Until recently I didn’t know that “men’s work” was a thing. Programs, learning and ideas to help men become, better men.
What does ‘better’ mean? Why do we need to become better men?
To understand this topic is to understand archetypes. This word is as new to me as men’s work.
In Jungian psychology, an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious.
For me, an archetype is an energetic signature, linked to a consistent, similar set of actions or behaviours. Understanding this made it easier for me to recognise and understand different parts of myself.
Archetypes are at the basis of all stories and mythology. The way that I have used this modality has been to recognise different parts of myself and to name them. Once we see these parts of ourselves as individuals we are better able to understand them.
- What are their strengths?
- What are their blind spots?
- Are they given enough space to be “themselves”?
Here are some examples of archetypes each of us has inside ourselves:
The Inner kid: The part of us that likes to play, have fun, make a mess, be outside. As we grow up, many of us don’t make a lot of time for our inner child. This results in taking life too seriously and not making time for fun.
The maiden/princess: This is the young feminine part inside us. Remember we all have all of these parts whether we’re in a male body or a female body. A maiden as you expect is a romantic. Loves beauty and nice things. Has feminine qualities like openness and collaboration.
The warrior. The one that’s responsible for keeping the rest of the “family” safe. In a world where we need to protect ourselves and ensure we don’t get taken advantage of, many of us have an overworked and exhausted warrior.
The rebel or the trickster. This is the part of us that’s looking for ways to disrupt the status quo. It uses secrets and pranks to question established rules.
I’ve identified over a dozen archetypes in myself and taken the time to name them. I’ve also listed their strengths and blind spots. When I get anxious or frustrated I take the time to check-in and see who it is that’s getting frustrated.
Here’s an example.
My rebel’s name is”Tyler”, named after Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt’s alter ego from the movie Fight Club. Tyler doesn’t like rules, establishment and being told what to do. His energy has been a huge part of why I haven’t had many jobs working for others. I am always questioning the status quo and seldom make a decision because someone else suggested it. Tyler needs to make sure we’ve checked it out for ourselves. Awesome, and a superpower in many ways. But where does this energetic superpower move into a potential blindspot? In airports.
There’s a part of me (Tyler) that feels rage when I go through an airport. Herded through gates.
“Take your shoes off”.
“Not your belt”.
“Laptop out your bag.”
“No iPad goes in your bag!”
“Go through the x-ray machine”.
Tyler also gets annoyed when someone else decides if I can travel or be admitted into a new country or not.
The way I now manage airports is I let Diana be in control. Diana is my princess. She can talk to anyone, is always friendly and loves the adventure of going to new places. With her in control and Tyler relaxing (probably smoking a cigarette in the corner) – airports are a breeze.
So what’s the link with being a more integrated man?
I believe that many of the problems that we’re experiencing in the world right now are a result of unintegrated men holding too much power. The strong masculine archetype of planning, strategy and progress has moved humanity forward. We’ve invented things, improved processes and created empires that have made life easier. Engineering, agriculture, and governments all progressed and boomed as a result of the strong masculine archetype of being able to plan, lead and move forward.
What are the blind spots of the masculine archetype?
- Unhealthy competition.
- The exclusion of many and the concentration of power and resources with a few.
- Progress and profit above everything else.
- Structures that have grown so big that they no longer serve the people they were built for in the first place.
- Our planet viewed as a resource from which we can continually take without consideration of the impact.
How could understanding archetypes fix this?
The list above is actually an expression of the ‘immature masculine’. It’s like someone that moves through the world in a man’s body but operate from the archetype of an immature boy. We see this archetypal behaviour in movies. The young warrior gets given a sword and he starts finding any reason to use it. He needs to learn that to be powerful and respected as a leader, that his presence, patience and virtue are his strongest weapons. His sword is seldom used. And, when he uses it, it’s from a place of love.
Why do we see so much immature masculine in our world?
Changes in society mean most men have not gone through a healthy initiation from a boy, into manhood. These initiations were a big part of tribal living in previous generations. Careful rituals were created that boys would go through to teach them the important lessons required to become a man. They learnt the important life skills required to live in the community. Things like: power, intimacy and service were taught. The young man experienced elements of trial to establish resilience. Many young men today learn many of these important life skills from their peer group or on the internet. (Aside: We can also see these immature masculine traits in women. They show up in places like the boardroom, where to be heard women use bullying and ‘power-over’ tactics to get ahead.)
