The battle of the sexes is as old as the sexes themselves. But what lies at the heart of it? One of my guides along my path as a man and as a healer, once told me something that might shed some light on the subject. This is what he defines as the two biggest problems in the world.
“The first is that, on average, the level of individual self-love of the people inhabiting the planet is terribly low. This is not the self-love of the identity loving itself. That is what is meant by megalomaniac, self-aggrandizement etc. This is the inability of the identity, that which you think you are, to receive the love of that which you really are. The second problem is the inability of women to give their sexual energy to men, primarily due to their anger, coupled with the even worse inability of men to receive the sexual energy of women, primarily due to their fear.” – Greg Ehmka
What does this really mean, and what might be learned from it? Why anger and why fear? Why the dichotomy between the sexes?
Personally, I would change Greg’s words of “sexual energy” to “sexual and/or love energies.” It seems to me, at least from my journey though life and relationships, that these two often come intertwined when it comes to sexual relationships. Sometimes sexual energy might be the sticking point, and other times love energy might be the sticking point. Sometimes the fear and/or anger does not get in the way of sexual energy exchange, but does interfere very much with opening through trust to love.
The emotion that women have the least permission for in society is anger. Stop and consider the nasty words, the insults and invectives we use to describe women. Most of them are about anger. She’s a bitch, a cunt, etc. She’s described as castrating, conniving and manipulative. These are words of anger and violence.
Society is willing to accept most other “negative” emotions from women. We don’t mind at all if a woman is sad or depressed; we give her permission for that. We don’t feel surprised when a woman is afraid; we also give her permission for that. If she gets angry or violent, however, we simply won’t tolerate that. We call her all manner of ill names, and assign blame and shame to her in an attempt to silence her.
The emotion that men have the least permission for in society is fear. Stop and consider the like words we use to insult men. Most of them are about fear. He’s a pussy, a wuss and a wimp. He’s described as cowardly, spineless and chicken. These are words of fear and doubt.
Society is willing to accept most other “negative” emotions of men. We are not surprised at all if a man becomes angry or violent; we expect those emotions from men. We may even give a man permission to cry in today’s world, though we may expect him to do it in private or only with those closest to him. The sadness and depression were once also taboo for men, but this is changing, and we can see it in portrayals of men in the media. If he gets fearful or doubtful, however, we simply will not tolerate that. We call him all manner of ill names, and assign blame and shame to him in an attempt to silence him.
The Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine
Many qualities might be said to embody either the sacred masculine or the sacred feminine. What seem to be the roots of these within the context of intimate relationships might be answered ten different ways by ten different people.
From my perspective, the essential element of the sacred feminine within the context of an intimate relationship seems to be the giving of love unconditionally to one’s partners, lovers, friends, and family. In essence, one of her highest and most sacred functions as a woman in relationship is to say, act and believe that “my loved ones are perfect and accepted by me just as they are.”
Also from my perspective, the essential element of the sacred masculine within the context of an intimate relationship seems to be commitment to taking care of one’s partners, lovers, friends and family through many means, perhaps most importantly by defending them from the dangers of the world by confronting those dangers with truth. In essence, one of his highest and most sacred functions as a man in relationship is to say, act and believe that “I will see to it that my loved ones are safe and cared for, and defended against the dangers of the outside world.”
The Third Biggest Problem in the World
In our intimate relationships, we often find ourselves running into this problem. Women’s unexpressed anger toward the men they love gets in the way of their relating to men. Men’s unexpressed fear of the women they love gets in the way of their relating to women.
One of the “cures” for this “ill” proposed by many in New Age groups, or in modern psychotherapy, is to talk about and express these things to each other. Sometimes this can be effective, and at other times this may be a very dangerous and unpredictable road to travel. Why? Because perhaps beneath Greg’s two biggest problems in the world can be found a third biggest problem.
