Healing Personal Trauma is Central to Undoing the Patriarchy
October 10, 2018 3:31 PM   Subscribe

"Men are caught between a natural desire for their full humanity (the ability to be emotional, vulnerable and empathic) and their desire to remain privileged and in dominator mode. 'Because the law and the economic and social order are heavily weighted in favor of men, the infantile needs of adult males are affirmed by a machinery of power, which does not affirm or validate the needs of adult women.'" A meditation and guide on how to heal from toxic masculinity and move towards positive masculinity.

"Contrary to our modern world, the history of civilization is full of examples of cultures giving boys the initiatory experience of graduating into manhood through a time of physical trials, which helps them symbolically cross a psychological bridge from the relative comforts of childhood into the rigors of adulthood. In this positive context, surrounded by male elders, some kind of physical/emotional wound occurs, helping the boy contact his inner strength, confidence and sense of responsibility. Today in the modern world, most boys experience wounding but without a positive transformation. There are few official rites, few wise elders and a dearth of male role models outside the toxic status quo.

[...] What’s been happening with the #metoo movement, with women telling their stories of sexual assault and outing their abusers, is that the “free rein” that men have used to dominate women in the home and in the workplace is being increasingly curtailed. Women are less willing to remain the silent projection screen onto which men can project their disowned pain with impunity. And many male witnesses are no longer willing to look the other way.

Broadly speaking, men's inner and outer work involves:
  1. Processing the anger about the parent (mother and/or father) who betrayed him by making him give up vital parts of himself in order to be considered a man in this world. Grieving about what that has cost him.
  2. Being honest about his life. Acknowledging his secrets and taking responsibility for his actions.
  3. Finding that lost inner source within him and working to re-claim it. Connecting with the child within him.
  4. Feeling genuine remorse about the ways that he has harmed other people and the earth by acting out his pain in unconscious ways, both personally and collectively, while taking empathic actions on a consistent basis.
  5. Finding community with other conscious men who are on this path of reclamation and reconciliation."
posted by Anonymous (12 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

This is an interesting way of presenting this material, and I hope it resonates for some people. Most of it didn't do a lot for me, because while my parents are far from perfect, I think they did as well as they could to raise feminist sons, within the context of the culture at the time.

I did get some good takeaways, though. I do think the culture of patriarchy wounded me as a child. I was bullied because I didn't value society's gender roles enough, and I drew too many lessons on what I thought love should be from books and movies. I've done some self-work and understand more about emotional labor and how I lean too much on my wife to sooth me when I'm triggered and help me process feelings.

It's hard, because part of a good relationship is helping each other through stuff, and so it's hard to say "I want to help you, but I want you to help me less, because I know I have to learn to help myself more." It's hard for either of us to know what's truly an equal relationship if we figure it didn't start out that way.

I'm really starting to understand how important self-soothing and self management are, how much undeserved free rein I've had. I haven't been anything close to a Kavanaugh, but the more I look at what I've done, the less happy I am about it. I've seen my son struggle with anger and anxiety, and a lot of the tools I try to use are ones I've tried to equip him with. But patriarchy damages men as it turns them into tools to damage women. I don't know if there's a true positive masculinity, or just a common humanity partially inhabited by men who have learned to do better. Anyway, thanks for posting this. I want to believe we can destroy patriarchy before we destroy ourselves.
posted by rikschell at 5:54 PM on October 10, 2018 [21 favorites]

I see this presentation as deeply problematic. It is certainly true for a set of men that the issues presented are valid and the techniques presented might be helpful if they want to become the kind of men that realize what Ms. Webster proffers as, 'full humanity'. As I read her article I kept thinking was, '"the plural of anecdote is not data," and how deeply bothered I am by the authors she uses as sources. I have a deep problem with both Jungian psychology and Feminist Theory.

My problem with Jung devolves from the complete lack of fundamental research. I find Jung's ideas fascinating in a mode of philosophical and personal analysis but as a basis of social critique his work is wholly inadequate. His personal resistance to having his ideas examined through research and his followers embrace of his ideas as valid psychological principles without experimental evidence bothers me deeply. Similarly I find Feminist Theory, as distinct from a political feminist agenda, deeply troublesome. As a method of critiquing a clearly dysfunctional social order there are too many assumption that I see put forward without good research or evidence. Much Feminist Theory treats human beings a blank slates. Environment, while unquestionable important, ignores that character is also in part a result of one's nature. Some dysfunctional households produce functional and dysfunctional children. Some nurturing feminist homes produce both rapists and saints. There is a hell of lot more going on than this kind of analysis allows for.

Ms. Webster's premise also brings on a whole host of issues. The biggest, and I find it odd to see this article posted here because of the culture on Metafilter, is the deeply hetro-normative premise of the idea of the Mother Wound. Surely the homosexual couples raising children here should have some input on the matter. Next she simply ignores the issue of men who have no desire to be comforted by women or by men, as such comfort would be reflexively seen as weakness. Then there are the emotionally aware and sensitive men, within family and personal relationships, who also happen to be effective power seekers and wielders. One can dominate while being emotionally aware and vulnerable. Her arbitrarily defined spectrum is not really useful. It may indicate a correlation that is often encountered but I go back to the whole anecdote and data thing. With this article as an indicator it seems that she has had a personal revelation about how damaging a dysfunctional relationship with one's mother can be and is now trying to make everyone understand that her personal revelation is a universal truth.

