Part 1 - “Aching for Wholeness: Men and the Feminine Consciousness” (Excerpt from THE MEN WE NEVER KNEW) by Daphne Rose Kingma
---Painting “Swan Boat” by Lauren Woods
"Basically men are useless in relationships unless they've developed their female side."
-Computer executive, 36
If Freud's unforgettable question of the 1890s was "What do women want?" then the antiphonal question for the 1990s is "What do men need?" I believe the perennial attempt to answer Freud's question stems from the unconscious hope that if only, or if ever, men could figure out what women need and could satisfy them, then finally they could discover their own needs too. In a sense, men have been living in emotional poverty, for, as we have seen, until very recently their emotional needs, both collective and individual, have been virtually unidentified, unacknowledged, and unaddressed.
What do men need? Men need to be emotionally healed. Men need to be released from their roles as women's enemies and saviors. Men need to gain access to the sensitivity women claim they want them to exhibit; men need to be freed from their own limiting definitions of what it is to be a man. Men need to have an internal, as well as an external life, to be able to feel as well as to do, to express as well as suppress, to contemplate as well as perform. In short, men need to have an emotional life, to be able to communicate—with words, with tears, with tender gestures—with women and with one another about the various rich and difficult inner contents of their lives.
As we have seen, however, rather than being given or guided into an emotional life, men have been trapped in the role of being provider-protectors, heroes, and automatons, and they literally do not have access to the emotional materials and techniques with which to create the emotional experience they need. As things stand now, they are delivering all they can from their limited repertoire, and the fact that they're willing to give women everything except the emotional encounter is itself a proof of what they don't possess.
It's not for lack of good will that they continue to disappoint women; they simply can't deliver what they still don't know they have, the invisible component to which men have always held title but have never gained possession.
This mysterious vacancy in a man's psyche is what we may call the feminine consciousness. By feminine consciousness I refer to those qualities of personality, whether they reside in men or women, that are in essence receptive, intuitive, caritative, and visionary. By receptive I mean able to take in, to be acted upon; by intuitive, able to sense by extra-ordinary and specifically nonverbal means; by caritative, feeling, nurturing,
responsive to that which is in need or pain; and by visionary, partaking of the capacity to see the unseen, imagine the impossible, connect with the universal, the mysterious, the . divine. The feminine consciousness is the consciousness of union, of peace, of sensitivity. It is the consciousness that has as its essence the seeking of similarity, rather than difference. In all of us, it is the force that binds, not divides, that is willing to undergo transformation, rather than defend the status quo. In the past, these luminous qualities have been seen as \ primarily pertaining to or residing in women, hence we call them feminine. Indeed, in general it is true that women have been the carriers of the feminine consciousness in the world. We all look to women to nourish our bodies and spirits, to console us in the dark hours, to nurture our children, to express our collective anguish at the wailing wall, to apprehend the truth beyond language that intuition embodies.
The Whole of Personality
"From now on, I'm going to make the important decisions in my life according to my feelings, my intuition, my logic, and my best self-interest."
-Divorcing entrepreneur, 42
It is precisely this feminine dimension men need to incorporate now. To know their woundedness, to be able to grieve, long for, and want; to desire, to tend, to console—these aspects of feminine consciousness which have always before been seen to be the exclusive province of women must now become the familiar stomping grounds of men.
If we think of the totality of a person's consciousness, we may say that, as in some alchemical formula, it is composed of a certain number of parts which we call masculine and others which we call feminine. Each of us is a blend of the masculine and feminine aspects, with men, of course, tending to contain more of the masculine and women more of the feminine.
The degree to which a man embodies what we call the masculine consciousness, for example, is the degree to which he embodies the male aspects of ego, male pride, identification through work, the suppression and displacement of his feelings, an analytical mind, and reliance on his physical strength. To the extent a man is in possession of his feminine aspects, he is able to cry, to express his emotions verbally, to rely on his intuition.
In spite of what has changed, at the emotional level we are all still acting out the same old sex roles. Most men are still locked in the position of expressing only their masculine attributes and are still so unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the feminine that they're trying to hide or deny it, while men who are blessed (or cursed) with possessing it already are struggling to find a culturally acceptable outlet for it without being punished for possessing it.
As an engineer said, "In my profession the lack of recognition for my sensitivity has felt like a lifelong condemnation for being 'the wrong kind of man.'" Another, a products designer, said, "I only know how to be vulnerable. Everything affects me. There are times I wish there were some other way I could be. It would make my life a whole lot easier." Yet another man told the horror story of being accused of molesting a young boy because, at his father's funeral when the boy had burst into tears, this man had kneeled down and taken him into his arms to comfort him.
The sad truth is that whether men already possess the feminine to some degree—and have to deal with it as an aberration—or don't acknowledge it at all, they still aren't able o move comfortably with it in their lives. Men are still living the horrible fallout of having disowned the internal feminine and women are still angry at them because they have.
