Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Do Men Mean When They Say Women Are too Emotional? February 26, 2013

huntingsaber-toothed tigerIn my recent posts about the role of feelings and emotions in gender relationships, I raised the questions, What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?

In the last post, “Falling Through: One Man’s Fear of Feeling,” author and poet Rick Belden shared a powerful poem about emotions. He wrote “fear is much too mild a word for what I feel when I get close to my grief, sadness, and pain. A far more accurate word would be terror. The source of this terror is not a mystery. I clearly remember the words I heard countless times as a child: Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” For Rick, “Any open expression of grief, sadness, and pain was a potential threat to my very existence, and over time I learned to hold those feelings tight, deep inside myself, to survive.” This reinforces Episcopal priest Matthew Fox’s observation that men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.

My question, “What do men mean when they say women are too emotional?” elicited the observation from katsoutar that between men and women, “the term ‘emotional’ seems most used to describe weepy, passive emotion, i.e. women cry too much, men, not enough.” In response, Amy Campion shared the research finding that, “women’s tears contain a chemical substance that though undetectable consciously, has the power to reduce a man’s testosterone when inhaled.” Lorrie Beauchamp added that this dampening effect reduces men’s sexual attraction and increases their empathic response. As she said, “a true-to-stereotype male would not want his testosterone messed with in this way, which might explain why men get annoyed by tears, and why tears become part of manipulative behavior in children and women.”

emotionsBiology, culture, and individual personalities feed into this dynamic. Both genders inherit physical traits that predispose them to predictable responses to certain situations and emotions, and some cultures and institutions reinforce these to stereotypical extremes. Many individuals take advantage of this for self-serving reasons, thus exacerbating the gender gap. We all know of children and women who manipulate men with tears. And we know of men who manipulate women with silence or subtle threats of violence.

We can see how in the early stages of our species’ development the survival of small, isolated groups was best served by empathic females and stoic males. Both had everything to lose if women were emotionally unavailable to their vulnerable children and men were too emotional to protect their tribes from marauding saber-toothed tigers. But history has consistently proven these abilities to be present in both genders.  There have always been gentle men who feel deeply and cry without shame, brave women who let nothing compromise their goals to protect their loved ones and fight for what is right.

Both genders can bring more consciousness and balance to their work and relationships. Unfortunately, the least aware are most resistant to change. Worse, too often they are in positions of power. Our hope lies in the commitment of a majority who can overcome our lethargy and become the change we want to see. Spirit Warriors of both genders abound in today’s world, and it’s never been easier or more necessary to enlist their help in bringing us to greater psychological awareness. For anyone who wants to understand their feelings, I highly recommend The Language of Emotions, by Karla McLaren.


Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.



Falling Through: One Man’s Fear of Feeling February 22, 2013

(Note:  In keeping with my latest theme of the wounded masculine, I’m pleased to share this piece by guest blogger, Rick Belden. Rick is an author and a poet who has struggled to get in touch with his feelings throughout his adult life. As you’ll see in this post, he’s learned how to use his creative imagination to heal the wounds of his childhood. Below,  I’ve included comments that were made to his original post. Please feel free to add your own. Rick and I will gladly respond. Enjoy. Jeanie)

Today’s poem on video, “falling through”, is from my upcoming book Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within.

The subject of today’s poem is grief, or more to the point, my fear of feeling and expressing my grief. Actually, fear is much too mild a word for what I feel when I get close to my grief, sadness, and pain. A far more accurate word would be terror.

The source of this terror is not a mystery. I clearly remember the words I heard countless times as a child: Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. This was not an idle threat, as I had the great misfortune to discover many times when I was unable to “control myself” in time to avoid the consequences of my own tears. Crying only brought more pain. Tears only meant more tears. Any open expression of grief, sadness, and pain was a potential threat to my very existence, and over time I learned to hold those feelings tight, deep inside myself, to survive.

This conditioning against explicit expressions of grief and sadness didn’t end with home and family. It continued in school, with teachers and coaches, on the playground, and with friends. Like every other boy, I knew that crying was the worst sin I could commit in public. On those few occasions when I was unable to avoid doing it, the shame, the isolation, and the horror I felt were beyond words.

