is a lifelong task and requires a commitment to taking our inner lives as seriously as we do our outer lives on a daily basis. I’m thrilled to “meet” a young man who is already well on his way to understanding and living this truth! It’s an extremely difficult thing to teach. As you say, the archetypal life is real, we experience it all the time without the ego’s awareness, and once we know this with our heart as well as our head we can start working on our magnum opus: the inner integration of opposites that creates the alchemical philosopher’s stone. This is, indeed, the biggest gift we can give to others.
Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with me. You’ve made my day.
Thank you for your exploration of this topic, Jean. I’ve written a couple of posts that follow up on the subject of missing male elders: “Coming to Terms with an Absence of Elders” and “Why Aren’t More Older Men Showing Up For Younger Men?”. I’d be happy to provide the links for them if you think your readers would be interested.
Thanks for writing Rick. I thought of you when I was working on this piece because I know it’s a topic of interest to you, and I know you have some great insights! I’d love for my readers to become familiar with your work. You can post your links here for those who happen to read these comments to find, or, if you prefer, you can send them to me via twitter or e-mail and with your permission perhaps I could re-post them here. Whichever you prefer is fine. Either way, I want to see them! There’s so much we have to learn about wounded masculinity.
Ageism gallops in our society. It has reached pandemic proportions. Perhaps our youth culture with its distorted values lies, (at least partly,) behind the dearth of elders’ wisdom discussed so cogently by Larry, Rick and yourself.
It seems that ageist social attitudes do pressure many of our elders to emulate Barbie and Ken, at least to the extent that arthritic joints and the cost of a regular dye-job will permit. Is it then possible, that if the wisdom of age and experience were equally valued, we would see a different trend emerging?
Given the prevalence of these attitudes, I wonder how welcome some of this wisdom really is. Especially to those young people suggestible enough to be influenced by what that they see around them – negative stereotypes of the elderly: in advertising, in the media, in employment, in government, in popular humour … need I go on?
Your point is very well made. Is this wisdom welcome? Not for many. We can choose not to buy expensive products and services that make us look and feel younger if we want to, and if enough of us did that, the face of advertising would change to reflect our growing comfort with the realities of living and dying. But as long as enough people are willing to pay whatever it takes not to see the truth in the mirror, nothing will change. In an age where so many people feel terrible about themselves because they have no idea of their true worth and are terrified at the thought of death, I cannot judge or blame anyone for doing whatever they can to feel better about themselves. All any of us who see beyond these stereotypes can do is die to the world’s opinion and be the change we want to see. Some will see and hear; some will not. We have no control over the values of our culture, but we can change ourselves. I’m good with that. Thanks for your always thoughtful input!
Reblogged this on The Highly Sensitive Family and commented:
A great post on the need for self-knowledge and self-acceptance