Servant, Slave and Scapegoat

By Paul Elam

“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified mis-understanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche says, ‘as though the day were here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal––carries the cross of the redeemer––not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”  

Joseph Campbell ~ The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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Anyone suggesting that they have ideas that will actually help men, psychologically speaking, has an obligation to place their philosophy, their rationale, front and center for men to see. I also understand that most practitioners don’t really do that, especially in what I loosely define as the “mental health” industry.

Usually what you get is a short and sputtering list of platitudes about “wholeness,” finding your “inner this” or “inner that,” accompanied by an obscure definition of the practitioner’s approach. It is either that or you get nothing but the bill.

Sometimes, often actually, they will inform you that they subscribe to feminist theory, which is an admission of their philosophy, except to the extent that it should be viewed cautiously, regardless of your sex.

This writing is intended to explain what I do in regards to assisting men, specifically in their more modern struggle for identity and an understanding of where they fit in the world. This is particularly important as the lack of those things may well result in some serious problems. Among them are family dysfunction, substance abuse, suicide, violence, anxiety, depression, shame and a lack of self-respect that often crosses the line into self-hatred.

It is not that the current crisis of male identity is the sole cause of these problems. It certainly isn’t. For example, family dysfunction is a self-perpetuating malady passed down from parents to children. In and of itself it has little to do with modern masculinity. Alcoholism is not a “male problem,” nor is violence or other forms of abuse, though those practicing under a feminist shingle may send that very message.

When assessing problems, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between cause and symptom, between a problem and its source. Does family dysfunction cause substance abuse or is substance abuse the cause of the dysfunction? Is violence at the root of relationship problems or do relationship problems fuel and promote the violence? Do communication problems cause hostility or does hostility cause communication problems?

Are all these problems symbiotic, just a teeter-totter interaction of various pathologies feeding each other? If so, can we ameliorate one problem by successfully intervening on another?

I suggest that there may be some truth answering those last two questions in the affirmative. There are, however, workarounds, back doors if you will, to what may well form part of the root structure of an array of problems with no readily visible connection. The good news about that is that you don’t need to see the connection initially in order to do something about it.

The philosophy here is that solutions begin with a recognition that there is indeed a crisis in male identity and male self-respect. It affects all of us, gay or straight, black or white or other race, regardless of religion or socioeconomic status.

Fifty years of gender politics have thrust all men into a new paradigm of sexual politics with no rule book. We are now three generations of men who have been pummeled with messages of who we are, almost all of them wrong, and who we are supposed to be, almost all of them destructive in one way or another. Our mental health industry is one of the prime proponents of these misguided ideas. They are espoused, for profit, at the expense of our men and boys.

The Old School Archetypes

The classic, historical masculine archetypes of Hero, Villain, Ruler, Warrior, Creator, Sage, Rebel and Explorer, all of which either defined what men chose or what they were driven to be. They provided men a model of what they chose not to be as well. They gifted men with a sense of identity and purpose, a rudder for their navigation of life. To a great degree (with some downsides) they worked. Jungian analysts, in the days before the ideological corruption of the field of psychology would likely tell you that these archetypes are rooted in our biology.[1]

It is also important to note that all these archetypes are anthropomorphic projections of the human male experience. They took root in our earliest mythologies because they were already in play in human life. Strangely, “mythology” told the real story of our lives. Every epic battle, great journey, tragedy and triumph of mythical figures mirrored the internal and external experience of real human beings in some way or another.

And so it went from epoch to epoch.

All that has been supplanted with a new and toxic narrative. To simplify it, we now live in a Zeitgeist where all male archetypes have been reduced to that of Villain, with the expectation that they will assume the role of Hero when needed…and directed.  The ongoing expectations of men to protect, provide, sacrifice and endure have not changed. The change in narrative, however, demands that recognition and honoring of those things ceases in favor of persistent demonization.

Similar changes have happened in the lives of women. The Manipulator, the Bitch, the Saboteur, the Queen and the Damsel in Distress have usurped the timeless archetypes of mother (Demeter), daughter (Persephone), lover (Aphrodite), civic life and learning (Athena), etc.. While all these and other female archetypes are on full social display, the spectrum of those archetypes has begun to degrade into a vacillation between two roles based on immediate perception. Women are universally seen as the Queen, unless they are in distress or claim to be in distress. Once the perception of female distress registers, social consciousness reverts them to being the original Damsel in Distress. It is as though they live in a perpetual state of flux between empowered and helpless, depending on which is more advantageous, just as we see play out today across the geopolitical landscape.

