Academic journal article Thymos

Boys and the Boy Crisis

Academic journal article Thymos

Boys and the Boy Crisis

Article excerpt

How many men in this room have ever heard the words "You're not dealing with your feelings"? Raise your hand, (many of the men raise their hands) Yeah, that's most of us . And hopefully, in the next 20 minutes or so, as we talk, you'll begin to have a different way of looking at that. I've spent about 25 years of my life working with traumatized men- men who were in deep trouble, and I've learned that men have a different way of handling their stress, loss, and emotions and it is often overlooked or misunderstood.

Let's start with a simple question. Is this a masculine room or a feminine room? What do you think? [People offer guesses about the room until one man guesses that the room is more masculine because everything faces in one direction, toward the podium.] Yes, he gets it. Everybody is facing this direction. Now why is that masculine?

Let's think about the symbols of masculinity. What are the four symbols of masculinity in Western culture? What are they? The king's staff, right; the magician's wand; the warrior's sword; and the lover's phallus. What do those four things have in common, what do they do? They all go to one point, and they all have to do with product, outcome, efficiency ... getting things done. These are the tools, the masculine tools, that get things done- the action-oriented things that make it happen. Note that they all are pointed, long and lean and have to do with getting things accomplished.

Now what are the symbols for femininity- the basic symbol for the feminine? [People guess a chalice and then a bowl.] The bowl- yes- the bowl. Look at the difference. What does the bowl do? It contains. It holds. Think "womb." It's holding things, right? A feminine room might be a room that was in the round. Very different. Now. What's important is- these are just energies. We all have the masculine energy and we all have the feminine, right? It's a matter of how well we know our blend of those two that shows a sign of our maturity. Women can have masculine; men can have feminine. In fact, we need to love the very feminine men as we need to love the very masculine women. My wife has a good touch of the masculine. You know, when I'm talking about something- yammering on about this or that- and she'll say, "Tom, get to the verb"! That's very masculine. What is she saying? Get down to the point. Get down to that thing- get it done. "Git 'er done." That's a very masculine phrase. So, it's not just a man- woman thing. It's a masculine-feminine thing, and importantly, most men have more of this masculine thing we're talking about. Most women have more of the feminine thing we're talking about. But we all have a blend of both.

When I first got out of graduate school in 1978, 1 was looking for a job as a therapist. I was all excited. "I'm going to go to work and do some good things and help people." Sure enough, I looked around and there were no jobs available. Three months later, I thought, "I'll get one soon." Six months later, I thought, "I'll get one soon." Nine months later, I thought, "I'll get one soon." About a year later, I was desperate, and there was one place that said, "We'll take you, Golden." It was a center for death and dying, down in Washington, DC, I said, "I can do it. Hey, no problem. Sign me up."

So, I get on board with this counseling center, and there's 18 therapists there. Seventeen are women, and one's a man. That's me. So, here I am, the only man on staff. As the men or women come in for treatment, who gets who? Who do you think gets all the men? Me. Almost every man that came in the center came to me. Why was that? [Pause] Why do you think? Because the women didn't want to deal with the men! They'd say all kinds of things- "These men don't deal with their feelings. These men are this way; these men are that way, and so, Golden, he's a man. He can do it."

Of course, what was I taught in graduate school? You sit and you face each other, and you talk about the past. …

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