By the time I was into my teens, I pretty much had the crying thing well under control. It just didn’t happen anymore, not around others and not when I was alone either. But I still had one more defining experience ahead of me.

When I was almost 23, I was going through a very long and difficult breakup with my first girlfriend. We’d moved across the country together when I was 19, from New York to Texas, and lived together for several years, but now we were each living in our own places for the first time, and I was finding it very difficult.

One evening she came over to visit, and as we were talking, I began to cry. I’d never cried in front of her before, not even when she’d cheated on me, but this time I simply couldn’t help myself. I missed her, I was struggling with school and finances, and I was just so damn lonely. Her response was immediate: “If you don’t stop crying, I’m leaving.” The last thing I wanted in that moment was to be left all alone, so I buttoned right up. And I stayed buttoned up for years afterward.

Those were the lessons I learned about feeling and expressing grief and sadness. I learned that crying brings pain, punishment, violence, shame, rejection, isolation, and abandonment. I learned that crying only makes things worse. I learned to fear my own grief. I learned that tears can be like death.

Many years of hard personal work have shown me that allowing myself to feel and express my sadness and grief is a healthy and necessary part of being fully human. It is liberating. It’s completely natural. It’s cleansing. It brings peace and perspective. It is a source of great strength, an answer and an antidote to anger, and a door to forgiveness.

I’ve cried, wept, sobbed, moaned, and howled through tears many, many times, and it hasn’t killed me yet. To the contrary, I always feel much better, much freer, and much more present with myself afterward. And yet that deep conditioning I described still holds some sway over me. I’m still afraid to cry.

Sometimes that fear stops me and sometimes it doesn’t. As expressed in today’s poem, the key to accessing my grief and sadness, to moving it up and out, is always right here with me in my body. The challenge is to feel the energy below the surface and let it rise even as I am feeling my fear. Maybe someday my tears can come without having to struggle through all that fear. That is my hope.

For more poetry on video, visit my YouTube channel at

Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood. His book is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems. His second book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within, is currently awaiting publication. He lives in Austin, Texas.

More information, including excerpts from Rick’s books, is available at his website. His first book, “Iron Man Family Outing,” is available here.

Creative Commons License The Poetry on video: “falling through” by Rick Belden, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

(Jeanie again:  You know how I love synchronicities! As I was scheduling this post I received an e-mail with a link to another dialogue about gender.  Do you think someone’s trying to tell us something?  Check it out here:

6 thoughts on “Poetry on video: “falling through””

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention poetry, dreams, and the body » Blog Archive » Poetry on video: “falling through” —
  2. Rick, you are a very brave man and you I’m sure you touch the lives of countless souls. You offer men the chance to be in reality and speak the truth about life and humanity. What a great gift to give!

    It’s people like you that make a difference and change the world. I am a mother of two  young boys and what I wish for them most is to grow up as authentic beings, using all the emotional gifts we have as humans, and fully experience life, love, loss, etc… As a therapist I witness daily adults struggling to recapture their true nature that was taken away in childhood, and overcome the fear, anger and suffering that was left.

    I hope your work brings you good fortune!

  3. Ellen: Wow. Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I’ll freely confess that I don’t feel all that brave a lot of the time, but I do my best to persevere, not only for my own sake, but the sake of others: those who’ve been hurt in similar ways, those close to them, and those like your boys who are coming along behind us. I want a better world for everyone and I believe it is within our potential to have it, if enough of us are willing to work through our own dark corners.

    Still waiting on that good fortune. I’m ready for a big dose of it, and soon!

    Patricia: As always, I appreciate your encouragement and support. Thank you. I still have a few more vids queued up and ready to post. I’ll probably make some more of them at some point. There are certainly lots of poems left. Might try some other types of material as well.

  4. Once again your poetry has touched my heart and soul. Rick with your clear, strong & beautiful voice you express the deepest emotions and experience many of us share. As an advocate for men & boys you shine, as a friend and support for us all you stand tall. Thank you. @sheepfoldcarer.

    • Wow, Kath, thank you very much. I like this one a lot myself for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s one of my better examples of writing from the body: tuning in, following the physical sensations, and letting the images and words come through. This is one of the purest forms of expression I know.