The mature masculine has integrated the feminine archetypes.
I believe that many of the problems listed above are the result of humans in male bodies with an over-developed warrior and an immature masculine. When certain parts of ourselves are over-developed other parts aren’t given space. It’s like that one person at a dinner party that knows everything. They dominate the conversation and don’t give anyone else a chance to speak. Imagine a dinner party with Donald Trump at the table … we all understand the immature masculine.
What if existing patriarchal structures embraced mature masculine qualities? How might they be different?
- Increased awareness of our actions and their impact on others.
- A more collaborative and inclusive system. Less ‘competing against’ and more ‘working together’.
- A mindset shift from scarcity to abundance.
- “Your winning doesn’t mean fewer resources for me”.
- A deeper listening to our environment and a closer, more harmonious relationship with our planet.
What are the practical ways that you can start to develop mature masculinity?
These are my five steps for men to stop the hustle and show up authentically.
1. Ask for help
Somewhere our culture told us that we need to get things done on our own. To solider on alone until the task is complete. This is a superpower of the masculine archetype. But, the shadow is burnout. Working alone on a project or problem without asking for support.
Asking for help opens up the space for authentic conversation and support. It can also provide a fresh and objective perspective from someone else to solve the thing you’ve been battling with alone.
How does asking for help make you a better man?
- Tasks could be completed sooner.
- A potentially better solution that includes the ideas of others.
- You’re not burnt out from carrying the load on your own.
- The people around you see that you’re a human being that needs support from time to time.
Ask for help.
Asking for help is also vulnerable.
2. Recognise vulnerability as a superpower
Until a few years ago I thought that being vulnerable was a sign of weakness.
Here’s a personal experience to unpack these first two points. Eight years ago I was living in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had developed a deep yearning for something more meaningful in my life. I didn’t know this at the time. What I felt was anxiety, stress, boredom and always comparing myself to my peer group.
The business that I’d started was beginning to fail and I told no one about it. When someone would ask how I, or my business was, I’d be as vague as possible and shift the conversation.
“Yeah all good thanks, how about you?”
My internal narrative: “I am a successful, single, entrepreneur”. Admitting that I was unhappy and my business failing, felt like my identity crumbling. What would I be without my story?
After months of this continued frustration, I made a decision. I was going to sell my business and travel. Go on a journey to find myself. Moving ahead with this decision required letting go of my old story.
As I started to tell people my new life path a strange thing happened. Rather than getting criticism which I’d expected, I received support.
“Wow that’s amazing I wish I could be doing that”
“You’re so brave to make such a big decision”
“I can see you’d been unhappy for a while this is the right choice for you, well done”.
Looking back I can see how being vulnerable would have served me. Rather than hiding my shadows from the people closest to me, I would have shared them. Rather than me thinking they’d see me as a failure, I’d have realised that they were there to support me. Not being vulnerable kept me trapped.
Not being vulnerable also doesn’t create an authentic place to build relationships. Energetically, people could feel something was out for me, but I said things were fine. How could I expect them to ever feel safe in a connection like that?
I wish that earlier when things had been tough that instead of hiding my frustration that I’d spoken about it. I wish that I’d been vulnerable. I would have seen that being vulnerable didn’t destroy my personal brand, that in fact, it builds trust.
When we’re vulnerable with others, people often share a similar situation or experience that they’ve had. When we’re vulnerable it creates a safe space to connect with others. Conversations move from surface level to a rich authentic engagement.
A superpower of the mature feminine archetype is the ability to share authentically and to create a safe space for others to do that same.
Show your vulnerability its a superpower!
3. Embrace and show emotions
Masculine stoicism can be a powerful way to keep moving forward in spite of challenges on our path. We keep our emotions out of the way so that we can progress with the task at hand.
