Inspiration > About Men and Feelings

If you're a woman frustrated with a man who's challenged to feel his feelings, communicate them to you, be vulnerable, admit when he needs help, or ask for or accept support, this song (and the commentary below it) may bring you some understanding of his situation....

An Accidental Man

I was taught from much too young
To never give myself away
Yes I was taught for every secret
There's a price you have to pay

An accident of gender
An accident of birth
That holds me to this point of view
This time and place on earth
This time and place on earth

You ask me how I'm feeling
Well I only wish you knew
How hard it is for me to share
Share those kinds of things with you

It's not that I don't love you
It's just I can't connect
'Cause I was taught from much too young
To shine and not reflect

I'm an accidental man

You ask me if I'm happy
I only wish I knew
'Cause happiness is not something
That I ever learned to do

It's not that I'm complaining
It's all the same to me
If everything that happens, happens
Accidentally

I'm an accidental man

I was taught for every secret
There's a price you have to pay
I was taught from much too young
To never give myself away

I was born to worthy causes
I was born to take the reins
I was taught from much too young
To never give myself away

An accident of gender
An accident of birth
That holds me to this point of view
This time and place on earth
This time and place on earth

So try to understand if
I don't say all I can
A stranger to myself I am
A stranger to myself I am
A stranger to myself I am

I'm an accidental man
(I was taught from much too young)

I'm an accidental man
(To never give myself away)

I'm an accident
(You ask me how I'm feeling)

An accidental man
(I only wish I knew...)

~ from the CD This Strange Engine by Marillion ~

Click Here to LISTEN TO THE SONG, An Accidental Man

Click Here for Some Great Resources for Men, Women, Parents and Boys

This article explores the topics of male oppression, male-female relationship conflict, boyhood to manhood initiation, male-female double standards, male upbringing and how it affects their adult lives and relationships, men's oppression and libreation, re-evaluation counseling, self actualization, re-emergence, cultural gender bias, and the impact of all this on a man's ability to find and live his dream...and the social-economic-ecological situation of the world today. The theme is to help women understand the plight of today's man with respect to his feelings, while also providing resources for couples, men, women, and adolescent boys (and girls).

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The words above describe a situation that is all too common with most men — and the emotion in the music gives voice to the accompanying inner turmoil and struggle of many men — in the US and British societies, anyway [Marillion is a British rock band].  It's a bit different, for example, in Spain and some indigenous cultures I've lived with in the Amazon.

It's not that most men here want to remain at the superficial level.  But, often, when we look down into ourselves, we honestly don't feel anything at all anymore.  Or, at most, we may feel a "numbness."  For many, it's like there's just an empty void inside.  Or, some of us might feel something, but have no clear idea what it is we're sensing.  Nor do we typically possess the language to articulate anything we do feel, let alone a way to work through intense emotions to reap the healing, liberation and greater wisdom that's available to us on the other side of them.

Most of us don't know why we have such little access to and competency with our feelings, how that really affects us and runs our lives, nor what to do about it.  Neither do most of us understand why it's so difficult to have the deep, emotional bonds that many women share (and long to have with us) — nor why it's so difficult for us to have male friendships or any genuine closeness whatsoever with other men.

So, we tend to unconsciously accept our society's current label for us: "inadequate/broken."  In this case, many of us go on silently feeling badly about ourselves for our ostensible "male emotional inadequacy"...even as we often watch our most cherished relationships whither because of this.  Or, worse, we turn to denial and addictions as a way to escape and repress the conscious realization of this tragic loss of self, this tragic loss of a a large part of our humanness.

What's the origin of all this?  Is it genetic?  Something on the Y chromosome?  "An accident of gender" as society and the song imply?

No.  We're taught — at a time when we're too young to really understand what's going on, let alone what the consequences of this will be....

Most men were repeatedly shamed, ridiculed, and even physically abused or punished throughout their lives, starting at a very early age, for showing any level of feeling or emotional vulnerability.  After you hit a dog enough times, it will learn to instinctively flinch and run away whenever someone gets too close or even raises a hand.  It's similar with our society's men and their feelings.

