It is a cosmic law that the only constant is change. We see changes in everything everyday, we marvel at the way life continually unfolds its splendor and horror. Order births chaos births order, ad infinitum. We see ourselves change over time … bodies, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, political opinions, economic situations, relationships. Time changes us … child, teen, young adult, middle age, elder, death. Each is a passage, each changes us whether we like it or not. Changes are multidimensional … effecting us in body, mind, spirit … across time.
So why, when we see ourselves acting in ways that hurt us, hurt others … for the thousandth time … do we remain unwilling to change? Why do we choose those patterns that are unproductive, even destructive? Why do we choose addictions, toxic or benign, when we know how much it hurts, us and our loved ones? Do we believe that this is truly our heart’s desire, the reason we’re really here?
Carolyn Myss, in her book “Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can” says that there are at least two important reasons why people stay inside of hurtful behavior. First, we use our hurt as a vehicle for connecting. Second, we get a sense of empowerment from staying inside our hurt. I have always believed that people do not change until it hurts too much to keep doing it the same.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests there is an imprint in the limbic part of the brain that governs our human connectivity behaviors. This information is not hard-wired, although we come in with certain coded predispositions. Rather the data is layered like an operating system, the primary template that shapes our perceptions of the world. From conception, in womb, birthing, early childhood, we are constantly gathering information. Through this developmental process, the brain, the whole body is alive and recording everything, programming our instinctive, emotional, and mental bodies with the software that tells us what is safe, how to get our primary needs met, which behaviors are acceptable within the family/community/culture that we are born into … information essential to our survival.
Over the years, I have watched thousands of men come into the work, usually when some calamity befalls them … a heart attack, divorce, dui, business goes belly-up, porn stops working, wife or husband or lover has an affair, kid gets busted for heroin. From 16 to 85 years, desperate to discover something about themselves, they come with a deep hunger, terrified to take a look at who they believe they are, literally dying to reveal who they really are. Lost, isolated, addicted, stuck inside fucked up relationships, disconnected from their own real power, emotionally semi- or illiterate, operating from some antiquated template of what manhood is … something is missing in them, something essential has been stolen from them. They limp or swagger through the door, not even knowing how to ask the essential question … who am I as a man? Watching them struggle is heartbreaking, working with them is gut-wrenching, witnessing them break through is ecstatically humbling.
The majority of men who come into this work are middle-aged. They have suffered enough, seen dreams turn to shit, gotten a glimpse of their own mortality … a man’s midlife crisis & opportunity. Their stories are remarkably similar, all underscored by a deep sense of inadequacy. When encouraged and/or pushed to the place of deep truth telling, where the lies and illusions buried deep in the shadows finally get revealed, most men acknowledge that they do not feel good enough.
If we look at the cultural models of masculinity, where the media blasts out images of sculpted perfection and traditional markers of success, it is little wonder that men feel inadequate. Athletic heroes, on-screen warriors, models, sex kings, corporate kings, counter-cultural icons, politicians, billionaires & trillionaires … impossible for the average man to measure up to. For the last five thousand years, inside the Patriarchal Epoch, this definition of the conquering male has dominated, rising up the ladder of success, unconsciously driven in his path to the top, proving … to himself, to women, to other men, to the world … that he is man enough. Inevitably, the real man behind the curtain is revealed in his flawed humanness, and we revel in vilifying him. Sadly, we continue to believe, to worship these old images, of a deeply flawed manhood.
Recently, younger men are entering the work. They come with a different pain. They witness a masculinity lacking in connectivity skills, emotional literacy, still covetous of power, ambitious often without scruples or accountability, painfully out of balance. These young men are the sons of the patriarchal fathers, their wounds leaving them lost, confused, angry, distrusting, numb, not giving a shit. Where do they go to get a healthy masculine transmission?
The ancient cultures understood the need for initiation. Girls enter the red tent of womanhood, the hormonal change in body offers the timing, the elder women blessing the maturing woman. Similarly, hormones change the boys’ bodies. The older men come into the long house and forcibly remove the boy from the mother. They, both men and women, understand the centripetal and compelling power of mother energy, and a transition into full manhood requires a boy to physically and ritually separate from that energy. It is said that a woman cannot initiate a boy into manhood, only initiated men can do that.
With the advent of the industrial age, when men left the farms and villages and entered the factories in the city, conscious initiation for boys disappeared. With the father away, the boy loses that precious contact, the non-verbal transmission that happens when he grows up close to a man. He is always watching, butting up against the older male, seeking those signals and signs, hungry for the imprint that influences what kind of man he will become.
With the absence of an older man, the boy is lost, a deep core wounding occurs, the boy forced to discover manhood from other sources. With the absence of a conscious initiatory process, boys unconsciously seek it elsewhere … gangs, the military, corporate hierarchies … projecting the missing father onto any man even vaguely available. Impressionable, hungry for affirmation and belonging, boys and young men become prey to older uninitiated men, and the narrow model of the Patriarchal Father.
Uninitiated boys become uninitiated men who beget uninitiated boys … and we are the current iteration. The awakening older man brings the pain of the uninitiated boy in him … lost, left behind, betrayed, not even knowing what’s missing. The younger man brings the same pain, maybe more aware, still looking for that primal male connection. Hungry and lost boys, all.
Feminism and the rise of female power have forced men into a deeper look at themselves. With men recently tallying 75% of the pink slips, with most classic men’s jobs shipped overseas, the very definition of masculinity has been called into question in this new millennium.
A deep thank you to the brave women, for inviting, forcing this change in men. Remember: we do not change until it hurts too much to keep doing it the same.
Men need not be left behind … floundering, unconscious, in pain. Today, many men across the planet have awakened to the need for a cultural redefinition of maleness and the masculine. Aware of this primal male wound, we offer the return of sacred male initiation, into the New Masculine: fierce as our DNA has so beautifully imprinted, emotionally awake to the tender qualities of the evolved man. The transmission is alive, healing is possible, we stand at the portal of conscious evolution.