After an extended period of suppressing our emotions though, we become disconnected from our emotional body. Our emotions are an important guidance system. They let us know when we’re in alignment with what’s happening in our world. They signal to us when we need to slow down and when things aren’t in flow. Many lifestyle diseases are a result of continued stress and the suppression of unprocessed emotions.
Part of my tough-guy strategy in the past had been to show anger or my frustration. I’d get angry about sales numbers in our company meeting as a way to get the sales team out selling more. But isn’t that showing emotions? Yes, and I only ever showed those hard emotions as a strategy to get what I wanted.
Showing emotion means sharing all your emotions. Telling your team that you’re worried about the numbers. Explaining your fears about the overheads to pay. Like vulnerability and asking for help, showing your emotions allow people to see you as a human being.
If you can’t remember the last time that you cried, it’s been too long.
4. Prioritise honesty
One of the books that have had the biggest impact on my life has been “Lying” by Sam Harris. It made me realise where in my life small lies had created a lot of compilation and hurt. Many of these lies weren’t blatant. They were dressed up as “I don’t want to hurt their feelings with 100% honesty so I’ll tell them …”
This was a pattern I saw in some of my romantic connections. I believed that being 100% honest about my desires were could mean missing an opportunity. Or, if I no longer felt an attraction to someone that I’d been connecting with I’d sugar-coat the ending. Rather than “Thank you so much for the last few months, I’m not feeling an attraction to you like I used to … ” I’d go with:
“I think we should not see each other any more. I do like you, but I’ve got so much happening in my life right now I don’t have space for a connection”.
There was a part of me that felt that little white lie about “I do like you” somehow made the break-up easier to manage.
Bullshit. It’s a lie that creates confusion. Being radically honest isn’t easy. But it is loving. It provides the full story to whoever you’re in a connection with, romantic or otherwise.
The decision to be completely honest with everyone in my life has drastically simplified my life. It’s also built stronger, more authentic relationships.
Another story of how radical honesty has served me. I was in Mexico two years ago. I met a girl on Tinder. We did dinner and went on a few dates. We had a great time together. Before we connected intimately I told her that I didn’t feel a long term connection between us. I was happy to spend time with her for the five weeks I was planning to be in Mexico. But, then I had plans to leave and travel again, on my own.
Sad, she decided that she didn’t want to see each other anymore. We parted ways graciously. A few days later she called me and wanted to go for coffee. She told me that she’d been thinking about it and wanted to spend the time together despite my plans to leave.
With both of us on the same page, we had an amazing time together exploring Mexico and the Baja. Being honest upfront gave her all the information that she needed to make an empowered decision.
(There’s a version of me from my past that would have held this crucial piece of information back for fear of it messing up my plans. You can imagine the complexities that could have been created as we spent more time together).
5. Stop leaking gas on sex, power and money
This is a topic for an entire book. ‘Leaking gas‘ is an analogy we use at Live More Perfect Days. It’s used to explain how we spend our daily allocation of thoughts. Understanding manifestation is understanding that ‘what we think about, we bring about’.
Develop a self-awareness practise so that you get better at recognising what you’re thinking about. Once you can better track your thoughts, you can start change what shows up in your life.
On reflection, I realise that I spent a huge amount of time in a loop of desire wanting to make money. Making money fuelled a story that I believed would result in making me more attractive to woman, and lead to sex. This entire loop was routed in some story of ‘I’m not enough’. I believed that sex was somehow validation that I was worthy of love and connection. Once we see what’s driving our behaviour we can unpack the work we need to do to heal these parts of ourselves.
You are already enough.
I did my first men’s retreat in November last year. It was a powerful experience to realise many men have the same fears and doubt when we create a space to share them. Many of us are carrying so much collective fear, guilt and shame. But, once we put them down we’re empowered to show up more authentically in our work, our families and our communities.
If you want to help change some of the challenges we’re seeing in the world right now, start by being that change. If you want to see more honest and authentic men in power, develop honesty and authenticity in yourself.
At Live More Perfect Days we create programs and tools to help men and woman identify and integrate all the parts of yourself. Once you can track your own stories, you can change these stories and change anything in your life. The first step on this journey is to get clear on a plan for your life. Access the My Perfect Day System for free to get started.
The power of vulnerability: Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In this poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.