Almost all men in this society have been (often severely) negatively conditioned away from feeling anything.  As mentioned, this can range from being teased and verbally shamed ("Don't be a pussy!" "You're acting like a girl!" "Real men don't cry -- Be a man!" etc.) at a time in the boy's development when "being accepted/cool/fitting in" are of paramount importance)...to being punished and even physically abused (eg, being hit until the boy stops crying, having the "faggot" beat out of him for his own good, being singled-out and bullied/beat up by other boys, etc).   The result is that boys who are in touch with their feelings go underground with them for awhile...until, over the years, a deeply-ingrained pattern of emotional repression becomes second nature.   This is how the majority of men come to be almost completely unaware of what they're feeling, and it's at the heart of what's referred to as "male oppression" or "men's oppression."

This pattern of repression consists of all the ways the boy has been hurt or punished, or seen others hurt or punished, for being emotionally open, expressive or vulnerable.   So, when a man does try to look down inside himself, and starts to approach the door to his emotional body, what he might find is an intense resistance that causes him to turn away before ever opening the door.

[ This resistance is usually a semi-conscious defense mechanism protecting the man from a deep well of fear, pain, shame, humiliation, etc...ie, painful memories from hurtful things that happened to him when he was younger and did feel fully, and expressed what he was feeling openly...even if he doesn't consciously remember being teased/shamed/humiliated, hit/hurt, manipulated, put down/laughed at, bullied/beat up/terrorized by other boys, or the like.  This is one way that "men's oppression" fragments and "steals men from themselves":  Unable to connect with our own feelings anymore -- the deepest, core parts of our true selves -- we truly are "strangers to ourselves" as the song says. 

What's more, how can we know why we're here, how to "follow our hearts," or what we truly desire at a soul-level, when we're disconnected from and strangers to ourselves?

Men may seem to know what they "want"...a full-bodied beer, this kind of woman/sex, such and such material possessions/toys, a particular level of status, success or power, etc...and most of our lives are driven by these things most of the time.  But, how many men are truly fulfilled by these things?

What a man "desires," Robert Bly teaches, is not usually something he's going to get.  Instead, his "desire" is a sort of longing of the soul, a calling that is worthy of dedicating his life to...such as "to be able to express myself, transmit timeless wisdom, and touch others like Shakespeare does."  Or, as Rumi desired, "to have God as a lover."  These are just two examples.  I think it was Joseph Campbell who espoused, "If you're on a path, it's not yours."

Perhaps if men were connected more deeply with themselves, their complete uniqueness, why they're really here and what they truly desire at a soul level, their lives wouldn't be spent so much in the compulsive (and largely unfulfilling) pursuit of the smaller things they've been taught to want (mostly on the material or status/power levels)...and in fighting with each other over those things....

What kind of world would that be....? ]

If today's typical man were able to open the door to his emotional body fully, he would likely discover that he carries an immense amount of grief around this.  This can be quite overwhelming, especially if approached in isolation, without adequate tools and support.

As any woman knows, having and coping with emotions and feelings is not easy.   (It goes without saying that developing the language and skills to articulate what one's feeling, discern why one's feeling that and what the need is, and figure out how to get that need met in mature/ rational/ conscious ways are things that few men have ever been given the space to do at any time in their lives...let alone have most of us ever been taught any tools or methods in how to go about any of that.   We're given much more training in how to operate a gun, throw a football, or fix a car, than how to manage and take care of ourselves.)

Being unable to connect with oneself (or others) at a meaningful depth of human feeling, however, is a Hell like no other — one which no person would ever ask for, nor willfully accept.  Unfortunately, it happens to boys at a time when they're generally powerless to do anything about it.  Although today's man is an innocent victim of this societal oppression, it's also each man's responsibility to clean this up within himself, simply because he's the only one who can.

