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Understanding Men

A New Book By Philip Bradbury

Women can help men only so much to heal old scars, thinks book author Philip Bradbury. Men need to look at other men for support—and boys need men to understand and deal with their own inner conflicts

When a man and a woman come together in wholeness, it is the most beautiful and rare of things. When each person is whole within themselves – contented, fulfilled, self-realised and need-less (though not desire-less) – and there is complete love and acceptance for the other, as they are, the world sees the glow and is more joyful.

However, very few of us have that wholeness – most of us have some emotional wound(s) or scar(s), yet to be healed. And, as like attracts like, so we attract partners with similar wounds.

Caroline Myss calls this “woundology” and if, say, a woman has not been able to resolve (within) the abuse she had from her father, she will most likely attract an abusive partner.

And if a man has been “trained” to hide his feelings (“Big boys don’t cry”) he could easily attract a partner who will not allow him to express himself. Or, the same man may attract a partner who needs and demands of him that he express his feelings, thereby ripping the plaster from an unhealed wound, a wound he is ashamed of but knows not how to heal.

And we know not the pain we cause when we’re being helpful, sometimes, especially when the other person cannot talk of that pain.

No-one can heal the pain of another and no-one has the responsibility for another’s pain.

We can be there, we can support, we can listen but we cannot resolve – that has to come from the bearer of the pain. And, until that pain is healed, situations and people will come in to remind, to exacerbate, to expose, to challenge, to annoy – until something is done by the bearer to attempt a healing.

When the honest intention of self-healing is there, then the universe sends in the listeners, the friends, the allowers. But not until the intention is there.

It is very natural for a person to look to others for help. And our motherly and fatherly instincts naturally incline us to want to help, to salve another’s wounds. But if the bearer of the pain expects the healing to come from outside of herself, it will remain and gnaw forever.

And so, it is easy for opposite sexes to shame each other, to expose the wounds of the other, for that is what is meant to be. If a mother has shamed her son by demanding that he express his emotions, he will close down more and will invariably attract a partner who demands the same, until he heals his own “mother wound”.

Although his partner is giving him a gift (to see what healing he needs to do) he may, instead, retaliate and expose a wound of his partner with sulking or abuse. This is woundology. It is not important who starts the cycle – that the cycle continues and accelerates is the true sadness.

The universe often provides a partner or other woman (friend, counsellor etc.) to point out the man’s wound, but it can seldom be healed in the presence of a woman. One woman cannot repair the damage done by another. For most men, powerlessness usually envelops him when trying to deal with emotions in front of a woman, for he knows how clever she is at expression while he is a complete dumbo.

A person hears what they hear and if a man has had 30 or so years of hearing (from mothers, teachers, writers, television, partners) he is not good at expression, that is what he knows of himself.

He is good with a hammer, but when it comes to emotional stuff, that’s what women are good at.

He’s not.

It is a biological fact that women are better at combining feelings with expression – they often master it at 14, while many men are still struggling with it past 40 years. Add to that biological difference with a mixture of “boys don’t cry” stuff, along with a constant feeling of being inadequate and the whole realm of feelings becomes so overwhelming the man doesn’t know where to start.

Easier to leave well alone. Many women complain that their men do not show their feelings but the sad fact is that, for many men, when they look down (inside) there is nothing there. They are hiding nothing for there is nothing to hide. They simply do not know what their feelings are for they have been buried so deep, they are unreachable. So deep they don’t know they’re there.

Therefore, for many men, the only safe way to start this process is with other men – with others who will not bring up the risk of shaming, who will not finish their sentences, who will not bring back all those past inadequacies. It doesn’t matter how understanding and patient a woman is, she still has a woman’s body and, especially for vulnerable men, that is a formidable reminder of pains from other women.

It doesn’t matter how understanding and loving I am, I (as a man) am probably not going to be much comfort to a girl who has just been raped. I have a man’s body and that reminds her too much of her pain from a man.

It is very difficult today, for there are many women without partners, bringing up boys. Often these women do their best. They really try hard, but there are some things a mother (or any other woman) cannot give her young man. Robert Moore (from Chicago) says to men:

“Have you admired a younger man in the past week? Have you been admired by an older man in the past week? If you are a young man and you are not being admired by an older man, you are being hurt.” Strong words.

Robert Bly talks of the five stage process of becoming a man – bonding with your mother, separation from your mother, bonding with your father, separation from your father, the appearance of the “male mother” or mentor. We do not do the separation from our mothers very well and nor do we bond with our fathers well.

Often there is no father to bond with – he is either separated from our mother or he is always away (physically and mentally) for his work. Often the short-cut is taken, which is to shame our father and this is seen in the numerous sitcoms on television where the man is the idiot, while the woman is sensitive and intelligent – the writers are trying to short-cut their growth to manhood, as are those enjoying the shaming of men.

gent – the writers are trying to short-cut their growth to manhood, as are those enjoying the shaming of men.

So what are the mothers to do? As hard as they try, they can only give the boys mothering and perhaps look for a male to admire and take some interest in the young man – a mentor. This mentor does not have to have a daily or weekly commitment to the boy, but someone the boy knows holds him in his heart is vital. Beyond that, monthly contact may be all that’s needed.

This mentor is not so easy to find as most grandfathers live somewhere else. Most boys do not have this “male mother” around, someone who is interested in their soul, a man to hold them in their heart, to listen and to guide. The result is so often that the boys carry out their own initiation by driving fast cars, stealing and damaging property.

They get the attention of the police and this attention of these older men is better than nothing. This male attention is something a mother cannot give, something a girlfriend or wife cannot give.

That there are so many older men sitting in rest-homes and retirement villages, feeling redundant and worthless, is a great shame. Their wisdom, experience, patience, non-attachment and so many other things are part of the soul of our community that is being wasted. We talk a lot about our youth being our future, but without the wisdom of the elders, I wonder what our future will be.

The older men have the time to give and the youth are seeking it (in their unique way) and I wonder why we cannot get them together.

All my life I have looked and asked for an older man to be there to talk to, to listen to, to be with and to absorb from. I still look for that old man. I have heard sixty year old men say they would still like an older man to hold them in their heart, as they would like to do for men younger than them.

So, old man, you are important and wanted and a young man is any man younger than you. I use the word “old” without shame for you have so much to give.

I, therefore, put out a call: If there are any older men who would like to be there for the younger ones, please step forward and let me know. Also, if there are any younger men (or mothers) looking for a mentor, also come forward and write. Let’s see the circle of life complete itself and us all become more whole.

Next: International Fatherhood Summit

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