I have gotten a lot of comments on this series and I thought I would answer them all at once in this post.
I’ve often wondered if its not so much the lack of a father than supposedly harms young men, that perhaps it is the lack of just any positive masculine influence.
To answer this question I will quote from King warrior A Magician Lover: Rediscovering The archetypes of the Mature masculine by Jungian psychoanalyst and professor of psychology and religion Robert Moore and some other dude who I don’t feel like writing, then give my own opinion (please take with a grain of salt)
First we need to take very seriously the disappearance of ritual processes for initiating boys into manhood. In traditional societies there are standard definitions of what makes up what we call Boy Psychology and Man Psychology. There are rituals for helping the boys of the tribe make the transition to manhood. Over the centuries of civilization in the West, almost all of these ritual processes have been abandoned or have been diverted into narrower and less energized channels– into pheno-mena we can call pseudo-initiations.
Along with the breakdown of meaningful ritual process for masculine initiation, a second factor seems to be contributing to the dissolution of mature masculine identity. This factor, shown to us by one strain of feminist critique, is called patriarchy. Patriarchy is the social and cultural organization that has ruled our Western world, and much of the rest of the globe, from at least the second millennium BCE to the present. In our view, patriarchy is not the expression of deep and rooted masculinity, for truly deep and rooted masculinity is not abusive. Patriarchy is the expression of the immature masculine. It is the expression of Boy psychology, and in part, the shadow– or crazy– side of masculinity. It expresses the stunted masculine, fixated at immature levels.
There are many different stages we go through in life, as the body changes so does the psychology. The psychology of a teenager isn’t eh same as that of a 30 years old, a 65 years old and 85 years old retired accountant living in Boca Raton Florida. I have come to see from my own life that these changes manifest first or perhaps most perceptibly in the body first. When I turned 30 I felt really different; my 20’s and thirties feel so different. Changes in the body come with as can be expected changes in the psyche. (By psyche here I mean: the totality of all psychological processes, both conscious and unconscious which manifests as a complicated interplay of many factors, including an individual’s age, sex, hereditary disposition, psychological type and attitude, and degree of conscious control over the instincts.)
Sometimes though a change has taken place and the psychology of the person has not fully embraced the changes. and to this effect in time past there was an initiation or an ordeal done in a controlled matter presided over a community of men that would help bring about harmonization if you will between the physiological, the psychical and psychological changes. In our day and age the rituals have long died.
It is not enough just to have a positive masculine influence, or examples to me of course. I feel personally as a dude and other dudes can chime in, that one needs needs a certain kind of active, consistent participation in one’s life in such a way as to create the conditions necessary to facilitate and in some cases catalyse this harmonious balance between mind body and psyche etc. I remember reading about a lot of Aboriginal initiations and what struck me was that all the men in the village participated you saw your father as part of something much larger. I think also a lot of the people we can be influence positively by are not grounded in what it means to be a man. My fathers generation in America not so much I don’t feel. I don’t know what it is but, working with dudes especially older dudes who know a thing or two, who are wise, carries a weight with it without the presence of women is a totally different and primal experience. I cannot explain it, well succinctly enough in a short space.
In many homes the father if he is there is working so many hours that the children spend a lot of time with the mother and from what I have seen a lot of female teachers in elementary school. I have noticed in a particular two cases how different the boy is when he returns from having spent time alone with his father or uncle for an extended period of time. I also went to an all boys school. The vibe of the class is totally different when its a female teacher as opposed to a male teacher as opposed to an older male teacher who isnt a hypocrite and can actually listen.
Why Do I Feel That This masculine identity crisis is more prominent in the West ?
From Kurt Vonnegut
“OK, now let’s have some fun. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about women. Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything.
What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them. Why are so many people getting divorced today? It’s because most of us don’t have extended families anymore. It used to be that when a man and a woman got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk to about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to.
A few Americans, but very few, still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys. But most of us, if we get married nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it’s a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it’s a man. When a couple has an argument, they may think it’s about money or power or sex, or how to raise the kids, or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though, without realizing it, is this:
“You are not enough people!”
I met a man in Nigeria one time, an Ibo who has six hundred relatives he knew quite well. His wife had just had a baby, the best possible news in any extended family. They were going to take it to meet all its relatives, Ibos of all ages and sizes and shapes. It would even meet other babies, cousins not much older than it was. Everybody who was big enough and steady enough was going to get to hold it, cuddle it, gurgle to it, and say how pretty it was, or handsome. Wouldn’t you have loved to be that baby?”
I feel that the extended family does much to protect and shield younger child from societal images and consumerist propensities that see to install body dis morphia, distrust of the older generation, and of course many other things. Also when you have exposure to so many generation you get to see your father and other males as part of a large community there to support you. You get to interact with so many different people of varying ages. That doesn’t happen much in America nowadays. In the earlier part of our history yes but not today.
I think the reason slavery was so damaging to the psychology of many African Americans was they it cut them off from their roots and prevented from establishing new ones; children were sold, as were mothers and fathers etc. The languages and religious belief were forbidden, we are kinda lost …
- A Conversation about Guys from a Guy (2) (aspoonfulofsuga.wordpress.com)
- A Conversation about Guys from a Guy (1) (aspoonfulofsuga.wordpress.com)
Thanks for answering my question, and for defining your use of the term psyche…Makes it easier to talk about now.
I do agree about the importance of initiations, especially in a society like ours. Nowadays our boys join gangs and our girls get pregnant (obviously these are extremes). I feel that this happens because we have no initiations for either sex. Judging from these talks though, it seems the lack of “adulthood rites” affects males vastly more than it does females. I wonder if this is because Western society (wrongly, I feel) places so much more emphasis on guys being REAL MEN and not as much on gals being REAL WOMEN.
And then there are those of us who are closer to the opposite sex than our own…or don’t feel like a stable gender. We just do not belong anywhere at all.