Men can and do recover from emotional numbness and disconnection with themselves.  But, it takes conscious effort and perseverance.  This type of men's work usually progresses slowly (chronologically-speaking).  For me, it took a few years, and the process continues to deepen.  The set of tools that I found most helpful (and that most accelerated the process), I found in various men's groups and in Re-evaluation Counseling.  I've found the the most useful attitude is not one of blame (towards those who "hurt me" in these ways, and *definitely* not toward oneself), but of mourning.  Bly says, "Grief is the doorway to male feeling."

One of my spiritual teachers teaches that no human can be in their heart (ie, connected to their feelings) AND willfully hurt any other being at the same time.  So, perhaps one of the reasons for this societal oppression of men is because the powers that be need to keep men separated from their feelings...to ensure that those same men remain capable of going off to war to kill and be killed by other men...to ensure that the (usually older) men in power can continue furthering their agendas and keeping the power, economic, and class structures intact(**).

These high-level corporate and political decisions resulted in men killing over 100,000 other men -- in the 20th century alone!  (Men attacking, hurting, and killing other men that they almost never know nor have any personal disagreement with!  The real kicker, as I'm sure you're aware, is that this number is INcreasing, not decreasing!)  Then, we have the killing of trillions of innocent, non-human beings...and the destruction of the ecosystems upon which their survival depends.  One of many examples of this is war:  How many frogs and butterflies does a grenade kill?  How many hundreds (thousands?) of plants and trees does even one bomb dropped from a plane destroy?  How many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of grenades and bombs have humans manufactured and dropped on Earth during your lifetime?  How many hundreds of thousands of billions of innocent, non-human beings have been obliterated as a result...unconsidered, uncounted, collateral damage that doesn't even factor into the human-only "collateral damage" numbers that are themselves pretty poorly tracked and reported....

What I'm proposing is that humans' ongoing and unnecessary killing and destruction of both human and non-human life and the ecosystems on which that life depends is driven by minds disconnected from hearts — ie, minds that are disconnected from feelings/expanded consciousness, yet that currently have the power and authority to make corporate, governmental, and societal decisions that further the pollution and devastation of our planet and its inhabitants.  It's as if we humans are not only at war with ourselves, but also at war with the natural world and nearly all life...at least all life that's not seen as "human food" or as "human useful" — like a cancer or virus that eventually kills it host.  As Eckhart Tolle says, "this is true insanity."

While not a complete solution, one thing that's obviously called for here is many more healthy, evolved women (who are doing their inner work and connected to their heart and emotions) in positions of true power and authority...at least an equal number as men, and perhaps a few more temporarily to counteract the current effects of the past imbalance.  In the meantime, however, we must also deal with the situation that's currently driving our planet, one which, unfortunately, looks like it will be with us for at least a few more years: Wounded, uninitiated, dysfunctional men in positions of great power and leadership, running the corporations and governments that run the world.

The goal of this article is to help women understand the plight of today's man with respect to his feelings, while also providing resources for couples, men, women, and adolescent boys (and girls). This commentary explores the issues of male oppression, male-female relationship conflict, boyhood to manhood initiation, male-female double standards, male upbringing and how it affects their adult lives and relationships, men's oppression and libreation, re-evaluation counseling, self actualization, re-emergence, cultural gender bias, and the impact of all this on a man's ability to find and live his dream...and the social-economic-ecological situation of the world today.

THE REAL PROBLEMS ARE:

  1. that most men in power have become disconnected from feeling/the heart and, as a result, are emotionally adolescent at best (ie, emotionally frozen at whichever age the oppression finally won and severed their connection to their heart and feelings),
  2. that they've been uninitiated into manhood (psychologically, they're boys subconsciously masquerading as men...but, that's a whole other article!...see the resources below if interested in initiation for boys/men or girls/women),
  3. that they are not doing their inner and communal work to heal and evolve past #1 and #2,
  4. that they are unsupported and discouraged from doing #3 (both by their societal conditioning, and by our current societal values), and
  5. that this process of men's oppression continues to be perpetuated on our male children and teens


** footnote from (**) above - The way men are exploited in business is little better than how they're exploited in war, by the way.   For generations they've been taught to stoicly "bring home the bacon" with almost complete disregard for and at great cost to their own health and well being...while others get rich off their sacrifices.   Why haven't you heard about this?   Because, as we've been discussing, men can't talk about such things publicly.   Would you find Dirty Harry, or John Wayne, or Superman talking about this?  According to our society's norms, it's not "man-ly," and it sure ain't sexy!