Are Men Out of Touch With Their Feelings? If So, Why? February 19, 2013

waiting-in-the-desertBefore I address the questions I raised about gender wounds in my last post I’d like to clarify some terms. When I write about men, males, women, or females, I’m addressing sexual gender. When I use “masculine” and “feminine” as adjectives, I mean the qualities we associate with our inner masculine and feminine sides.

From an early age our egos build our identity on society’s messages about the characteristics and roles considered appropriate to our gender. We do this without knowing that we all have a masculine and feminine side. Gender wounds are the result of getting stuck in fixed ideas or lost in collective judgments about what we can and cannot be and do because of our gender.

Our “feminine side” reflects our drive for species-preservation. Jungians describe the feminine principle as the maternal, nurturing qualities of fertility, caring, creating, protecting and birthing new life; being, receiving, and containing; relating to otherness with honesty, harmony, mercy, and emotional intimacy;  being physically and emotionally connected to and present with oneself, nature, and otherness; diffuse awareness of subtle energies; integrating information with intuition, subjective feeling, and creative imagination to see holistically and create meaning; reverence for paradox, mystery, oneness, and completion.

Our “masculine side” expresses our drive for self-preservation with attributes like the ability to separate oneself from external and internal distractions that threaten our territory and safety; the need to discover and manifest our individuality; penetrating, competitive, productive activity to meet our goals and satisfy our basic needs; focused concentration and rigorous self-discipline to sharpen our knowledge, skills and abilities; logical thinking that makes clear distinctions between details and helps us understand and resolve complex matters; aspiring to noble ideals like justice, freedom, purity and perfection.

Obviously, neither of these principles is in any way “superior” to the other and everyone has the capacity for both. Don’t you? So in answer to the question, “What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings?” I would say that women with well-developed feminine sides are simply trying to express the disappointment and rejection they feel when their need for emotional closeness, honesty, harmony and communication is not met by men who are emotionally distant, unexpressive, or silent.

spirituality-of-menIn The Hidden Spirituality of Men, the trail-blazing theologian Matthew Fox writes, “A lot of self-preservation seems to require silence.” Fox quotes the medieval philosopher and mystic Thomas Aquinas who observed that there are “various kinds of silences: That of dullness; that of security; that of patience; and that of a quiet heart.”

Some reasons Fox cites for why men might be silent about their emotional and spiritual lives include:

  • Because Western culture is still a dualistic patriarchy that values thinking over feeling, material wealth over spiritual, scientific fact over intuitive knowledge, men over women, and heterosexuals over homosexuals.

Because men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.

Because many men carry wounds inside they would rather forget or put aside than admit are there.

  • Because communication between boys and fathers is often cold or nonexistent in our culture, and too many elders “retire” to the golf course rather than mentor younger generations.

Patriarchal cultures obsess over our masculine sides and repress our feminine sides. Although boys generally feel more pressure to conform, neither gender is immune.  As a semi-reformed emotional stoic, I know that life feels like an endless desert with no oasis in sight when we can’t feel or express our emotions, especially grief and pain. And I believe that the depression and hopelessness felt by so many today is due to psychological and emotional ignorance. The remedy? Self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.


I’m Not Going Anywhere February 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 1:36 pm

As some of you know, at the suggestion of my new webmaster we were planning to move Matrignosis to my new site at last week.  However, because of unforeseen issues that would compromise the enjoyment I’ve found here over the past three years, I’m happy to let you know I’m not going anywhere.  Those of you who subscribe will continue to be notified by e-mail of each new post, and the format will remain the same.

But there’s good news for those who don’t subscribe or find it difficult to remember this address. You can access Matrignosis by going directly to where a click of a Blog button will bring you here. And there’s a blog feed on the home page that lists the titles and dates of my last ten posts. Clicking on these will also bring you back to our leafy forest clearing.

My new site also has several pages you might enjoy exploring, like recorded interviews, information about events, and a section on archetypes.  And before long there’ll be news about a blog tour I’ll be doing in April that will feature some giveaways. Hint: the readers among you will especially enjoy them!

My sincere thanks to all of you for visiting and contributing to Matrignosis.  Not only am I not going anywhere;  I’m planning to be here for a long time.

See you tomorrow at the usual place and time.