“The third biggest problem in the world is that people, on average, tend to label their fear and anger emotions “negative,” and then make themselves or their partners wrong, guilty or shamed when these emotions are expressed. This may sometimes result in an inability in women to retain their mental images of men as “masculine” and loving partners after they have witnessed the depths of male fear, coupled with an even worse inability in men to retain their mental images of women as “feminine” and loving partners after having witnessed the depths of female anger.” ~ e.b. sarver
I make no judgment about either men or women, nor do I intend offense to either men or women with these statements. They are observations of what I see in life. From what I have witnessed in many years of helping people with relationships and also working on my own relationships, many women have difficulty seeing men as capable of fulfilling that sacred masculine role as a committed caretaker and defender of his family and loved ones after they’ve seen just how incredibly wounded and terrified men can be underneath the bogus “macho” exterior that men tend to wear out in the world. Perhaps this is why men’s tribal initiations almost always take place in remote locations, nowhere near women. Such initiations might be done in private to conceal from the women of the tribe the fact that men sometimes have doubt and fear about our ability to provide for and defend our loved ones.
It is a double-sided coin, however, as most dichotomies between men and women seem to be. Many men have difficulty seeing the women we love as truly able to love us unconditionally, including our fears, doubts and insecurities, especially after we’ve seen just how deeply wounded and filled with rage they are underneath that bogus “feminine” exterior they tend to wear out in the world. Perhaps this is why women’s tribal initiations also tend to take place in remote locations, nowhere near the men. Such initiations might be done in private to conceal from men of the tribe the fact that women sometimes have anger and even rage about the men in their lives, which can seem like just the opposite of unconditional love.
It seems to me that our tribal ancestors point us in one possible direction toward healing these issues. Perhaps our ancestors’ solution to this dilemma was to go off alone with the men in order to obtain the wisdom of some of the elders and mostly to commiserate with those our own age. Men beat the drums, scream in pain, and perhaps even ritualistically act out fearful situations to show just how terrified we really are to the people who understand it best. Namely, the other ones of us who are expected to wear that “macho” exterior around. Perhaps our ancestors’ sent women off for their initiations alone for a similar reason.
Truly, we may only guess at the motivations our ancestors had for splitting such rituals off into segregated activities. From what I have seen in my work on my own relationships, as well as helping other men and women in their relationships, leads me to believe that our ancestors may have been on to something, and perhaps we should listen with fresh ears, rather than seeing the sexual segregation as an example of plain old sexism.
Our Emotions Lack Meaning
The Buddhists and Taoists wrote of this centuries ago, and the idea has been taken up by some in certain branches of modern psychotherapy, as well as alternative therapies. The essence of the idea is that there is no “meaning” to anything. The only “meaning” to be found in life is found between your own ears; it is generated by your own mind, and not to be confused with objective reality.
This is also true of our emotions. They lack any true meaning. One may feel fear in one moment and love in the next. One may be in happiness one moment, and angry enough to do violence in the next, and then back to feeling friendly again a few moments later. One may experience the same set of circumstances two days in a row, and on one day have no emotional reaction, and on the next, become extremely annoyed and intolerant. None of these emotions have a meaning with regards to the object of the emotional content.
Just because I am angry with my lover in the present, it does not mean that I love her any less, nor does it mean that I should end my relationship with her. There is no meaning or permanence to it. It is merely a passing emotion.
Can You Take the “Bad News”?
With all of the above already said, many women and men are truly able to take the big ugly truths of their lovers in stride. Many men can experience the vicious power of unexpressed female rage and still retain all of the love and juice in their relationship, and continue to see our partners as capable of unconditional love towards their loved ones. Many women can experience the crippling power of unexpressed male fear, and continue to see their partners as capable of remaining committed to taking care of and defending their partners from the world at large.
Many others do not seem so readily able to handle the tough emotions, no matter how enlightened or modern they consider themselves to be. These are ingrained societal messages we’ve accepted as truths from birth, and not so easily cast aside in favor of a new paradigm.
From my perspective, being able to take the “bad news” about our loved ones’ ability to fulfill on their sacred masculine or feminine roles, whether they are our romantic partners, our best friends, or our family members, sadly does not seem to be a trait most humans share. Again, this is okay. There is nothing wrong here. There is no meaning to our inability to deal with those closest to us on this level. It is simply how many people act, and I have no value judgment of it being right or wrong.