Some men are beginning to become aware of this. But awareness—simple diagnosis—is a breathtakingly long distance from transformation, healing, and change. To know what has wounded you, even to name the wound, is still not to have been healed, still not to be, though scarred, reborn.
So what can men do about their pain? The problem of course is that men's pain is an emotional phenomenon. It occurs in precisely the venue in which men are unable to help themselves. Emotional pain, and emotions—the psychological antidote with which to heal it—are off limits for men. If only they could cry—but men can't cry. If only they could collapse—but men can't collapse. Instead they're stuck with their grief.
The process of emotional healing for men requires that a man be given the vision with which to apprehend his own wounds: to identify them, mourn them, shed tears over them and, in the end, be cleansed of them. This process of identifying, grieving, and being cleansed is, if you will, an essentially feminine process. It is feminine because it is receptive in essence. The person being healed must be in possession of the pain that needs to be alchemized. He must receive it to the point where he can feel it, and having taken it in, then and only then can he begin to grieve and release it. Only when he has mourned will his eyes be washed so that he can see his own suffering, so that he can become compassionate not only with himself, but also with women.
Approach of Change
"/ want to become more spiritually and emotionally connected. I would welcome knowing that part in me. It's a good part, and I want it to come out."
-Band manager, 45
A number of men and women on the forefront of oping consciousness have watched as men have been ling on tip-toe, tap-tapping outside the gates of their own unexplored feminine dimension. Men are talking more, taking : time for themselves and with one another. But nowhere : emerging feminine more readily apparent than in men's willingness to take a more active role in the rearing of children, n women's encouragement of them to do so.
This trend of male participation in childrearing is just piece of evidence that intuitively we're all beginning to agree it's time for men to gain access to the feminine. In spite »t openly acknowledging this, we are shyly creating opportunities for it to occur and in the protected emotional environment of a man's relationship with his children, we do allow a to get in touch with the softer, more vulnerable aspects of elf. Through nurturing his children—holding, rocking, and ing them—a man can begin to gain access to his feminine without shame, contempt, or embarrassment.
In spite of, or perhaps specifically because of such changes, it's difficult to comprehend the degree to which men till terrified of the feminine in themselves. Most men can't face how afraid they are of their own feminine aspects, and men who are aware of their fear and trying to overcome i having a difficult time. As a friend acknowledged to me, int to be sensitive, warm, and loving, but I have to admit 11 see men hugging each other, I'm really put off."
The truth is that, although some men are exploring their sensitivity through therapy or men's groups, most men are still stranded in the outback of male consciousness and have miles to go before they meet women on the common ground of the conscious feminine. What this means is that although they may be venturing a peek at their emotions, men still haven't gotten acquainted or comfortable enough with them to use them as the medium of their connection with women.
Why Men Are Stuck
"Somehow I know that my capacity to feel will change when I get the words to describe my feelings. But I don't know how to do that."
-Graduate student, 30
Men haven't raced downtown to buy admission tickets to the conscious feminine because dismantling and reassembling male consciousness is a terrifying proposition. Embracing the feminine is a process that will require the profoundest revision of male sensibilities and self definitions. For a man to take on the feminine dimension doesn't mean simply putting on—as he would a three-piece suit, a carpenter's belt, a hard hat or gun— a different outfit called "the feminine." It means, rather, that he will have to see that in the very deepest reaches of himself, he -is not only capable of acting and performing, as men have always done, but that he is also capable of feeling while acting, and of feeling instead of performing.
Men will have to discover that they have a purely receptive feminine, feeling function, as well as an aggressive masculine performing function—and that the feminine function will not disrupt the organic functioning of their masculinity. They will also need to claim this as their true and integrated male possession, for there is also the very complex problem of orchestrating a whole new repertoire of behaviors and feelings.
Therefore taking on the feminine means a man will have to be able to feel instead of act—if feeling is the appropriate response to a given situation—but that he will have to learn when to move from acting to feeling (or vice versa), and when to do both at once. This in itself is an elaborate level of emotional discernment not readily familiar to men. To integrate the feminine means profoundly understanding that being in the feeling state could actually enhance the way they hold up the world.
Contemplating embracing the feminine also brings men face to face with some of their worst fears, because to be emotional is, above all, to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be open, to be able to be wounded. It is the capacity to undergo, to be affected by an emotion or experience, and, once having been affected, to be transformed by it. Thus, to be vulnerable is to be able to be deeply changed.
For a woman, the ultimate,experience of this vulnerability is the transformation of her body during pregnancy. In it, a woman takes in a man, undergoes the rearrangement of her physical structure, and with the birth of her child, completely revises the physical and psychological function of her life.
Since the defining characteristics of male consciousness are the embodiment of power, action, and control, for a man, vulnerability—this potential total rearrangement—in any form is frightening. To be male is to be the agent, not the object, of change. Men want to act upon, to assert, aggress, and enforce. Whereas the essence of the feminine is to be affected by, it is the masculine essence to try to remain unaffected.