That, too, is ultimately heading for a crisis of identity in women, though for the purpose of this discussion we need not explore that further.

The denial of all this, and the assumption that it has not had a tremendous impact on the psyches of men, has left them in an emotional and social wasteland that produces more of the psychosocial problems already identified in this writing.

This leads to an inescapable conclusion. While men do need assistance with specific problems, they are also suffering in a famine of functional archetypes. Failing to recognize this, even if we seek in earnest to help them with problems symptomatic of that deficit, is putting a Band-Aid on potentially mortal wounds.

If we are to help men, it requires us to enable them to nurture a new narrative of themselves and their lives. They need new archetypes that foster a new sense of identity if they are going to thrive in a new age.

So what exactly is an archetype?

The Greek root words are archein, meaning “original or old,” and typos, meaning “Model or type.” Archetype: Original Model. Archetypes are the old, original models on which men, in the unconscious recesses of their biology, shape and mold their lives.

Perhaps in the days when there were payoffs, e.g. honor, appreciation, respect and status, men’s unconscious movement toward one archetype or another made more sense.

We do not live in those times any more, and we haven’t for most or all of your lifetime. What remains for most men in modern life is a world of expectation without reward, burden without honor and service without self.

Most men know on some level that this is true, but many have a very hard time facing it out of fear. Fear of the loss of social approval, the loss of love and the loss of what they imagine is the only space the world grants them.

Some of the fear is at least superficially warranted. Facing these issues means reaching a level of consciousness sufficient to make you a bad fit in the world of the walking blind. It means a new mythology with new archetypes born of a newer and more accurate picture of the world.

The daunting challenge is that men can no longer afford the luxury of allowing biology alone to write their story. Technology and ideology have rendered that too dangerous. The old model makes men far too easy to manipulate and far too willing to comply with the manipulation to their own detriment. You can find this same story throughout classic mythology so it is nothing new. Those, however, were cautionary tales, the moral lesson from which has been erased from the cultural consciousness. Most dare not speak honestly of Hera and Medea in the modern age.

The results of that resembles a modern genocide of the male soul.

Fortunately, that which has been forgotten can be learned again. And that which has been learned in error can be corrected. The fruits of that effort are the restoration and “wholeness” so easily promised and seldom delivered.

The risks of embracing this on a personal level is actually an illusion. Once you walk the newer path you will most probably find you don’t particularly want to return to the old one. The feigned approval of others loses its luster when the vision clears.

Despite appearances, all of this is really not so arcane. It is actually quite simple. You can start with most any problem in life; relationship and family issues are a good start. Map the mythology that got you there, that determined your actions and reactions. Were you playing the role of the Hero? The Warrior? Were you surrendering to the Siren’s Song? Was the Damsel in Distress a façade with something more sinister behind the surface impression?

Did a faulty narrative of your place and worth in this world lead you directly into a painful wall? And if that is true, do you have the fortitude to face it and change the story?

Imagine the consciously constructed mythology that would lead you to a better place with better people. Imagine the story of you being written by your own hand.

The solutions are not always easy, but they are made much more accessible when you make the decision to clear your own path; when you are at the helm, navigating your own way, when the stars in the sky are arranged according to your own dreams and desires.

How many miserable professional men out there can remember a time when they aspired to be artisans, writers or artists, only to watch those dreams buckle beneath the oppressive weight of a story that they did not write?

How many desperate men are clinging to the role of provider and protector, having become automatons in loveless, abusive marriages that have ground their self-respect into the dust?

How many men have stories that end with a bottle of scotch and a handgun because they cannot breathe and do not know where to find free air?

Men need an alternative to the new mythology’s archetypes of Servant, Slave and Scapegoat. The only thing preventing that from happening is being trapped in or clinging to a narrative they did not produce and which has never served them.

We have seen the results of men living in a world that is devoid of any honoring of men’s roles or even of men’s being. How can men cope in this sort of world?  How can therapists or anyone else facilitate a man moving from this restrictive, prison-like consciousness into a more truly masculine path that embraces his well-being, self-interest and happiness?

That is what my work is about. Not just a place for men to tell their stories, but to author and own them with support and encouragement from other men.

[1]Andrew Samuels, Jung and the Post-Jungians ISBN 0415059046, Routledge (1986)

James Hillman: Gender and Individuality

The space devoted in Utne Reader and The Nation to Katha Pollitt’s well-written piece on gender issues represents the continued disproportionate attention given to this contemporary symptom in our national psychological debate–the virtues of feminism and of the men’s movement notwithstanding. Is gender worth the trees felled for bringing it so often to print?

