We men have a lot of work to do. All of us. Addressing black, minority men since I am seeing from this perspective. As Will Smith said, "It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility".
I've been reading "The Will To Change" by Bell Hooks, & shockingly, it's been crumbling the world view that I had believed I had to get accustomed to for so long, just to be a respected part of this society. It tackles the Patriarchy, Toxic Masculinity & the reality of that broken hierarchy where power, violence, apathy & rage are accepted as the normal expressions of men.
Emotions are something we often do not dare to explore, causing us to be ill-equipped when the time comes for us to actually use & process our emotions. Brittle are the faculties in which we could express these emotions, because they've been forcefully atrophied. "be a man", "don't cry, men don't cry", etc. Those are just the simplest decrees. The complexities run deep.
Find it within yourself to read that book if you think it's been difficult to make sense of why we're so prone to silencing ourselves & our emotions, to feeling intense bursts of rage or depression with no sense of how to cope. It may not give you a concrete roadmap on how to master yourself & your emotions, yet I do think it will give you better context & understanding so that you are more fully equipped to create that path on your own.
This book was recommended to me by my friend @nilesandmiles some time ago. I wanted this book. The title called out to me. For some reason, I thought reading this book would lead me to something I had only caught true glimpses of from time to time, only to have turned away from it or to have self-sabotaged to let it's overwhelming presence flee from me.
I want to know Love. Love in the context of intimacy & relationships, sharing space with another. I've come to cultivate & know Love in the context of Loving myself unconditionally, which I've made many strides to continue furthering those regards. Yet too often, our society allows the taint of patriarchy to diminish the value in interpersonal relationships - be it romantic, platonic or familial. Being alone is alright. Finding peace being alone is great. Subjecting yourself to isolation for the sake of isolation? Just to prove that you can? I don't quite understand anymore.
After you've confronted yourself, there is no greater catalyst for growth than engaging with another soul — vulnerably & in full expression of oneself, of which is the problem most men face. I recognized that I can't meditate my way into learning how to interact vulnerably with another, for that, I must actually interact.
To use an analogy, let's say meditation is like holding your breath. Sure, you can hold your breath while sitting in a chair, but how well can you hold your breath underwater, in rapid currents, or high pressure?
Self-mastery, I believe, should be practiced in concert with other selves. Of course, do the self work. Yet & still, we are not loving the self if we feign understanding of our own emotions. Saying we are at peace or content with feeling deeply any sorrows or joys that come our way, yet we are unable to say the things that truly matter when communicating with others: "I was disappointed when you didn't call", "I felt disregarded when you did not acknowledge my vulnerable expression, that I put forth so much effort to convey", "I am sad & do not want you to go", "I feel depressed & could earnestly use your comfort".
The patriarchal notions are not only perpetuated by men, but also by women. It's all a cycle of pain & violence. The man is indoctrinated to never show or know his emotions. He feels emotional duress. He feels sadness & hurt. He's told crying is what a woman does, or that he can't like certain things — certain music, certain actions, the color pink. He is not acknowledged or validated, but shunned, condemned or whipped into shape for vulnerable expressions. He is invalidated by his peers, learning the mottos: "stop acting like a bitch," "don't be a pussy", "man up", etc.
Place in a pressure cooker & let simmer for 15-20+ years. This lack of emotional expression becomes a trauma that can turn into complete apathy &/or rage.
That rage, apathy & violence is then projected onto a woman in his vicinity. A lover, the mother, a friend. Disregard for their emotions as a way to get back at not being validated in your own. Emotional abuse so embedded in your nature now, that it's unbeknownst to you... or maybe you enjoy it so they too can see what it's like to suffer as an emotional recluse.
The woman then, as a lover, mother or friend, either convinces themselves that its okay to endure that abuse, for that's what they believe love to be... or they simply ignore it or hand it off, as if delegating work passed to them from an overbearing boss. They pass it down to their children, being violent with them or repressing their emotions. They pass it on to their future partners, never validating, belittling them to perpetuate the notion... "you're so emotional", "I thought I married a man", "you're too in your feelings". Perhaps worse, they may simply stand by while a patriarchal man continues to wreak & writhe.
I think it's important to talk about this as men because I do not think it is justifiable for us to consider that Love can or should coexist with abuse or violence. We may have been harmed or disavowed. Again, "It may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility". I understand the emotional withdrawal, the disorienting feelings of not knowing how to feel, not knowing how to heal. I do not understand & do not condone violence, aggression, abuse or rage against women, children or other men — or pets & animals for that matter — as a substitute for doing the inner & outer work confronting the feelings & emotions we were never allowed to feel.
As suggested by Bell Hooks, it takes "Will" to change. It will not be easy. It won't happen overnight. You may still go invalidated. You may even be ridiculed for showing your pure, loving, genuine, scared, sorrowful, joyful, happy heart. You may be denied your rights to it, condemned to being something you are not - a threat, a monster, a womanizer, an abuser. DO NOT let that stop your journey towards full acceptance of your emotions & self-expressions.
I will also add, that this also applies to homosexual men as well. You all too have the right to be fully expressive of your emotions. You all too, fall victim to receiving & projecting the patriarchal stigmas. You all too, have work to do to help us as a whole combat this pervasive mental disorder that is patriarchy. A structure that condones rape culture, that pardon's sexual abusers, that reciprocates & perpetuates the violence by not acknowledging the emotional disregard of those who have become perpetrators. That does not offer a way back, no salvation.
To the heterosexual men, we honestly have to accept our own multitudes. The colorful array of the emotions we can & should display. Let's stop half-assing our support of the LGBTQ+. I'm tired of hearing men act supportive of Pride, then turn around & say "that's gay" as an insult, say inconsiderate gay jokes or pardoning an action or statement they may have made with "no homo" or "pause". (Ya'll know what I'm talking about too, sometimes it's real irrational. As an example, something along the lines of, "oh those candles smell nice, no homo though" .... -__- really? We can't be straight men & also like candles? c'mon son). I digress.
Well... I had a lot to talk about today. I went well over my 500 words. Most of it I felt were imperative insights. If you've stuck around until the end, thank you. I hope these words have at least inspired you to reflect on your own life experiences, giving you the permission to feel, to express, to heal. Don't let this patriarchal society force you into their mold. Don't let it condemn you to isolation & apathy. If you truly want to know self, & to know Love — boundless, ecstatic Love — Don't give in. Let go of the rage, let go of the apathy, let go of the disregard, the nonchalance, the self-pity. Endure the taunts from society, from your peers. Endure the invalidation from your loved ones, help them see you fully. Endure the ridicule of your vulnerabilities, and be Free.
All the best,
Sean aka Mr. Wildenfree
It’s wise to be cautious & considerate, it’s unwise to fall victim to the symptoms of chronic fear & fear-mongering.