Happy Valentine’s Day: I Love You! February 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 5:01 pm

Dear friends,

Thanks so much for the interest you’ve shown in my latest topic of gender issues and wounds. I’ve been enjoying your comments enormously and they’ve triggered a lot of thoughts. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

I expected to be publishing the next post in that series on Friday the 15th, but that will have to wait a day or two. I’ve been working with a web designer to create a new site and we had planned to move my blog to it this week—I’m happy to say it will still be published under the auspices of my beloved WordPress—but we’ve run across some glitches that are causing a delay. As I write this, my new site is online but I’m not sure if it will contain all my updated posts or other material by the time you see it. If you want to check it out anyway, it’s at Unfortunately, I spent most of the day communicating with the web designer and so I wasn’t able to finish the intended post. It’s just as well though since we’re still not sure if I should post it here or there! (How do people do this sort of thing every day? I’d go nuts in a week!)

So anyway, my valentine’s gift to you is that now you have all that free time you thought you were going to spend reading my blog post to browse through my blog roll to catch up on any previous posts you might have missed!! Yaaay! Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!

Yes, since you ask, I am feeling a bit tightly wound at the moment. You may have noticed that I tend to be somewhat scrupulous about getting my posts out in a timely manner, so perhaps the perfectionists among you will understand how much of an understatement it is when I say I’m not thrilled about this interruption. In fact, my inner perfectionist is being severely tested. I’ve got her on a tight leash at the moment lest she start tearing her hair and running through the neighborhood screaming for valentine candy.

But seriously, folks. This is probably very good for her! I’m always telling her to “trust the universe” and “stay present in the moment” and “go with the flow” so now’s our chance to see what she’s really made of!! Will she trust or bust? Blow or flow? Stay present or go ballistic? The Shadow knows!! Ahem.

I’ll keep you updated on developments as they occur, and feel certain we’ll have this resolved shortly.

And I’m really serious now when I tell you that I just love you guys! You’ve made my day just about every day of the past almost 3 years. I can’t imagine not having you to share my heart and soul with.

Sending lots of love to you and your loved ones. Happy Valentines’s Day.

(Ego to Perfectionist: “There now. I think I handled that rather well. Don’t you agree?”
Perfectionist to Ego: “Outta my way! Where’d you hide the cinnamon gummy hearts?”


Gender Wounds: Feelings and Emotions February 12, 2013

emotionsWe’ve all heard people say that men are out of touch with their feelings and women are too emotional. Are these observations true or are they stereotypes? If they’re true, then why? When we try to answer these questions we face the problem of not being sure what we really mean when we use the words emotions and feelings. In my effort to raise more awareness about gender wounds, I’d like to begin by clarifying these terms.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines feeling as 1. The sensation involving perception by touch. 2. An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments or desires. 3. An awareness; impression. 4.a. An emotional state or disposition; emotion. b. A tender emotion; fondness. 5.a. The ability to experience and react to the emotions; sensibility. b. feelings. Sensitivities; hurt his feelings. 6. Opinion as distinguished from reason; sentiment. 7. An impression produced by a person, place, thing, or event. 8: An appreciative regard.

Emotion is defined as 1. A complex and usually strong subjective response, as love or fear. 2. A state of agitation or disturbance. 3. The part of the consciousness that involves feeling or sensibility, as in a choice determined by emotion rather than reason.

As these definitions show, sometimes we use the word feeling to mean an emotional state or emotion. At other times we mean sensitivity. And sometimes we mean the ability to experience and react to our emotions, or sensibility. The word sensibility seems key to this discussion. Two definitions that apply are 1. The ability to feel or perceive, and 2. Mental or emotional responsiveness toward something, as the feelings of another; being sympathetic.

Everyone feels and everyone has emotions. Yet attitudes toward emotions seem to differ between men and women. Recently a male friend half-jokingly voiced the common criticism that women are too emotional. People sometimes cite Myers-Briggs data to support this belief, but the Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) indicators are about how we organize information to make choices, not judgments about whether we’re overly emotional. The data simply indicate that the majority of women (75.5%) prefer to make decisions in a personal, values-based, emotional way (F), whereas men (56.5%) prefer to decide in a logical, objective, unemotional way (T). Is there something inherently “wrong” or undesirable about either of these positions? Is women’s preference for subjective value a feminine wound? Is men’s preference for objective logic a masculine wound? Or are both preferences appropriate in differing ways and situations?

