Thanks to 'H' for her part in our wonderful conversation the other day that danced back and forth so beautifully around the perceptions of the nature of 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Inspiring me to revisit this fascinating topic.
Disclaimer: If you're looking for the definitive answer to what the 'authentic masculine' is, there isn't one. It's actually a journey of inquiry, not an end result. It's also broadly-speaking a 'subjective' definition.
In our 'patriarchy' it's easy to feel shame about being a man, even a conscious man. I believe we're actually being subjected to a 'puerarchy' - a culture unhealthily dominated by men with the emotional intelligence and weak morals of unbalanced needy boys. (A society led by authentic men would look very different from the one we have, so I see the title of 'patriarchy' as being very misleading when it comes to talking about the potential of men.)
Culturally, male identity has been shoe-horned into some very limiting and shallow expectations and cultural representations. Leaving many asking: “What does it mean to be a 'man'? And wondering how to begin seeking the answer. Well, presuming that the phrase 'authentic masculine' resonates with you at all, rather than trying to define it analytically, it can be useful to ask yourself: “What does the 'authentic masculine' mean to me?”
Everything you read here can only be a personal perspective. Reflections on my own journey, which was a path of healing after physical and emotional abuse from my father, and from male peers in secondary school. Not to mention emerging from some of the debilitating crap that patriarchy serves us on a daily basis during our formative years. (And ever after, though it's the formative years where the primary psychological patterns of belief and identity are formed.)
These days there's a lot of debate on what even is gender? Is it physical embodiment, or psychological or social choice? Is it hormonal? Can people be born into the 'wrong body'? What's the relationship between gender and erotic attraction? How much is hard-wired, and how much is cultural expectation, or simply personal preference due to personality type?
So many questions. It's a minefield! Or is it? The simple answer is that the path is an individual one. If the word 'man' has no resonance for you, then this isn't a quest for you. Yet if it does feel meaningful, there's nothing wrong with embracing that. In which case, asking yourself what the 'authentic masculine' means to you becomes an opportunity to discover what calls from within. (Rather than taking on board other people's definitions wholesale.) There are a lot of 'truths', some of which overlap, and many of which do not. There is no ideal 'authentic masculine' to try to measure up to. The idea that there is, is a cultural imposition which diminishes the magnificent potential of our individuality.
For instance, identifying as heterosexual is one option amongst many valid ones. It's one I like and feels natural to me. Though I don't presume it must feel the same to every other male-bodied person. I consider myself as being 'conscious hetero' rather than 'default hetero'. (My gender identity is something I've considered, explored, and dug beneath, rather than just taken on because I was told to.)
The path for me has led to exploring things like 'Presence', 'Groundedness', 'Authenticity', 'Integrity', 'Self-Reliance', 'Courage', 'Erotic Potential', 'Accepting my Sensitivity', 'Finding my Passions', 'Holding Space', 'Accepting Differences'... A whole lot of classically 'masculine' stuff. Though not as a quest for perfection, but as a journey of ongoing discovery.
Relating authentically to other males can really help this quest, though that too depends on following the what works for you as a unique individual. Again, don't fall into the trap of assuming that others have found the 'one true path' that must be followed. (Or that if you don't relate to their path that it is you who is at fault.)
In 2008 I was looking around for menswork, and I couldn't find any in Melbourne that matched what I intuitively wanted. With some background in Shamanic studies and a lot of experience in Transpersonal Psychology I was seeking something far from any cultural stereotypes. Something apart from commonly accepted social definitions. A space where men could be in simple presence together. To explore, in practices and raw communication, the challenging edges of their lives and the deeper archetypes.
I didn't want to just talk about problems. I wasn't interested in anything involving 'egos' or 'leaders'. Nor in the idea of people roaring into each others' faces – an activity which can so easily slide into ego and distracting competition. The unhealthy element of masculine competition doesn't help anyone in the long run, and is a hidden trap. I have had enough of people who put themselves (or others) on pedestals, and just can't relate to that kind of psychology any more. Not even if it's meant well.
Luckily for me I had a strong intuition that men being conscious, real, open and accepting together would invite in something greater than the whole. It was a feeling that seemed to relate to my spiritual background as a Celt. The basic idea for the 'Evolving Man' evening courses and weekends arose from that intuition, with Jared Osborne soon becoming involved as co-developer, co-facilitator and embodiment specialist. Events that we ran regularly until 2014.
Throughout all of these (especially the evening groups based round a Medicine-Wheel) the presence of 'something more' became apparent. Something dropped in that was greater than any collection of individuals. Allowing us to be even more real, open and in the process of deep self-discovery. We had stumbled upon a rich formula - exploratory open-ended questions, simple grounding exercises, and sharing and witness practices. It truly felt as if 'spirit' (I named it as 'the Green Man') joined us.
I also took some online studies around increasing confidence and self-expression. Podcasts, blogs, video-training... Some were poor (in terms of integrity) – basically techniques in how to manipulate others. Typically based in (and reinforcing) an embedded scarcity consciousness (the hidden fear of never being good enough), including disrespectful competition with other men. Others were fantastic – focusing on strengthening self-acceptance, integrity, and acknowledging our human vulnerabilties and imperfections.
The biggest skill I learned from all of the online research was probably 'discernment'. How to separate the personally useful gold from the generalities and the scarcity-based thinking. Through tuning in to what felt healthy and right for me. One standout piece of wisdom around what the 'authentic masculine is, was that it's based in the combination of courageous self-inquiry and raw honest expression. The most profound practical advice was to spend more time connecting to my body and reawakening its wisdom in a world that massively over-prioritises the intellect.
So that's it. No definitive answers, but perhaps some pointers for the journey.
Arven (24th Nov, 2016)
Acknowledgement: The image on this page is the logo that Cam Wyers designed for the Evolving Man events. Thanks Cam.
Arven Alexander is a self-development enthusiast, currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.