I have three main objections to discussions of gender and would like to make one recommendation. First, I follow old Alfred Adler in considering all oppositional thinking to be a neurotic mental activity. The male-female opposition was for him the most basic of the polar pairs, and hence the most neurotic. This explains why it is so crazy-making trying to step aside from gender arguments once they are broached in friendly conversations, public forums, or academic articles. You get immediately entwined, for/against, better/worse, and reduced to opposing arguments, which bears witness to Adler’s thesis that one is trapped inside an insoluble neurotic loop once gender enters a discussion.

Second, gender is a class concept, dividing the populace of the world into some three billion folks amassed on either side of a barbed conceptual fence. A class concept does fundamental injustice to the complexities and idiosyncrasies of individuals, who are by definition distinct from one another, and only alike in the most vague and gross ways. To know any individual, you do worst by starting off with the widest category she or he belongs to and do best by being most precise. I cannot ever know myself “as a man,” and can never find my “true manhood,” “essential masculinity,” etc.

The class concept exists only as an abstraction, apart from actual human beings, each one different, none exactly fitting any class definition, unless that definition is to be diluted beyond significance, Even if the idea “man” is raised to a universal archetype, it is knowable only as it presents itself in a particular person. I cannot know “the masculine” or “the feminine,” but l can know myself and you in terms of specific traits, features, behaviors, and quirks. And it is just so that I wish to be known and to know others.

Third, this obsession with the hurt child of the past and with gender by the psychologically interested citizenry continues two massive diversions from the issues at the core of our national malaise, issues such as racism; violence; inability to grieve, repent, and hold accountable; worship of The Economy; retreat to security; our addiction to innocence (denial); and that prime event of the ’90s — our sinking ship. The whole bloody planet—its species, primordial peoples, biosphere, differentiated languages, gene pools—is sliding fast into extinction. As the ship goes down, does it matter whether it’s men or women who are the first to drown? Even Victims can pull an oar.

Oh yes, the recommendation: a ban on gender articles for anyone over 16 years of age.

James Hillman
Thompson, CT
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Source: Utne Reader, 1993 edition.

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Addendum: Further remarks by James Hillman on the gender question, from alternative sources:

“Another one of the fake issues is gender. We pit men against women and all the bookstores are filled with talk of men against women. It’s irrelevant! — this gender-war. It’s bullshit! It should be men and women against the oppressors.” [Discussion with Stephen Capen – 1996]

And finally, I boast this triumph: a book with a passionate psychological intent whose passion was not diverted into the indulgences of the gender war. As civilization subsides into its own waste deposits, it doesn’t matter whether you are feminine or masculine or any composite of them. We all dissolve together. Far more urgent matters than gender call out to the passion of psychology.” [Introduction to The Soul’s Code – 1996]

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JH: when intellectuals spend their time on the gender conflict without realizing that we’re all gonna die together, and that the environmental disasters affect men and women equally, and that gender discussions are irrelevant to the major questions of the time. They’re not a matter of breaking through the glass ceiling. They’re a matter of the planet, a matter of the distortion of economics that keeps the thing the way it is. We’ve been taught that big government is a horror in the last five years. It’s not big government, it’s big corporations. If you wipe out big government, there’s nothing that can oppose the big corporations. Nothing. The rape of the planet is not done by big governments, mainly. It’s done by helpless governments in the face of big corporations. Brazil, for example. And the gender thing distracts us, because it’s personalized, it’s immediate, it’s my own personal battle with my woman, or her personal battle with me. They become magnified by this. And then the resentments of years of oppression.

CP: It’s not just at the level of political exigency, either. I recall your writing at one point that there’s no respect for gender at the deepest levels of the psyche.

JH: Fate isn’t a gender matter. Death isn’t a gender matter.

[CP interview with JH]
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Feelings Don’t Care About Your facts

By Elizabeth Hobson

Stories frequently succeed in arousing strong feelings, like when we read a novel and become moved to tears or anger, or when we see scenes in a movie which make our skin crawl, give goose bumps, or make our hair stand on its proverbial end. Such strong feelings, and the stories that generate them, seem to put a lie to the popular phrase “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings”. The reverse seems more likely in evidence, even when we know that a fantasy novel or movie is not factually real – our feelings remain dominant.

