Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sage Mahosadha: The Grieving Man and the Teacher-Student Relationship


This is a cool post from my online friend and fellow Tucsonan, Sage Mahosadha. Sage blogs at The Whole World is a Single Flower - we have connected over the past several months around issues we are both passionate about - mature masculinity, men's evolution, spirituality, and so on.

From time to time on his blog, Sage answers questions from readers - this is one of those posts. I wanted to share this with all of you because I think he is one to a big issue, one that many books have been written about, but most of which circle the truth without ever quite landing on it.

More from me below.

Questions for Sage: The Grieving Man and the Teacher - Student Relationship

I was participating in a web-based discussion forum for men who also have some sort of concrete spiritual practice, when someone participating in the discussion asked me this very specific question:

"Sage, I understand you have written quite a bit about what you call "The Grieving Man" archetype. Do you think this comes into play in any way in the teacher-student relationship when both the teacher and the student are both male? I was recently reading about a male student who broke with his male teacher in a very public and acrimonious way and got the sense that something else that was not spoken of was going on there."

Sage responds: I am glad you asked me that question. I have a lot to say there. First, here are my most basic ideas about what I term, "The Grieving Man" and part of what I see as being at the root of it:

I believe most mens primary and in many cases lifelong grief experience is deeply connected to their relationship (or lack thereof) with their fathers. I believe this can also be true even if the man believes he has/had a wonderful relationship with the father (or father figure). I suspect however, the vast majority of men, at least in western cultures, have not had a good relationship with their fathers. My intuition tells me that this is also more or less the case for men in other parts of the world as well. I simply do not have enough personal or research experience there to say this with as much authority as I do for men who live in The West.

Men are essentially grieving because we do not know how to love other men, half the world's human population. And we need to know how to love men to lead fully productive lives. This is all directly related to the experience of not feeling loved by the father or feeling abandoned or not understood or not accepted by the father, etc. Most men realize this on some level, mostly subconsciously.

So the grieving man is grieving in my view, largely because of a disconnect from at least a perceived loving and supportive relationship with the father or the primary male father figure in the young boy's life. And so a primary result of this particular disconnect is a propensity for men to then look to women to teach us how to love, regardless of the man's sexual orientation.

So that is the most basic background stance I have.

Now lets superimpose the teacher-student relationship onto that.
Go read the whole post.

I am one of those men who spent years searching for my father's love in my relationships with women (and men). My father died when I was young (as I have mentioned here many times), and even while he was alive he was not the most affectionate man on the planet, at least not with me (my sister received much more of that than I did).

I'm not sure when I came to the realization that Sage describes above. At some point during my last round of psychotherapy I came to grips with the reality of my relationship to my father - that it sucked, and that I had been trying to rationalize and justify his actions so that I could maintain some semblance of what the Object-Relations psychologists would call the "Good Father," which meant repressing the "Bad Father."

As I worked through that stuff, I also realized that I was often uncomfortable around other men, especially men who seemed very masculine to me. It became clear at some point that I felt as though I had never learned how to be a man or what it means to be or feel masculine - so being around those men I identified as masculine intimidated me.

It was about that time that I started this blog.

My father taught me some rules of old school masculinity - the chivalry code: hold doors for women, respect women (especially my mother - failed that one when I was young), open car doors, ladies first, if some guy is mistreating a women then kick his ass, never show fear or doubt (fail that one frequently), and so on.

Some of those have served me well, some not so much.

But I feel like I never learned to be comfortable being a man - which is why I have been reading, researching, and writing about it for 5 or 6 years now. During that time I have figured out a few things.

Because I never felt comfortable showing affection with my father - mostly because he did not model how to do that with me - I never learned how to be affectionate with other men. Add to that growing up in a rural conservative part of Oregon where showing affection for another man means you're gay, and fearing that label (even though I found men attractive back then, I repressed it). Being called gay or, more likely, a faggot, was a curse for a teen boy who thought of himself as a jock and wanted to be the All-American Stud (aside from the broken home, run-ins with the police, the drug and alcohol problem, and so on). Yes, I was well-socialized as a teen, thank the universe (or genetics) that it did not stick.

So, getting back on topic, I was (sometimes still am) that grieving man Sage is describing above.

I'm still working on all of this, but I can show care and affection for my male friends - and I have no fear that they will think I am anything other than me - because they know I am not gay, straight, or any other label . . . I'm me.

And I guess it helps that most of my male friends identify as gay or bisexual - so they are more comfortable with emotions and expressing them (it's not fair to generalize this to all gay men, but the guys I know are).

1 comment:

Sage said...

Thanks for the acknowledgment Bill. Be Well!