Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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.

 

The Frightening Effects of Religious Change August 10, 2012

We live in a remarkable time characterized by revolutionary changes occurring in every aspect of human endeavor. Some are deeply disturbing, especially when they are accompanied by conflict and violence. But this does not necessarily mean the changes themselves are bad. It simply means the collective psyche has not yet grown mature enough to easily accept needed change or always accomplish it peacefully.

Take, for example, the need to enlarge our elitist and restrictive ideas about God.  Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God, says, “The very fact that, as a person, God has a gender is…limiting;  it means that the sexuality of half the human race is sacralized at the expense of the female and can lead to a neurotic and inadequate imbalance in human sexual mores.”  We have only to look at current events to see the horrific effects of this imbalance which has dominated religious thinking for over 5,000 years. And, of course, these effects are not restricted to religious matters. They pervade every societal institution and every psyche.

But change is afoot. A new psycho-spiritual awakening is inexorably seeping out of the collective unconscious and entering collective awareness. And it is beyond anyone’s capacity to stop it.  In 1987 Jean Houston wrote:

“Many of us in research and clinical psychology have recently witnessed in our research subjects and clients a remarkable activation of images of female principles, archetypes, and goddesses… The women’s movement may be the outward manifestation of what is happening on depth levels in essential, mythic, and archetypal space-time….all the evidence indicates that the feminine archetype is returning.

“Denied and repressed for thousands of years, the goddess archetype returns at a time when the breakdown of the old story leaves us desperate for love, for security for protection, for meaning. It leaves us yearning for a nurturing and cultivation of our whole being, that we might be adequate stewards of the planetary culture.”

Twenty-five years later, some people are still alarmed by this phenomenon which shakes the core of their faiths, and beneath the faiths, the dysfunctional self-images they validate. The immature ego’s resistance to integrating the feminine is the underlying explanation for how masses of “religious” people can turn their backs on injustices perpetrated against women. And not just women, but anyone whose empowerment threatens those in power. This does not just happen in remote locations and “other” religions. In fact many of our most hotly contested political debates are currently fueled by the same resistance.

So what are the highly-resisted changes that the return of the feminine archetype threatens to bring? I see two major ones.

First, there will be a gradual shift away from divisive cultural biases and toward universal compassion and social justice.  Despite the fact that so many believers do not yet comprehend the significance of these values, their souls intrinsically know them to be fundamental and will recognize them at the roots of every authentic religion.

Second, the burden of bringing psychological thinking and spiritual living into the everyday lives of the average person will be lifted from the shoulders of those committed theologians and clergy whose true passions lie in theory and not in the messy practical realities of everyday life.  With the guidance and wholehearted blessings of gifted spirit persons, the responsibility for spiritual development will be happily handed over to those to whom it truly belongs:   individual seekers who alone know what brings spiritual meaning to their lives and whose psyches contain everything they need to find it for themselves.

Scary stuff, huh? So why exactly do so many of us still resist religious change?

 

Trees and Disney Princesses Revisited February 28, 2012

Every archetype has a dual nature because the ego automatically sees everything from a dualistic perspective. We divide the spiritual realm into the powerful opposing forces of God (good) and Devil (evil) and label everything else the same way. Last February I wrote that the Tree of Knowledge represents our potential for a great awakening into an enlightened wisdom yet is also associated with humanity’s disobedience and fall from eternal intimacy with God. Similarly, there are myths depicting the Scandinavian ash and shamanism’s birch as Trees of Life, yet Christianity’s savior Jesus loses his life on a tree.

In a post last August I wrote that the Disney Princesses are uniformly young, slender, beautiful, sweetly shy, innocently seductive, charmingly vulnerable, and, for the most part, deferential to males. If we take these stories as literal models for gender behavior, few would disagree that they reinforce very limiting and potentially damaging stereotypes. But a different perspective emerges if we view them as representations of the Maiden phase of the anima archetype. Then they are forces for good, not evil, and the only problem they present is our insistence that the anima, and by association human women, must remain in this phase forever.

Did anyone sign your high school yearbook, “Don’t ever change”? Maybe you wrote it yourself. This is the normal desire of an adolescent ego. What it wants is so simple: to be old enough to drive, get a job, earn a lot of money, become independent, satisfy all its instinctual desires as much as it wants to…and then stay that way forever.

We don’t want to face the reality that we are changing with the seasons and will someday die like my favorite tree, a large hemlock on our North Carolina property that began its life about 400 years ago and grew to 90 feet tall.  Half her trunk at the point where it divided into two main branches crashed to the ground last weekend.  We want to believe we’re smarter than that tree, that if we can keep the same looks, body size, beliefs, personality and life-style we had as late adolescents, we can somehow ward off aging and dying.

My hemlock’s trunk reminded me of a mature woman in a flowing gown. I thought of her needles as hair. She began her life when a cone released a seed one winter long ago. The seed grew into a pretty, pliable Maiden sapling who swayed and danced with the breezes. At age 15 she produced cones and became a Mother. Some hemlocks produce excellent crops of cones for more than 450 years before retiring to enjoy their remaining years as grandmother Crones who continue to bless the birds with safe haven for nests and the land beneath with cool shade.

Did you ever notice that by adolescence the Disney Princesses no longer have loving mothers or grandmothers to protect them?  The only older women who come to mind are evil step-mothers, a ditzy fairy god-mother, and a singing teapot! Why this scarcity of images of healthy, mature women in fantasy land? Might this curious fact be related to Viv’s observation after my last post that, “Anorexia seems to fossilize girls at a pre-pubescent stage, before they become women.”?

The Maiden phase of the anima represents everything about the feminine that is sweet, beautiful, innocent and hopeful. But the flip side of the Disney Princesses is that they perpetuate our unconscious aversion to the natural cycles of life and the mature stages of feminine development.  After all, an adolescent ego can control little girls far easier than Nature and wise men, women and crones!

 

 
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