There are certainly useful bits in there for some folks to chew on and to use. I just wonder if the underlying views just muddle an already difficult issue. Human beings need to learn to respect each other and to treat one another with civility, if not kindness. Equal access to education, housing, health care, and political power might go a long way to undermining the barriers to social and legal change needed for sexist and racist institutions to be eliminated. Raising sons that see girls and women as deserving of respect is a definite step in that direction. Getting men to behave as adults who treat all the women they meet as equals will, I think, take more than what the article suggests.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:14 PM on October 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

His personal resistance to having his ideas examined through research and his followers embrace of his ideas as valid psychological principles without experimental evidence bothers me deeply.

You might try reading it. Jung the man has been quite roundly critiqued and updated amongst his supporters (there is no unthinking embrace) and there's plenty of research, in several languages.

One does have to look for it and take the time to read and think rather than use "Jung" as a projection screen.

Some nurturing feminist homes produce both rapists and saints.

Some abusive patriarchal homes produce healthy contributors to society. And?

Agreed it's imperfect. Also keep in mind that perfection is the enemy of good. We need to learn to be imperfect; accept our weaknesses and limitations as part and parcel of what it is to be human. This alone would take a big chunk out of entitlement-slash-privilege.
posted by fraula at 11:55 PM on October 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

Psychoanalysis has been blaming the mother forever. *yawn*

And as women, we should MAKE SURE WE ARE SAFE AND OK first. Then try to do the rest of that stuff the best we can. Pretty tired of everyone telling women what to do as blanket statements.
posted by wellred at 5:11 AM on October 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yeah... some good observations about patriarchy and its operation here, but the “mother wound” business strikes me as unhelpful, unsubstantiated and regressive psychobabble.
posted by Miko at 5:36 AM on October 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I do read the occasional Jungian book. I am aware that the treatment of Jung and his work by those who have followed him have looked askance at some of his work. My point was not that the body of literature is small. I will stipulate that there are a trove of books in multiple languages that use Jungian analysis to look at any number of cultural and personal phenomena. I will even happily admit that I read some of them and get something out doing so. What I have yet to see, and do not see in the list of publications on Routledge's web-site, is a large group study, ideally involving a sufficient number of non-WEIRD participants, seeking to validate Jung's model of the psyche, or of the universal nature of the archetypes he proposed. This is in no way to say that Jung has no value. Just that the value lay in using the ideas Jung and others who have followed as a way of looking at one's self is in no way truly comprehensive and is more like a literary analysis of the stories one tells to one's self then to any form of verifiable truth.

The fact that dysfunctional and /or patriarchal families can produce such varied offspring goes to the point that the analysis provided by Ms. Webster is insufficient both as an explanation and as a predicate for a solution on a societal level. I recognize that for the set of individuals who have the correct issues her techniques are useful. There is no suggestion that the good be done away with. There is however the hunger to see the good not be called the ideal.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:07 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Having sex as a way to connect, not a way to feel powerful

These are not mutually exclusive, and this feels like kinkshaming. Men and women have great, consensual sex as a way to feel powerful, and can be a healing, empowering experience with profound connection to the partner.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:13 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should probably nope out because this sort of psycho-religious sex-roles binary is highly triggering. Oh, and failure to differentiate "wounding" from abuse. Oh, and not talking at all about systemic homophobia and transphobia. Definitely not for me.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:24 AM on October 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, there’s a lot that’s problematic here, but if it resonates for some people, it can do some good. Patriarchy needs to be brought down from all directions. We should all be learning to bring in more intersectional arguments, so thanks to people bringing up those points. But patriarchy will only fall when every voice is raised against it and every angle is under attack.

I would rather get the Jung/Robert Bly folks on our side than leave them to the incel/alt-right/MRA crowd.
posted by rikschell at 12:54 PM on October 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

This piece isn't perfect, but for me, something it really gets at is what healthy masculinity could look like. It's not about coming up with lists of masculine virtues, it's about having a gender identity that isn't predicated on oppressing others.

As a comparison, under patriarchal societies, female identity is also predicated on oppression - the oppression of self, because inferiority is considered an integral part of feminine identity. So a lot of work we've done on healthy femininity is aimed at untangling inferiority from femaleness, like offering strong female role models.

How might we untangle superiority from masculinity, for men?
posted by airmail at 6:10 PM on October 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I suppose we might all be kinder if we were in touch with our inner furry, that doesn't give it validity. And maybe disassociating parts of ourselves as an inner alien isn't that far removed from the dominant ideology that "sissies" need to be beaten, raped, and murdered.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:30 AM on October 13, 2018

And maybe disassociating parts of ourselves as an inner alien isn't that far removed from the dominant ideology that "sissies" need to be beaten, raped, and murdered.

In a country (or world) where sissy-mocking Big Bang Theory is on every hour of the day on some local channel, I don't see that happening in a generally material way anytime soon. Sadly.
posted by rhizome at 11:45 AM on October 13, 2018

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