Taking on the seemingly infinite capacity of the feminine to undergo change is terrifying to men. Yet in even the simplest of emotional encounters, women are asking essentially that men develop vulnerability, which represents the antithesis of everything men have always been told to be as men. This consciousness is a totally new undertaking for men, one which, it seems to them, will compromise their entire male identity, and they're scared to death of it.
For men, opening to feeling necessitates not only developing the ability to have a new experience, it also requires giving up a level of protection that has been a great source of comfort to them. In a nutshell, in being emotionally vulnerable, men will have to give up being invulnerable, and in so doing, to develop a whole new male archetype. While from women's perspective, invulnerability is a defensive second-rate emotional stance, for men it represents the protected sanctuary from which, precisely, they have been able to function—and function on women's behalf. Occupying this place they have also been spared the anguishing sorrows, emotional convolutions, and importunate outpourings women have always been prey to.
In this regard it should be mentioned that women have never particularly wanted to see that there are advantages to being unfeeling—but there are. Being able to proceed in heartbreaking circumstances without being yanked off course by the distracting pull of emotions—going into the burning house to save the child without getting hysterical in advance, wielding the knife on the operating table without having your hands immobilized by the fear of failure, being able to work twelve hours a day for your wife and children without getting bogged down in self-pity—all this is of great advantage to the man who must do so, and to those who benefit from his so-called insensitivity. A man instinctively knows that what women receive through his being cut off from his feelings is of great value.
Evolution of any kind takes sacrifice. Thus it is that even in unconsciously contemplating becoming vulnerable, a man intuits that he will lose something of importance, something precious, something he values in himself; and he fears that it won't be replaced by something of equal value.
This fear is made even more palpable by his instinctual recognition that in having an emotional life, he will not only come into the presence of his positive feelings, but also of his terror, rage, and sorrow. He fears he will do the impossible thing—be vulnerable, go out of control—and that once having done it, he will encounter not only his joy, but also a shocking immensity of monstrous, negative feelings. As one man said, "It's bad enough to be vulnerable, without having to feel all this sadness too. If I have to get into the feeling state, at least I should get to have a good feeling."
The unconscious recognition of what being vulnerable would mean is so threatening to men as to make the emotional undertaking almost the last thing any man would want to do. In fact, most men would rather do almost anything else than get in touch with their feelings. They would far rather double or triple their efforts at what they're already doing: working, providing, protecting, paying (the Everything-But Syndrome again); disappoint the women in their lives by boldly insisting they don't have a need to communicate; fool themselves into thinking they're already in touch with their sensitivity; despise, deny, and disown their emotional vulnerability; or insist they don't need to change. At the level of the collective male unconscious, it is so unbelievably threatening for men to contemplate this change that even though there have been invitations galore from women, most men are still hiding out and waffling.
Although it is extremely difficult for men to submit to the state of vulnerability in order to learn, if they are going to take on their emotional lives, they must. What they need to remember, however, is that vulnerability, as modeled by women, is also power, for when the woman is most changed, as when her body is transformed in pregnancy, she also becomes most powerful.
Accepting the feminine in themselves also means that men must acknowledge that in some sense they have always been incomplete. Facing this incompleteness is one of the more difficult things a man can do. For as we have seen, men believe that they must be everything for everyone, and their attendant greatest fear is that they won't be enough. Allowing themselves to see that in some sense they aren't enough is the mo; frightening thing they could contemplate. Seeing themselves a having a lack—in this case, the lack of the ability for emotion; experience—is a nightmare discovery for most men, and another reason that, no matter how much they may unconscious] desire it, they resist incorporating the feminine. In short, me hate to see that something is missing in them.
Yet the paradox is always the location of the miracle; the moment of terror is the moment of possibility. The courage required to embrace the feminine proves a man's masculinity for only a very strong man has the strength to be so ver vulnerable. In disclosing his fear of being weak, a man become beautifully strong; in being open and receptive, he become authentically protected. The man who can say he's afraid can begin, instantly, to receive the solace he needs; no longer must he bear his fear alone. The man who can weep can have his tear wiped away. The man who can open to his fragility can finally embrace his true power.
In short, the man who integrates his feminine self becomes more wholly masculine because he is all that he is. He is no longer a shadow of himself, half there, living an as-if life o emotional suppression and passive-aggressive defensiveness He is finally born whole. As one young man, embarking on hi healing journey in psychotherapy, put it so beautifully, "I’m scared to death to be here, but I'm here because I don't want to live my whole life as somebody else." Intuitively he knew that there was so much more to him than he had already experienced or would ever discover if he continued to follow the path of being a man that had been so narrowly laid out for him. This is the same young man who said, when he completed his healing journey, "I feel stronger than I ever imagined possible, but in a completely different way. Now I know how I feel-for me that is being a man."
(Excerpt from The Men We Never Knew)
by Daphne Rose Kingma
Ms. Kingma’s Website: