Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing

This is an excellent article from the CG Jung Page. David Tacey looks at the current crisis in masculinity from a Jungian perspective, which is in line with some of my own views.
Finding the Truth in Men's Experience: Masculinity, Change and Healing
Contributed by David Tacey
Wednesday, 31 January 2007

According to David Tacey, professor of Jungian and Pscyhoanalytic Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne, traditional masculinity is suffering from a crisis of confidence and if humanity is to be renewed, masculinity needs a makeover. In this article, Tacey argues on the side of restraint reform, suggesting that there is a New Man in the making, who is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity and the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness required in today's environment.

Traditional masculinity appears to be suffering from a crisis of confidence, and some are saying it is not before time. Many of the world's most serious problems and illnesses can be traced back to an exaggerated or distorted masculinity. The brutish spirit of "progress" that rides roughshod over nature, women, and indigenous peoples is largely a product of an heroic and conquistadorial masculine style. The fiercely striving, competitive, and exploitative temper that governs First World economics, commerce, and politics is a temper which is based in hegemonic masculinity. And the style of consciousness which is extraverted, outward, confined to rationality and the intellect is a consciousness that is onesidedly masculine, having little or no room for non-heroic or receptive dimensions of human experience. If humanity is to be renewed, if we are to be saved from the world-conquering aggressive ego and from the heroic complex that drives us to the brink of self-destruction, then clearly masculinity has to be altered in some way. If we are to be saved from the spectre of ecological devastation, and from the push that would subdue the entire physical world in order to further the ego's short-term needs, then clearly traditional masculinity has to be checked and restrained.

Men have to realise that they are, or have been, deeply linked to a patriarchal heritage which now has to be challenged for the sake of life on earth. Men have to wake up from the patriarchal dream, realise what is wrong, and do something to promote a less hazardous and destructive world. However, this will involve men in a good deal of pain, self-questioning, anxiety, and uncertainty about themselves. Patriarchy is not simply an external social system or political authority, but an internal and emotional ideology by which we unconsciously construct our identities. In changing the world to ensure a better future, men will first have to unpack and unravel themselves, to identify the patriarchal and conquistadorial elements of our character, and consciously sacrifice these elements for the sake of the world. This is the hard work, the tough, inner work that must accompany any revolutionary desire to save or change the world. Some people are alarmed at how "internal" or "psychological" the popular revolution in masculinity is, and of course there are those who insist that all this internal work is indulgent or narcissistic. But I think the unpacking and unravelling of ourselves, the questioning and self-criticism, is absolutely essential if there is to be any real or full response to the critical situation that collective masculinity has placed us in.

I take it that men are, or have been, the beneficiaries of an unconscious patriarchal system that has given us status, privileges, and an emotional stability which must all be challenged as society moves forward to discover what a postpatriarchal social system could look like. As society slowly removes itself from the old patriarchal foundations, all of us, but especially men, are going to feel this emotional earthquake at the depths of our lives. In order for society to move ahead, there has to be pain and rupture, wounding and hurting, so that the old structures can be consciously identified and suffered, in the hope that transformation might occur. Coming to consciousness is always a painful activity, and any act of consciousness brings in its wake suffering and some despair. There is no easy way out of this, so that a popular men's movement that offers relief from despair and the removal of this suffering can readily be counted as a backlash against the times. We men have to recognise that we live in stormy times, that the stakes are high, and that the responsibility now rests with men to attempt a real change and to sacrifice some of the privileges of the past for the sake of a future world.

There are, it must be realised, two quite different tasks to be performed at this moment in time. The old, destructive masculinity must be allowed to die, and a new masculinity must be brought to birth. None of this will happen by itself, spontaneously, but it must be aided by consciousness and supported by a progressive culture. Men have to feel within themselves the enormity of the patriarchal heritage and the psychological and social problems to which it has given rise. Then, having identified the difficulty, there has to be a ritual separation from the past, and a mourning for the violations and abuses that have occurred "in the name of the father". After this shock, grief, and mourning, we then have to herald and celebrate a new beginning, get to work on the New Man, and positively explore the rebirth of masculinity - a new masculinity that won't end up in macho-heroics, hegemony, and world-destruction. Collective masculinity is suffering a kind of midlife crisis, and this crisis demands urgent and thorough measures: the old masculine self has to be Unmade, and masculinity has to be Remade, using the best elements from the past, together with new awarenesses from the present and future. This is the age-old pattern of all archetypal human experience: birth, death, and rebirth.
Read the whole article.

My agreement with Tracey can be summed up in this quote:
I think there is a New Man in the making, and this New Man is a mixture of the best of traditional masculinity, plus the sensitivity and emotional expressiveness that is being demanded in today's environment.
He seems to be positing the unification and transcendence of traditional masculine values and the postmodern sensitive New Age guy (SNAG) into a more balanced and integrated masculinity.


Anonymous said...

I think he's accurate, especially in describing the turbulence, the pain that must take place for the old ways to die and something new to emerge. I often wonder how much I am unwittingly tied to old ways of masculinity. Even when you find yourself classified as a non-traditional male, it's still easy to get trapped by narratives that are no longer useful.

Coach Justice said...

Great site William. I've bookmarked it and will consider providing a link from my site.

Likely it was the weight of "dark" masculine energy that provided the "tipping point" for the women's equality movement that appears to be nearing its peak in western culture today. The flipside of this movement has been that as women discover their power, men have discovered their heart. All good and necessary, although through this process many men (and women) confused "masculine" with "dark," and have disowned masculine virtues altogether. Now we are coming back around the spiral and are poised, men and women alike, to move up together as QUANTITATIVE equals (neither men nor women are inherently superior or inferior) while we honour the QUALITATIVE differences between masculine and feminine. This is an exciting place to be and, I believe, a place full of new opportunities and hope for relationships.

I lead a free group teleclass called Gender Synergy 101 - New Hope For Relationships. If your readers are interested, they can visit my site and sign up. http://www.menmasteringrelationship.com/

Justice Schanfarber