Monday, September 26, 2011

Wounds to Masculinity

Every boy wants to be tough, strong, to be the hero, to get the girl.  All growing up boys watch heroes in movies and hear of great adventures in books.  They learn of daring masculine men like James Bond and Indiana Jones. These guys are who boys feel they should be and who most boys want to be.  The problem is that most boys are not going to be Indiana Jones.  They will likely live fairly normal lives and grow up to be average human beings and average human beings have all been wounded in one way or another.  Boys are often wounded when their masculinity is challenged, put down, or just plain devalued.  I believe every boy has experienced this at one time or another and reaching ones full masculine potential requires addressing these wounds.  The problem is that men and boys often run from these wounds or act like they never happened and that they are "cool" with it.  In reality few men are "cool" with what happened when they are truly honest with themselves.

I recently worked with a 50 year old man who had been an alcoholic his entire life.  according to him he had been drinking on a fairly regular basis from the time he was 6 years old.  This alcohol problem had caused him a lifetime of legal problems, ruined relationships, unemployment, poverty, embarrassment, and self hate.  He was only seeing me because he was required due to court orders.  For the longest time he would not admit he had any problems that needed addressing he was "cool" with things that happened in his past.  His only problem was he just needed to stop drinking.  He refused to acknowledge he had anything driving his alcohol use.  Finally after months and months.  He began acknowledging intense abuse, physical and verbal that he received from his father.  His only good times with his dad were when they were drinking.  That was when he felt equal and felt like a real man.  Other times he felt weak and inferior and unmasculine. He has been carrying these wounds with him his entire life and is just now starting to address them.  This doesn't sound like someone who is "cool" with it.

What wounds do you have?  We all have them.  were you abused emotionally by a father, a brother, a coach, or a bully?  Were you made to feel less of a man by an overbearing mother who would not let you be yourself?  Whatever they are, these wounds often creep up and effect us in important areas of our lives.  Marriage, school, jobs, children etc.  Often times ruined marriages are due to some wound to an individual's core long ago.  Regularly men who feel inadequate and seem to fail at every attempt in business or school are often suffering from feelings of inferiority stemming from some deep masculine wound.

many times these wounds are not obvious.  To anyone looking in from the outside it might seem like an insignificant event; however, as I have stated in other posts, perception in reality.  The way you see something is what is real.  The way a five year old perceived an event is what the reality is to that five year old.  So even if a five year old perceives something one way why should the wound created by that perception follow him into adulthood?  As an adult I can see how silly my response was to certain events as a child and I can now process through it.  So why am I not over it?  The answer is that every moment of our lives is recorded in our subconscious.  Every moment, whether we can recall it or not, is recorded there.  The problem is that our subconscious makes no distinction between past and present.  to your subconscious everything you have ever experienced in playing in your mind as if it is currently happening.  This means that if you had a traumatic experience when you were five that you, as a five year old, were not able to process through at the time that experience is playing in your mind, unprocessed, as if it is still happening.  It is not just a memory but a memory charges with emotion that continue to effect you.  So no matter how silly a situation might seem to you now, if it was traumatic as a child and was never processed then that trauma is still alive in you.

When I was 7 years old I was in 2nd grade.  My teacher Mrs. Larsen was an old woman who really should not have been teaching school.  There was one event that took place in her class that effected me for a lot of years.  We were playing some sort of game that involved sticks and hitting a beat with those sticks and passing them back and forth to a partner across from you.  Obviously I don't remember the details of the game but I remember very vividly what happened in conjunction to this game.  I remeber having so much fun playing this game and really coming out of my shell.  I was a shy kid so this enjoyment and participation was something really neat for me I felt like I was being myself.  I was laughing really hard and having a really good time.  The next thing I knew Mrs. Larsen yelled at me and told me to go sit in my desk beacuse I was getting "out of control."  I was stunned and embarrassed.  I had no idea what I had done wrong, this moment shattered me.  I remember sitting in my desk crying and not wanting to go back to school for weeks, playing sick and doing other things to avoid the shame.  The first time I tried to step out of my shell I was shot down and embarassed.  Needless to say I spent the rest of my childhood very insecure and kept to myself.  If I wasn't completely comfortable with you and if I didn't trust you, you were not going to see the real me.  The real me just got me into trouble.

This event, even to me, as an adult seems silly.  I want to say "just get over it."  But the truth of it is that to a 7 year old me this was not silly.  This was traumatic and was never resolved.  It reinforced my insecurities and scared me from ever trying to be myself around people I didn't know.  It makes me sad to think that I could have been so much happier in life had I been able to process through this wound at an earlier age. 

So ask yourself, what insecurities do you have? Once you can think of those insecurities dig a little deeper and ask yourself, what is under those insecurities?  What wound created this false story within you?  You are now an adult who can better understand what happened to you as a child.  It is time to stop letting these things affect you and become the man you want to be.  Once you have targeted these events or if you need help targeting these events, go talk to a trained therapist. If therapy is not an option there are other sources such as  finding a close friend to talk to or joining a circle of men who strive to better each other by helping each other pull out these wounds and help each other to heal them.  The Mankind Project is one such group.  Whatever you do, get the help you need and stop letting yourself live a life of insecurities and shame.  Be the man you want to be, not the man that the world told you to be.
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