However, some courageous men do find places to explore how the revered "American work ethic" affects their health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of their relationships with their spouses, children, families, communities, friends, and the natural world...such as in a therapist's office, in a men's group, with an emotional counselor, etc.  Yet, unfortunately, most suffer alone.   Probably related is the fact that the suicide rate for males in the USA is 500% higher than that of females.   Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in Americans aged 15-24, and for every one teenage girl who kills herself, five teenage boys do.   Were those boys and men to have an emotional outlet in a culture that encourages them to have all their human emotions, to need and accept support, and to be seen as just as masculine/cool in both cases, I'd bet we would see the rate of male suicide drop drastically...not to mention the rate of male-perpetrated physical, emotional and sexual violence dropping as well.

WHAT I'M REALLY TRYING TO SAY:
Since it takes a person disconnected from their heart and feelings to callously harm another being (or the natural ecosystems that sustain all life on this planet, which are failing at an alarming and accelerating rate!)...and, due to sexism, men currently hold nearly all the positions of power that drive what's happening on the planet...I believe that supporting and empowering men to heal and regain full connection with their heart and feelings is not only a path to Peace on Earth, but also a path to ensuring the survival of all living beings who depend on the world's failing ecosystems (you and me included! :).

As mentioned above, addressing sexism so that women can rise to positions of power as their full selves is also of paramount importance.  It's saddening to see many modern women shutting down emotionally now...as they take on the conditioned and dysfunctional male mode of feeling/relating to compete in male-dominated business and political power structures.  Yes, they're making strides into those realms.  But if they sacrifice their femininity and connection to heart/emotion and/or basically become men to do so, has anything really been gained...?

That's yet a third article...one that I believe has already been well written many times by others, however.  Indeed, the women's liberation movement is much further along than the men's liberation movement.  (Had you even heard of "men's oppression" before reading this?)  Obviously, both movements are equal importance, both will ultimately fail without the other, and we (all life on Earth) need both.  The multi-faceted men's issue that I'm focussing on here is something that needed to be written, but to my knowledge really hasn't been.  Or, at least, I haven't seen it addressed to my satisfaction (ie, all these interrelated topics and their larger, global ramifications tied together, all in one place, publicly, in a language that's accessible to anyone, and includes various resources for men, women, and parents to take the next step...and, of course, with it all set to the lyrics and music of one of the world greatest rock bands! ;-)

Whether we're looking through the lens of men's or women's issues, however, the issue of the impact that modern human values, norms, personal behaviors, and ways of doing business and living collectively are having on the planet is the same, and is clearly recognized by those of wisdom who live in reverence and harmony with the natural world....

Alberto Taxto is the famous Andean shaman and author who predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall 6 months before it happened.  (The Ecuadorian newspapers retracted their public ridicule of his prediction after the Wall fell.)  When asked what message he would have me bring back to the North American culture, he said...

"Three things are most important to your people right now: Feel more, Feel more, Feel more." (translated from Spanish)


[ Where has the other path taken us?   To a world on the edge of a very avoidable collapse:   On the verge of global ecological collapse, more wars on the planet than ever before, on the verge of economic collapse, in the middle of a what scientists call a "mass extinction event" (the highest rate of species extinction in 65 million years, since the extinction of the dinosaurs), the gap between the "rich" and "poor" is widening, while the number and percentage of extremely impoverished (those living on less than $1.25 per day) is increasing in almost every country [there are some notable and inspiring exceptions].

