Healing The Masculine

Healing The Masculine

The prevailing idea of ‘toxic masculinity’ necessitates deeper analysis. Whilst such in vogue ideas of a degenerate ‘patriarchy’ are widespread, it is not clear what the antidote is, or what the consequences of a role reversal might be. Nietzsche’s words echo: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Evolutionary biologists have indicated some of the traits (or ‘competencies’) that make men attractive to women, including the ability to protect and provide for their families. Historically-speaking, a good hunter was deemed attractive by the opposite sex. Furthermore, an ability to develop resources indicates a willingness to commit, build and develop ideas. It demonstrates stability.  

This implies that resources are linked to competency, a house doesn’t build itself. Women choose men for their qualities, and these grow inter-generationally, via evolutionary processes. Therefore, many of the qualities we see in men have been self-selected by women.

Masculine traits like aggression have evolved a certain way for a purpose.  When we frame them as ‘toxic’, it’s problematic, because natural tendencies are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad,’ it depends how they are used.  In the correct context, they can be lifesaving, yet acting aggressively in the wrong context, threatening or controlling, or bullying, or even suppressing emotions, is not productive.

To describe the so-called ‘patriarchy’ as toxic is somewhat disingenuous unless we examine ‘toxic femininity.’ I look around at the roads, bridges, streetlights, hospital buildings and infrastructure, wondering how many women were involved in their construction? If we are not grateful for the male contribution to civilisation, where does it leave our relationship to the built environment, the art of Michelangelo or music of Mozart?

The inescapable fact is that we are birthed from both sexes and even when one gender hasn’t made a positive contribution to our personal emotional lives, we are all part-male, part-female. Tantric traditions acknowledge the ‘contra-sexual’ part of each gender, honouring the knowledge we have both masculine and feminine components moving through us, whether conscious or unconscious, hidden or exposed. Psychologically, it behoves us to heal both parts and integrate their shadow elements.

To move society forward is to be realistic about gender differences, acknowledge without demonising. In promoting humanistic societies, we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Bad behaviour amongst any gender should not be condoned.  Misogyny, the contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women and misandry, the contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men, are equally counter-productive.

In literature, implicit patterns appear where men are portrayed as selfish and not to be trusted. Literary critic, Anthony Synnott, posits that modern literature frequently portrays men as villains and women as victims. The impulse to disparage men occurs within contemporary feminist literature. Stereotypical male heroes are often flat characters, all brawn over brains. Superman’s Clark Kent is painfully shy, incompetent and sheepish in front of Lois Lane, despite being a virtually indestructible superhero. There is a broad metaphor here, that even the heroic, powerful man, an icon of manliness, goes weak at the sight of a pretty woman.

Interestingly, Freud’s outdated ‘penis envy’ theory pointed to the feeling of absence or void within the female. Some theorists have expanded the symbolic aspects of this to encompass the power and status associated with masculinity. Whether or not Freud meant this metaphorically, the advantages of being male include not having a period (often considered painful and unwanted) and having physical strength and size. 

Disgust at the sight of blood and use of descriptions like ‘the curse’ to describe the female menses, demonstrates persisting negative connotations of being female. From women, I have heard masculine traits derided, whilst expressing “I wish I were male.” What if we are truly seeking wholeness through healing our shadow self? Since yin-yang are interconnected, criticising either side is much like one wing of a plane whinging about the other wing. Utterly pointless and counterproductive.

Issues of vulnerability and inadequacy are common to both sexes. Men feel excessive pressure to excel and perform – disappointment and failure to live up to the ‘ideal’ leads to a high suicide rate amongst young men. 

Rather than being fixated on unhealthy behaviours, it’s more productive to accept that we are all whole human beings, not the ‘sum of our underlying parts.’ We each have potential to learn and grow, wherever we come from and whatever our life experience. Both masculine and feminine traits exist within each of us, which is both complex and beautiful. 

Both men and women need support and acceptance. Before one criticises men, one must consider the positive impacts of masculinity and the integration of our own masculine side. Perhaps it has been neglected and needs loving support and healing. Consider Nietzsche’s words, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

About David Starlyte

Contemplative Psychotherapist, author and Naturopath, David is a graduate of Master's Degrees in Applied Buddhist Studies and Mental Health. His interest in contemplative pedagogies was encouraged by teaching meditation and dharma whilst working as a Naturopath at Six Senses Sanctuary wellness resort on Naka island in Thailand. In the following decade, he worked as visiting wellness practitioner for many of the leading wellness retreats in the world in 10 countries for brands such as Ritz-Carlton, One&Only, Aman, Chiva Som, Anantara, and Peninsula. In 2013, he spent 3-months in China in Wudang Shan and Yangshuo, studying qigong. In 2019, after a serious accident, he returned to Australia. Since 2020, he has been based in Port Douglas and held six group art exhibitions. 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

David Starlyte

Contemplative Psychotherapist, author and Naturopath, David is a graduate of Master's Degrees in Applied Buddhist Studies and Mental Health. His interest in contemplative pedagogies was encouraged by teaching meditation and dharma whilst working as a Naturopath at Six Senses Sanctuary wellness resort on Naka island in Thailand. In the following decade, he worked as visiting wellness practitioner for many of the leading wellness retreats in the world in 10 countries for brands such as Ritz-Carlton, One&Only, Aman, Chiva Som, Anantara, and Peninsula. In 2013, he spent 3-months in China in Wudang Shan and Yangshuo, studying qigong. In 2019, after a serious accident, he returned to Australia. Since 2020, he has been based in Port Douglas and held six group art exhibitions.