‘ If you must fight, fight with yourself and your thoughts in the night’ Keaten Henson
Psycho-analysts claim that we are often triggered by attributes and qualities in others that we have had to repress in ourselves.
For example, if we are triggered by those we deem as ‘flaky’, arty, hippy types we have probably had to deal with some heavy-duty responsibility with rarely the chance to develop our creativity or step out of the ring for a time out. Equally, if we are triggered by direct or assertive people, we may have always been put down or punished for taking up our own space in the world.
The divisions we see in the political and social realms are symptomatic of this kind of projection.
This is certainly true of gender and identity politics. Despite feminism, men and women seem to be less integrated than ever.
Perhaps, we can only heal these seemingly insummountable divisions in wider society by healing divisions within ourselves as individuals. I include Carl Jung here because his focus was on integration of self. It seems, in the present situation, much ( not all) male energy is in retreat, repression or outright violent rebellion.
Carl Jung argued that an individual can only begin the process of self actualisation once they are able to integrate opposing (often repressed) aspects within their own psyche.
Jung referred to these aspects as the Animus (masculine) and Anima (feminine). For a man to reach full maturity, he must integrate Anima into his nature and for a woman to fully mature she must integrate the Animus into her nature. Paradoxically, Jung argued, this process wouldn’t lead to some non binary, androgyny. On the contrary, it would enlarge the container of selfhood to incorporate a fuller understanding of an individual’s role within a broader social context.
I have always had a fascination for the stories of King Arthur. Something about the knights of the round table embodies the noblest qualities of the men that I’ve known and admired. I now realise that I’ve always been intrigued by these myths because they encompass my own divine masculine. The knights with their courage and codes of honour, challenge me to be more assertive, focused and courageous, virtues that don’t come as naturally to my feminine consciousness.
There are many examples of the divine feminine in mythology, folk tales, balladry and religious traditions.
The significance of the veneration of Our Lady in the Catholic church is one example of this. Her uncompromising, grace and protection powerfully embodies the sacred feminine. In imagery such as holy cards and statues The Madonna is depicted, crushing the serpent (symbol of the fall of mankind). Crude, low, primal urges, mindless violence, destruction, debasement and deception of all kinds fall under her immaculate foot. There is strength in her obedience and submission to the overarching good, her fiat; “ecce ancilla domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” translated, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to thy word”, evokes strength not weakness. It makes such an act acceptable to the masculine mind, which can easily find the idea of submission akin to evolutionary impotence. The deepest truth is that human beings need to submit to something before they can fully and responsibly utilise their immense potential. Unfortunately opportunists take advantage of this right use of hierarchy and subvert it to empower themselves. If we are given no decent heroes to emulate and serve we will gravitate towards villains. If we are given no healthy value systems, we will choose pathological ones.
Petty victories make us petty, noble defeats ennoble us.
As Rilke says in the last three stanza of his poem A Man Watching,
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
–Translated by Robert Bly
What are the current role models and value systems for us to emulate and integrate?
The emergence of the Internet has provided a multiplicity choice and with it the illusion of freedom. The medium itself is the blind spot however. We sit at our desks, in front of our screens rather than acting and connecting in the world. We feel a sense of accomplishment through passive acts of liking and sharing information which is unlikely to actively change our behaviours. In such a way our energy is siphoned off, and made as benign as a grounded electrical charge. We glorify virtue signalling rather than virtuous behaviour.
The tribalism inherent in these channels create dogmas, rules, ideologies and even initiation ceremonies akin to any cult. Young males, are by design, in need of a channel for their excessive, natural reserves of energy, energy that has, over the millenia helped to design, build and die for the comforts, technologies and systems of our current world. Now that we have reached a limit to the environmental and cultural sustainability of this design, male energy with nowhere to go is finding cathartic outlets in extremism; extremist men’s groups, extremist political groups, even extremist feminism.
The first and second waves of Feminism opened up many opportunities for women forever transforming the roles of both genders in both the public and domestic spheres.
These important but unsettling transitions led to relationship breakdowns which led to more single parent families. These single parent families were more often than not composed of mothers and their children and as a result generations of young men grew up without strong male role models in their family home. Dr. Marshall Rosenburg, the pioneer of non violent communication argued that all destructive behaviour was rooted in unmet needs. The unmet need of a father figure for young men has created a lot of destructive behaviour.
In many indigenous cultures throughout the world young boys leave their mother’s house at adolescence and take refuge amongst the male members of their tribe. Spending time with older, wiser, males provides nourishment on every level, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.