Yes, certainly, there are other factors involved.   But, I believe at the core of it are emotionally adolescent men in positions of great power/ leadership... uninitiated men who, due to the way WE as a society condition them as boys (aka "men's oppression"), are disconnected from their hearts/ feelings (and, thus, numb to the ramifications of their short-term thinking and unsustainable decisions/ actions), yet who have basically been running our world through the immense power and resources they command. ]
This article explores the topics of male oppression, male-female relationship conflict, boyhood to manhood initiation, male-female double standards, male upbringing and how it affects their adult lives and relationships, men's oppression and libreation, re-evaluation counseling, self actualization, re-emergence, cultural gender bias, and the impact of all this on a man's ability to find and live his dream...and the social-economic-ecological situation of the world today. The theme is to help women understand the plight of today's man with respect to his feelings, while also providing resources for couples, men, women, and adolescent boys (and girls).

If creating world peace, erradicating poverty, addressing climate change and thereby preserving a habitable Earth are things you'd like to see come to pass in your or your children's lifetime...and you want to do your part...one way you can help is by being an ally to men on this journey.   Of course, you'll have to heal a good part of the anger and pain you likely still carry from the hurt that emotionally-disconnected men have perpetrated on you, on women you know, and on women throughout history...to be truly capable of helping men liberate themselves from their conditioning toward unfeeling and sexist thoughts, words and behaviors.

(Liberating yourself from the scars of sexism is one of the extraordinary values of a women-only support group...where you can get all these feelings out in a healthy way, supported by women who understand men's oppression and won't tolerate any men-bashing, while simultaneously not diminishing by one iota the profound wounds that men operating unconsciously under this oppression have inflicted, and continue to inflict, on women, other men, and all the other non-human beings and ecosystems on this planet...and, in particular, on you.)

Even outside of that, you can at least not do more damage by making a personal commitment to not further judge, criticize, blame, ridicule or shame men for this particular way that they've been hurt around emotional competency, having feelings, being weak/vulnerable, seeking support/asking for help, etc...even in jokes, situation-comedies, commercials that portray men as clueless, incompetent, idiots, etc.

If you're following what I'm saying here, then you realize that permitting/ encouraging/ perpetuating male hatred and vilification will not only lead to more hurt inflicted on women, but will also serve to diminish men's power to be allies to women in their own journey to liberation (eg, in their struggle against sexism/women's oppression).   Something that may help is to remind yourself that nearly every man you meet has been negatively conditioned (ie, repeatedly hurt by some combination of being teased, shamed, ridiculed, put down, laughed at, humiliated, bullied, terrorized, hit, beat up, punished, etc) away from the human emotional experience that was his birthright...at a crucial stage of his development...and, as a result, severed from his heart and true self...against his will...yet at an age when he was powerless to do anything about it...and that because of this, he's been silently suffering alone ever since....

Should some part of you be feeling really pissed off reading this, that is completely fine and, in fact, to be expected in most cases.  Should this be the case and you'd like more support than you have available, or, especially, support from those who have specific knowledge, experience and understanding of these issues, here are some resources that may be of value.  ("Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."  ~ Buddha :-)

What else might you do as a woman to be an ally to men...not just for their sake, nor just for the sake of women, but for the sake of all life on this planet...?

Instead of being seduced by the allure of bashing men because of how frustrated you may be now or in the future with the actions of one or two or 100 of the 3 billion men on this planet, you could do your best to hold all men as "completely good"...and to do so from a place of the genuinely heartfelt compassion that comes from truly understanding the depth of suffering and tragedy inherent in the situation I'm describing here.  Even better if you can do this while also remaining confident in us that we can and will recover from the effects of this oppression on our own male timetable (not surprisingly, the emotional timetable for men currently moves much more slowly than it does for women)...and in our own male way.  (Men mostly need to figure this out for themselves: with the support of, but outside the direction of, and perhaps even outside the presence of most women.  [Resources here]  This is similar to the way that the women's liberation movement needs to happen outside the direction and presence of most men, but with men's support.)

If you're a brave woman interested in helping men, you might like to check out this short list entitled, "Women thinking about and offering help to men."  I say "brave" because it may enrage you.  If it does enrage you, I'm very sorry...and please come back and read just the next paragraph....

