Over the years I’ve met many deeply honourable and authentic men who have also been deeply challenged by a complex and confused relationship with their own masculinity. The Feminist movement has powerfully underlined the inequality which exists in our society and many men feel personally responsible for addressing this inequality as it is reflected in their relationships with the women in their lives and with other men. Often this sense of personal responsibility contains a shadow side, a feeling of shame or fear that masculinity itself is to blame for this inequality. This shadow can cause men to “throw out the baby with the bath water” and choose to abdicate their healthy masculine energy along with the unhealthy aspects.
Healthy masculinity is as potent a force for positive transformation as healthy femininity. Men’s Work aims to help men to reclaim this positive force for change in their lives.
I’ve been actively involved in Men’s Work for seven years, having co-founded a Sussex-based men’s group called The Silvatici (“The Men of the Woods”) in 2012 and more recently joined A Band of Brothers, a voluntary organisation which mentors young men from the criminal justice system. Over the years I have also supported many men through the most difficult chapters in their lives in my one-to-one counselling practice.
What is “Men’s Work”?
In their best selling book “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover”, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette suggest that many of the emotional and psychological challenges that men face relate to the fact that parts of their psyche have not yet reached a fully mature stage of development. For many of us, “Man Psychology” has not yet taken over from “Boy Psychology”. Men’s Work is to do with the cultivation and facilitation of this psychological transition. It often involves groups of men meeting regularly to talk openly about the challenges and difficulties they face in their lives, cultivating a sense of equality, acceptance and solidarity through brotherhood which has the potential to be transformational for individuals in the group.
Our culture has developed in a way in which men tend to overly rely on the women in their lives to provide them with emotional support, often assuming that it is the role of women to do the “emotional work” in relationships. This is a cultural norm which is quite toxic and creates an imbalance which is damaging to relationships. It is in fact often much more helpful for men to seek emotional support from other men to help them navigate the complexities of their emotional lives.
The fact that relatively superficial relationships between men tend also to be the norm in our culture means that many men have nowhere else to turn apart from their wives or partners when they’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life. This often puts a great deal of extra pressure on relationships which may already be feeling the strain of all the pressures which modern life exerts on individuals and families.
Men’s Work aims to rectify this by helping to restoring balance to men’s relationships and to the male psyche. In my individual work with men in my counselling practice I use a rich and powerful framework which facilitates this process, a map of the human psyche which illuminates it’s internal dynamics using four archetypes – The King, The Warrior, The Magician and The Lover. When these four archetypal energies are harnessed effectively and co-exist in balance in the psyche then a extremely solid foundation is created which supports positive change.