I know that for me, I can often receive a woman’s anger without judgment only if she can receive my fear without judgment in return. For me, I want that experience of sharing our fear/anger and having it mean nothing to be a mutual experience, or I tend to break before I bend. This is an area and issue I am working on in myself, and it presently benefits me to deal with it among men, unless my female partner is ready to accept me in the face of my fears.
From what I’ve seen in many new-ager / self-helper communities, this particular issue trips couples up fairly frequently; the idea that they should empty all this difficult stuff in the presence of each other.
Men’s and Women’s Circles
I am putting out an intention to the universe for more men’s and women’s circles where expressing our hidden emotions in a safe place can be not only allowed, but encouraged and appreciated. I am adding to that intention that men’s and women’s separate work may focus on the integration of the notion of “emotions and beliefs lack meaning,” in such a way that we may more often come together and share these deep and often hidden emotions of fear and anger with each other directly and in a safe way that supports our continued relationships.
One day, society’s messages may change, and men and women may both have a greater degree of permission to express all our emotions, but until then, if you are one of those men or women who struggles with seeing an angry or fearful partner as still fulfilling his or her sacred masculine or feminine role in your relationship, then perhaps expressing such emotions with those of your own sex may serve a very powerful purpose.
We understand those of our own kind better than we understand our opposites. Men can better relate to the fears and doubts present in other men, because so many of us are so used to the pattern of holding those emotions back. Women can better relate to the anger and violence present in other women, because so many of them are so used to the pattern of holding those emotions at bay.
Maybe you are one of the people who can truly let go of such emotions and judgments about emotions with anyone, and still have your relationship work. And maybe you’ve had the good fortune to find a partner who can do the same. If you are not both of those, however, you might consider joining a group of people of your own sex, and exploring these issues in a safe place with those who understand them best, until you feel you are truly capable of sharing those with your partner directly.
Final Words About Male Fear
Have you ever been to a men’s circle? I have participated in them for a number of years, and unfortunately most of them do not seem to go into this deeply personal fear and doubt territory very often. I think most likely they do not because that “macho” exterior we’re expected to wear informs us that it is “not safe” to do in front of men because “they’ll kill us.” In other words: most men’s circles do not express the fear because they are living in and exhibiting the fear of other men.
I get it, men. I’m terrified too. I hate having to wear the macho mask. The truth is that most of the men I’ve known well enough to relate to really intimately do not feel like tough, capable, successful providers on the inside. Most of those men (myself included) often experience feelings and thoughts such as either, “I’m just another guy, stop trying to make me into a hero,” or alternatively, “I’m worthless and weak, and they won’t be fooled if I take off this macho mask.”
The true wake-up call comes when you realize that the man next to you – me, in this case – feels exactly the same. And, just like you, that man is afraid to tell you so, because, just like you, he thinks you’ll kill him. But you won’t, because you’re just as scared and wounded as he is.
The true empowerment of men begins when we can share our fears and doubts, and let them out with each other. The true transformation of masculinity begins with you, and not the you that feels powerful and strong already, but the you that doubts yourself, that fears others, and most of all fears and doubts your intimate relationships.
The completion of that empowerment of the sacred masculine arrives when a man is able to retain his loving and sexual feelings toward his partner after having witnessed the depths of her rage, and when he is able to express his fears and doubts to her completely, and without reservation. Sometimes it takes first relating to our own sex to get there. Be honest with yourself as a man. Do you need to be with men first, or are you ready and prepared to journey into the territory of full disclosure and full acceptance now?
I encourage my fellow men that are already in men’s circles to bring this to their circle. Take the steps to transform your relationship to doubt and fear. I’ll be publishing some articles with specific rituals and exercises that may be performed for men to get to their truths about these crippling emotions. If you are a man who participates in men’s work, and have a ritual or exercise to share, please feel free to contact me, and I may also include it in my blog in the future.