Later in the conversation my friend mentioned being angry about something in the news, so I said, “You’re angry about a lot of things, aren’t you?” “Yes,” he readily admitted. When I responded, “Anger’s an emotion, isn’t it? So aren’t you being emotional too?” he was quite surprised. He said he’d never really thought of his anger as being emotional! Yet teachers and students alike often report that boys are more prone to being agitated and creating disturbances, i.e. being more emotional, than girls. Why hadn’t he recognized his own emotionalism? Why did he project “being emotional” onto women?

In summarizing what I’ve said so far, I find five areas for discussion: 1) What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? 2) What do men mean when they say women are too emotional? 3) If everyone has feelings and emotions, why might women experience and react to their emotions, i.e. have more sensibility to emotions, and men have less? 4) Why do we perceive emotional differences between the genders in terms of “good” and “bad” stereotypes? 5) How can we overcome damaging gender stereotypes?

I’ll share my thoughts about these questions next time. Meanwhile, I’d love to know yours.


A Call to Dialogue About Gender February 8, 2013

UntitledAfter my last post, Lorrie B said that gender is a huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s true. But talking is essential if we’re to heal our gender-related wounds, so in this post I’ll offer topics for conversations.

Tribalism: Our species is between 100 and 150 thousand years old. In that time we’ve made more progress taming the instincts of carnivorous canine and feline pack animals than our own. Why are we still so territorial? So hostile toward members of our own species whose only differences from us are physical appearances and culturally- and geographically-conditioned adaptations? Episcopal priest Matthew Fox says that as a species we are extremely dangerous and our tribalism is eating us alive. What roles do gender issues play in tribalism? What changes can men and women take to eliminate it?

Violence: Lorrie B also noted that men, onto whom we’ve traditionally projected our masculine drive (self-preservation) and values, are accountable for over 90 % of the world’s violence. Why are women (onto whom we’ve projected our feminine drive of species-preservation with its values of caring, connecting and relating) and spiritually enlightened people of both genders still so ineffective in reducing violent conflicts? Is testosterone the only culprit? How can the genders cooperate in healing our violent tendencies?

Male-Dominated Spirituality: Our “primitive” forebears appreciated and worshiped the sacredness of all life in its masculine and feminine aspects. Why do so many “advanced” Westerners believe that a one-sided masculine-oriented spirituality is preferable? Why has organized religion failed to solve the problems of male violence and female oppression? Why do both genders submit to external religious authorities instead of acting on the truth of these words from the Dalai Lama? “We can do without religion, but not compassion.” Didn’t Jesus and Mohammed teach the same thing? Why is Mother Teresa the female spirit person who most readily comes to mind? What can we learn from her?

Gender Stereotypes: Why do gender stereotypes still abound? Why are some people still rigidly obsessed with defending them, especially ones related to sexuality and fundamental personal rights? Why do some of us privately project logic and rationality onto males and sensitivity and emotionality onto females even though both genders contain the psychological potential for both? We’ve had three generations of world-wide immersion in technologically produced visual images, beginning with photography, and moving into film, television, and computers. Why are we still so visually illiterate and vulnerable to subtle manipulation by the media? When and how does advertising take advantage of gender stereotypes and perpetuate unhealthy ones? Who wins from this practice? Who loses? Is it true that men are more out of touch with their feelings than women? Why? Why do women seem to find it easier to integrate their masculine sides than men, their feminine sides? What factors account for the high divorce rate in North America? Why do the genders still have difficulty understanding each other and communicating?

Exploitation of Women, Children and Nature: What can I say about human trafficking, child labor, and sexual exploitation? About the rape of Nature, our Mother? These things are unspeakably appalling and both genders are complicit. God help us. With all the freely given bounty and beauty of life we certainly haven’t excelled at preserving it or helping ourselves and each other enjoy it! Why?

I know most of us would rather imagine figures of light than face dark realities, so if these questions have aroused uncomfortable emotions or offended sensibilities I hope you’ll understand and forgive. May we all advance toward Buddhism’s goal of joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.


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