If necessary nourishment isn’t readily available in the family or community it will be sought out in sub cultures, scavenged from street gangs, far right groups, far left groups. Refuge will be taken in nihilistic regression and depression behind screens, under bed covers. Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of internet hate groups led by charismatic leaders whose main objective is to utilise such despair to advance their own trajectory into infamy. The loudest, most provocative voices usually attract the largest following because they articulate the collective pain and make conscious the anger, disappointment, redundancy and disaffection of many who lack guidance and purpose. As a result, the natural need for connection, belonging, guidance, discipline (discipleship) and meaning becomes pathologised.
The extreme nature of many of these groups has ultimately left those joining them even more socially isolated and disenfranchised.
Warren Farrell, co-author of the “The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It,” argues that the phenomena of absent fathers has been devastating for the development of boys. He pointed to research showing that boys without fathers fare worse than boys with fathers on more than 70 different metrics.
From one sample, of 56 school shooters, only 10 (18%) grew up in a stable home with both biological parents, In other words, 82% of the sample either grew up in single parent, primarily single mother households.
Studies of imprisoned ISIS, recruits, have shown that many grew up in homes where father figures were absent or had little involvement. An extreme ideology gives boys, especially fatherless ones, what they are unable to find elsewhere: the ability to sacrifice themselves for a supposedly higher cause.
This tweet may seem overly sentimental but it conveys and condenses sacred masculinity to its essential qualities; to protect and provide for the vulnerable without resentment, to bestow dignity, to ennoble others, to act with integrity and to be prepared to stand up and lead when others stay safe in their seats. This is sacred masculinity. These are the qualities embedded in kingship. The hallmark of nobility being responsibility. Responsibility being the ability to respond to the call.
“Mass society, with its demand for work without responsibility, creates a gigantic army of rival siblings.” – Alexander Mitscherlich
Initial justified feminist reaction to patriarchal systems that subjugated women has now grown to become a unweildy attack on men and male biology itself. Male energy has been demeaned vilified as toxic. In some cases, measures have been taken to feminize the natural aggression out of boys rather than channel it. The typical play of boys which often involves pretend battles, pop guns, swords, bows and arrows, monsters and all kinds of physical wrestling has been largely discouraged. Health and safety regulations are one factor, the privatisation and commodification of natural spaces is another but they are not the only ones.
Most pre-school and primary school staff are female and teaching methods in schools tend to fit female students better than male. Boys often develop more slowly than girls and their vestibular systems are not always given adequate time to wire up through rough and tumble engagement with the world before they are required to sit still and quiet at a desk in front of a white board for six hours a day. Vestibular systems govern balance, movement and coordination. Children can’t process abstract concepts until these systems are fully developed. Studies have shown that practising simple balancing tasks improve struggling pupils handwriting and comprehension skills and physical movement increases memorization. Most female dominated, homes, preschools and primary schools don’t offer enough of this. As a result boy’s development is being arrested.
The infantilising of male energy in the media is a big problem and it is stunting our culture. It is also leading to a lot of undeveloped men (and women).
Culture has created an almost Oedipal environment for its youth. Parents have been reported to CPS for letting their children walk to and from school on their own and helicopter parenting has become a social contagion. Children are doing more homework than ever as the state ever encroaches upon their free time. Play and socializing are also becoming more structured. “Good” middle class kids are put into enrichment classes and extra curricular activities and many parks have been reclaimed by adults and made into asthetically sterile, no play zones. The only kids left to play on the street are thoses whose parents can’t afford an alternative and as a result, middle class parents are even less keen to let their children out to free associate with what they consider to be “undesirable” playmates. All children need freedom to play and learn in outdoor, public spaces. It is a vital form of secondary socialisation.
Childhood is lasting longer than it ever has and with it the indignity of dependence. Many skilled trade and industry jobs are either being outsourced to developing nations or replaced with tech. With no real term pay increases since the seventies, and the introduction of women into the workforce, jobs that could once support a family now barely support an individual. This stark, economic factor has surely contributed to the breakdown of the family unit.
True masculinity is not some twisted, pretence, an aggressive front, a swaggering persona.
Examples of masculine “strength” in pop culture delivers nihilistic anti-hero or a one-dimensional marvel comic, caricature. Men are often portrayed in movies and TV shows as one-dimensional and caricatured as either foolish and childish or arrogant and tyrannical.Being a man and being a woman is to do your duty and be honest about your limitations. It’s about authenticity. It’s having the strength to be gentle and humble without apology. And rather than picking a fight with the world, it’s about fighting against your own debasing instincts, prejudices, projections, shame, pain and disaffection. It is about understanding that in raising up others, we raise up ourselves.
“In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building and emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.”
― Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
Feminism has encouraged a narrow definition of what might be deemed “acceptable” masculinity.
Throughout history, women have had to undermine their own truth to fit, societal expectations of the “perfect female” and it has led to problems on both an individual and social scale. To ask men to do the same may create some cathartic sense of justice but will only further compound the original problem of inequality. Rather than seeking after further diminishing we should rather be consciously seeking the best for one another by constantly striving to be the best version of our selves.