This article that gives one woman's personal story, is written by a woman who leads men's liberation workshops.  She addresses the relationship between sexism and men's oppression: She tells a poignantly moving, true story about the rape of a 17 year old girl in her home town...a small, isolated, rural Alaskan town.  At the end, she talks about how normal and expected it is for women to be (initially) enraged by even the mention of something like "men's oppression," and, as a result, what typically takes for women to truly be allies to both other women and men around the topics of sexism and men's oppression.

Here's an excerpt from the author, Christine A. Marie: "Before women can support me and be good allies to men alongside, they have to get rid of this load of anger. This is what happens: Women will be talking about men. I'll say something like that I've noticed this or that about men, about their struggle. Instantly comes this blast-how angry they are, how much they hate men, how they've suffered at the hands of men, and so on. Incredible horror stories. Lots of [emotional] discharge. It's very dependable. All I have to do is murmur something about men's oppression, and whamo! At first this was extremely depressing. I was hoping they'd help me! No way. What it does mean is that I have to make sure I get good counseling [to be an effective ally to men and, especially, to enroll other women to be effective allies to men]."

Full article here.

Perhaps the best thing you can do for any particular man is to believe in him unwaveringly -- especially when he struggles with something -- while always holding him as bigger (more magnificient) than he holds himself.  (Over time, your regarding him in the highest possible light, and expressing those things that you genuinely appreciate about him openly and frequently, will do wonders to unravel the societal conditioning he's been swimming in his entire life [ie, the thousands of messages he's received throughout his life, telling him he's "inadequate," "broken," "bad," "an asshole," "a jerk," "a pig," etc].  By holding him as larger than he holds himself, believing in him unwaveringly, and reminding him repeatedly of what's wonderful about him, you will be "feeding the solution and starving the problem"...and, in that way, you will help him evolve ever further toward his unlimited potential and magnificence...for the benefit of all the inhabitants of this planet.)

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The goal of this article is to help women understand the plight of today's man with respect to his feelings, while also providing resources for couples, men, women, and adolescent boys (and girls). This commentary explores the issues of male oppression, male-female relationship conflict, boyhood to manhood initiation, male-female double standards, male upbringing and how it affects their adult lives and relationships, men's oppression and libreation, re-evaluation counseling, self actualization, re-emergence, cultural gender bias, and the impact of all this on a man's ability to find and live his dream...and the social-economic-ecological situation of the world today.

RESOURCES FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN:

* Women Leading Men's Liberation: One Woman's Personal Story, The Relationship between Sexism and Men's Oppression, etc.

* Former Green Bay Packer Aaron Taylor's (Super Bowl XXXI) 7 min video on "The NFL, Mentoring, and What it Means to be a Modern, Mature Man"

* Relationship Coaching

* To learn about men's and women's oppressions, receive caring and skilled support, and learn how to support others more effectively, have access to men's support groups

* Emotional Counseling  (if you don't want to learn via the above resource and just want one-way counseling)

* Mythopoetic men's movement

* One man's account of what his experience in a men's group

* Iron John: A Book About Men

* MenWeb - Resources for men (marriage/relationships, anger, grief, depression, betrayal, men's groups, etc)

* An interview with Robert Bly on both Women's and Men's Issues and ways the genders can join hands to address both

* Mankind New Warrior Adventure: Male Initiation, Men's Issues, Men's Support, Men's Community (the "hero's journey" of classical literature and myth that has nearly disappeared in modern culture)

* Rites of Passage for Adults (from personal and professional experience, I recommend these folks highly!)

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RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND BOYS (of all ages :):

* Journeyman Movie Preview (9 min)

* Award Winning Documentary and Resources on Mentoring Boys and Initiating them into Manhood (Journeyman film website)

* Boys to Men: Are You Listening (6 min) - several teenage boys from different ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds offering fascinating insights into their own experiences and the meaning of manhood in America

* Rites of Passage for Teens (for boys and girls; from personal experience, I recommend these folks highly!)

* Rites of Passage for Boys (from personal experience, I recommend these folks)

* A list of resources for parents/teens that I put together while working in the juvenile halls