This is why old-world mythologies, complete with kooky beliefs, have flourished and sustained large civilizations – civilizations which thrived and expanded under the guiding influence of those same unfactual stories. Even when the stories promote a geocentric universe with a flat earth, or mythical gods requiring human sacrifices, deadly wars or violence over the divinely mandated length of men’s beards, or whether a woman’s mandated head covering is pleasing to the divine powers. You would think these things would cause a civilization to collapse and die out, however it appears that those more rational civilizations who deconstruct myths have birth rates plummeting whilst cultures based in fanciful stories enjoy explosive birth rates.

Perhaps it’s time to consider the painful possibility that feelings don’t always care about our facts. That’s certainly the case in many cultures, and it may indeed be a default setting of human beings generally – we are story creatures, and facts are often seen as an affront that offends both the stories we believe in and feelings associated with them.

Writing in the year 1984,3 professor emeritus of communication Walter R. Fisher explored these two approaches to reality – the approaches of both story and rationality – and named them 1. ‘the narrative paradigm’ and 2. ‘the rational world paradigm.’

Fisher describes the narrative paradigm in much the same way as I am in this talk; as a reflection of the fact that we use stories to communicate with each other, and to provide a shared map of meaning among a group of people.

Stories help by gathering the scattered bric-a-brac of everyday existence and combining it into a coherent whole, or what we might refer to as a template, that we use to orient ourselves and our goals in harmony with the shared orientation and goals of others. In short stories provide us with a shareable world.

As we have seen, religious stories and folk tales, can be both benevolent by way of organizing the masses into a harmonious moral unit, or they can be destructive as we see in stories promoting warfare against innocent nations, and even those stories which, today, promote gender wars.

What Fisher refers to alternatively as the ‘rational world paradigm’ consists in five presuppositions, which I can paraphrase as: 1. That humans are essentially rational beings, 2. That human decision-making and communication is a form of argument depending on clear-cut inferential and implicative structure, 3. That the conduct of such argument is ruled by legal, scientific and legislative dictates (etc), 4. That rationality is determined by subject matter knowledge, argumentative ability, and skill in employing the rules of advocacy in given fields, and finally, 5. The world is a set of logical puzzles which can be resolved through logical analysis and application of reason conceived as an argumentative construct.

Fisher notes the frequent failure of the rational world paradigm in the modern context, and goes on to conclude that:

This failure suggests to me that the problem in restoring rationality to everyday argument may be the assumption that the reaffirmation of the rational world paradigm is the only solution. The position I am taking is that another paradigm may offer a better solution, one that will provide substance not only for public moral argument, but also all other forms of argument, for human communication in general. My answer to the second question then, is: “Yes I think so.”

Adoption of the narrative paradigm, I hasten to repeat, does not mean rejection of all the good work that has been done; it means a rethinking of it and investigating new moves that can be made to enrich our understanding of communicative interaction.1

The narrative communication paradigm, or more simply the use of stories, has been criticised from a rational perspective when applied to scientific or legal issues, with the charge being that there is no way to make a choice between two equally coherent narratives. This is a valid complaint, but not one that practitioners of the rational world paradigm completely escape – this due to their frequent preferencing of one set of data over another, of placing the accent on one set of findings while neglecting others – a tendency that renders “rationalist” conclusions more subjective than they might like to admit – just like those of the story tellers.

Ultimately the rational and narrative approaches need to work in tandem if we wish to provide strong results, but at present the men’s movement has been wary of narrative approaches due to their tendency to subjectivity and corruption. Unfortunately, storytelling remains the preferred mode of communication and decision-making of the human species, therefore we can’t simply wish it away as irrelevant because that would be to deny the fact that humans have evolved to be narrative creatures – Homo Narrans – who preference communication via stories. It is a biological and evolutionary fact, so it isn’t going away, and hating it will do little to change its biological necessity.

If story is here to stay, then we need to enter the fray. We need to get down into the alphabet soup and wrestle with those destructive narratives perpetuated by feminists and others who would reduce men and boys to a tiny fraction of their lived experience. This can be done by challenging any element of the dominant gender narratives currently circulating – by amending the stories to conclude the male hero is “good” rather than “toxic,” or by crafting new stories altogether that incorporate the positive experiences of men and boys.

That is my challenge to you all today: not to do away with rational or data-based approaches, but to broaden them by offering new endings to the destructive stories currently on offer, re-narrating them, or by telling new stories in ways so compelling and emotionally moving that they displace the destructive ones currently on offer.

Source:

[1] Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral argument. Communications Monographs, 51(1), 1-22.