Lest there be any doubt, this post is aimed at men and women both. Our two psychologies are complementary all the way down and neither can be understood without the other. I focus on men because the masculine story is little understood - and crucial to understant. I’ll show what I see as the broad outlines here.
There’s much more to say but before I delve deeper, I invite comments, considerations and questions so I can speak better to what’s not clear or what may not be true. Please keep your thoughts and views in mind as you read and dare to share. The psychology of men and women involves us all and it’s not something dead on a page. It’s participative!
The subject of men’s psychology is of keen interest to me personally. In getting my Ph.D as a Mistake Expert, I often competed with women to show how sensitive and feeling-oriented I was. This didn’t help my love life or my life. But you know, mistakes - a royal road . . . I recommend them. You learn the best stuff!
Here’s an overview of a positive masculine psychology:
Male psychology is different from female psychology. This may seem obvious but it’s really really not. The conventional view is that our two psychologies are the same but the men are just not quite as good at it and psychological assistance can help them be better. The entire therapy industry, the experts, drive on that side of the road. A single but telling case in point: The American Psychological Association in its guidelines for health practitioners states that traditional masculinity is on the whole harmful. Unstated but present is that the feminine style of personal work and psychic health - one strongly based on feelings - is natural and appropriate for men too, if they’d just get with the program. Men would be better people, and we’d all be better off if men were more like women.
But what’s the alternative? Can we even imagine one? In a nutshell it’s stepping back to a healthy detachment, looking objectively at our story and making conscious choices about what to do. This is the old school traditional masculine pathway. It’s resonant with stoicism and arguably a central part of mindfulness and prayer. It also has a lot to do with adulthood.
Many or most of us have never heard of stepping back from the issue and taking a third person perspective. They don’t know it’s a possibility. This option, if it’s mentioned at all, is often construed as avoidance and failure to go deep.
As distinct from the APA evaluation, the rational evaluative approach is a traditional strength, “feels” good and works.
Here we come to a more deeply buried perspective.
The traditional strength of men requires a coherent social structure to succeed. Young men don’t grow into it absent an ecosystem of respect and welcome, a psychological initiation, .
Practically speaking, men need a socially approved ecosystem in which they can find mutual respect and approval for themselves. They also need a clear route of aspiration and hope through which they can be loved by women. Western culture doesn’t provide these pathways to men and boys and doesn’t know that it doesn’t.
What do men miss? The beating heart of masculine psychology is honor and self-respect. At present, the social underpinnings of honor and self-respect are not visible to men and boys, aren’t on the radar. They’ve grown up being told by the shape of their education and the invisible and visible messages they receive that manhood, and they, are isolated and on their own.
Men need a clear path to honor and respect. This includes an aspiration that he cares about, pride in values that he won’t abandon. Traditionally this means a trust and surrender to something beyond us all that holds us in love. Practically it often means getting clear and specific around boundaries. An exciting and honest inner picture of where he now is and where his destiny lies is his foundation.
Still here? Here’s another difficult and seldom seen fork in the road:
The desire to be approved of by women and belong is so primary and strong in men that they often can’t hear or recognize the value of healthy detachment. Traditional cultures accommodated for this. Ours don’t.
While many men succeed in spite of these difficulties, the social invisibility and misunderstanding of men's perspective is a challenge in all men's lives. Many fall through the cracks as the suicide rates and declining achievement tell the story. Most men (and most women) don’t see the landscape in which masculine and feminine psychologies are playing out. Most helpers, like the aforementioned and well-intentioned people at the APA, don’t see it well either.
Absent the narrative clarity about his position, the deep feeling work for men will likely deepen, or mask, feelings of not being good enough. He’ll imagine he needs fixing to be more like women. He’ll blame himself for his disconnection.
Men who are very feeling oriented are often that way dysfunctionally - it may have helped them in the past, for example to get along with mother or, as an adult, to impress women.
Men are very good at feelings. Think Chopin, think Shakespeare, think Jesus, think Martin Luther King. Men’s natural expression is wise in feelings and this natural wisdom is expressed in a masculine way.
When a man sees what he needs to do, he can join in a group with others. His deep feeling work often looks like honesty and welcome. Men are like the men; they’re not like the women. Think of men with peers on a hunting trip; it feels good to be together about a common pursuit. Connecting with other men greatly speeds up and deepen their learning together.
Men who hold their value and self-respect are engaged and feel good being alive, even when it’s hard and they screw up. They’re vital to their children and partners.
Their masculine courage, warriorship, willingness to risk, willingness to serve something beyond self is vital to the healthy future if there is to be one. The present impasses between men and women is a symptom and cause of the social fragmentation we see.
The future involves a new allyship between men and women.
There! Thank you for reading. Dare to share by commenting please! Your thoughts and feelings are welcome and important. What’s up for you here?
The future will require a new relationship to the ideas we love and care about. Conventional and mainstream media are free but they do not help us usher in the new conversation and the new world we need. They foster sleep and that’s a big part of their intent. The future is participative and urgent.
Consider paying for enacting a new vision for men and women together in the world. We’ll need a participative allyship to meet the big challenges ahead.
ps Check out a free drop-in practice session for positive masculinity in the Community section above. Also a paid men’s group - and coaching opportunities too and Family Constellations.
Much of what you shared above rings with much clarity. How do we decipher the signal in all this noise? Men are hungry for it, and woman are whether it be consciously or subconsciously waiting and holding up much of the fabric.
I think the language of psychological speak is part of the problem. Looking at these issues from only the rational, logical perspective constrains us, and further compartmentalizes us all, men and woman alike.
I like the part above that spoke to how men learn deeply and accept each other more fully when actively working on a common goal - it’s something rarely seen in these times...