Many of us men have received and still perpetuate traditional and stereotypical male behaviors based on rigid gender expectations, norms, and values. These restrictive beliefs, expectations, and actions fuel and exacerbate profound injustices, inequalities, and suffering for ourselves and others. To an important extent, these issues arise and persist because men have lost their abiding connection with their authenticity, which naturally flows, in part, from their deep and integrated masculine self. Together, with specific and attentive social supports, we can and must create a more generative and sustainable way for all men to authentically thrive with others. In this article I intend to describe elements that contribute to challenges men have related to authenticity, and then provide some possible solutions.
So many of us professionals working in social service, and clinical positions are aware of the plight of increasing numbers of men who are significantly troubled, confused, and suffering. While many men may appear to be functioning well in the world, deeper observation reveals they’re often spiritually floundering, emotionally stunted, and psychologically ungrounded. Their resulting harmful choices both reflect their own very real pain and suffering and create it for others. I call this plight a Mars Pandemic.
Who was Mars: Juno, the queen of the Gods, gave birth to Mars after being touched by a magic plant. His father, Jupiter, was the God of the sky and thunder. Mars became more powerful during conflict or in times of war. He was associated with characteristics of life-force manipulation, and of divine weaponry (spear/sword/shield).
A Mars Pandemic is defined here as the following:
“A psychosocially based epidemic (a dis-ease with crisis-like undertones), … a Mars Pandemic comprises a series of severe systemic challenges that affect the overall well-being of male-bodied people identifying as men that in turn affects the well-being of those downstream of those men’s beliefs, actions, and non-actions. This is particularly the case when these men create, participate in, or exacerbate unhealthy conflicts without intact expression of their compassion, their intuition, or their psychological resonance with life-aligned energies. This pandemic causes damaging repercussions to any or all the following systems: cultural, familial, social, tribal, communal, economic, environmental, global, etc.”
I refer to men’s current plight as a Mars Pandemic since it surreptitiously effects all of us and it is so pervasively widespread across the USA (and around the world). As a highlight on this men’s plight, let’s consider their challenging behaviors elucidated through the following reference to systems in which attendance numbers appear for men in crisis. To do so, we must simply think about the idea of current statistics on the following: men’s rates of suicide and attempts, drug treatment, alcohol program and inpatient treatment attendance, diagnosed mental health disorders, addiction program attendance, general acts of destruction or violence, domestic assaults, terroristic threats and / or actions, numbers by gender on reduced college attendance, dropout, and graduation rates, incarceration numbers and terrorist / hate group participation / white supremacy groups by gender, death row inmate numbers by gender, etc.
If a Mars Pandemic is a psychosocially based epidemic, then first, men must learn to take full responsibility for the quality of their psyches, of their character, and how they relate to others. They must be ever willing to invest in inner and outer efforts that bring transformation, healing, and more wholeness for oneself, for loved ones, and for others in general. Men can’t and ought not wait for others to act before they work toward such needed transformation.
Men continue to struggle with being sufficiently authentic for the following reasons:
- They often silently carry and bring their pain to others and have great difficulty seeing it. This is a human tendency; it seems true that most of us struggle to take responsibility for our own unconscious actions.
- We men can’t maturely master what we can‘t see, and we often lack the modeling from other mature men on how to do see our personal blind spots.
- We can’t heal what we don’t feel – and men are specifically raised with intense messages that tell them to primarily feel (mostly) anger / rage, and lust.
- We allow our ego, our family, and our close peeps to tell us that we are great and that we don’t need to change because we are raised to be neither weak nor vulnerable. Reflexively, this is because men are also stereotypically raised and expected to be strong, independent, and invincible.
Conversely, when men do their deep inner reflection and healing work, they can more easily seek outside supports. Doing so helps foster connection with others who can model and assist them to embrace their feelings and their true self. Such a unique and deep collaboration with others can then help a man directly connect with his authenticity. As a natural extension of such ideas, and based on 31 years of clinical experience working with adolescents, and adult males, I am proposing a series of programs for men called Authentic Manhood Programs (AMP) that can help foster authentic manhood, here defined by this writer as the following:
“The ability to live their capacity for being real and truly themselves. They see and celebrate themselves, the world, and others as unique, whole, and as a gift. They live in an intentionally sincere way, and their actions align with their words when describing themselves as a people, and as mature men.” – From the curriculum entitled: “Authentic Manhood Programs” (AMP).
- An integrative male-oriented initiative on issues of authentic manhood
- A path for each man to grow his mature self, more purposefully and holistically
- A contemporary male initiation experience toward responsible manhood
- A vehicle to support men in creating relational integrity in their lives
- To provide men in Minnesota with the education, training, support, and collaboration needed to bring about their transformational growth and reliable expressions of authentic manhood.
- To support men to dismantle primary barriers that interfere with their living more authentically, effectively, and sustainably as contributing members to other’s lives, and to their communities.
- To educate community members and professionals who serve males with enhanced awareness, education, and collaboration related to the AMP curriculum teachings, mission, and vision.
The AMP Mission:
To be a respected leader in providing transformational personal growth experiences through events that inspire men to live authentically, courageously, and intentionally. Men develop greater capacity for care, compassion, and consciousness while becoming active leaders of personal and social solutions for others.
The following AMP curriculum examples reflect what authentic manhood can be like related to a man’s psychological well-being:
- He acknowledges and works to heal his grievous psychological and emotional wounding(s). For example, he identifies many of his negative core beliefs, and he transforms their impact into something positive.
- He is not flawless and doesn’t feel the need to be. Perfection is not his goal… being effectively and magnificently present, honest, and fully engaged in his own life, is a goal…while authentically connecting with all of life.
- In his own unique way, he has learned to support aspects of the masculine and feminine inside himself. For example, he can be assertive and bold, as well as receptive and gentle.
- He intentionally participates in separating himself from psychological dependency and being overly focused on his comfort, physical gratification, sense of safety, and of security based on his fantasies or fears about making enough money.
- He is confident in who he is as a man, and is continually growing into a more present, more empathic, more curious, more playful, and more accountably mature adult man. He intentionally embraces adult citizenship.
- He focuses on living from a place of care, compassion, and conscious awareness of other’s suffering, gifts and experiences while moving from self-centric to other-centric, and eventually to world-centric engagement.
Following men’s own actions taken for the sake of needed transformation, society must then do its part without the level of stiff-arming and misunderstanding of men that seems currently prevalent and damaging. When society makes appropriate and sufficient changes in support of young males and adult men, it will make it vastly easier for men to go through their essential process of holistic healing with greater accountability-taking.
Severely judging and marginalizing men primarily based on ethnic background or their maleness (and / or maybe their behaviors related to some association with and in white male culture) is not helpful. I consider such judgments to be like hyper-focused cancel culture toward a selected subgroup of men between ages 18-80. That is not compassionate justice for anyone, it only adds to the Mars Pandemic of our times (recalling that Mars became more powerful during in times of conflict and war), by triggering certain men who will push back with force. Such a dynamic only makes the cycle continue.
Men, (like all people), don’t need more judgment and marginalization. Instead, it feels critically important for us to be more curious and to begin to ask questions about what men really need – so to move together in a direction of balance, thriving, and healing. Men in our lives and in social villages really need many things, to start with, here are two examples:
- To learn from other men how to take their own authenticity seriously and to feel engaged – while feeling held appropriately accountable for their actions and growth together. In this way, they can show up, mature up, and bring up what needs healing.
- Our encouragement to become more conscious, compassionate, accountable, and constructively engaged in relationships while demonstrating integrated and authentic manhood. Individual humans have always needed some support(s) do complete inner growth work. If that were not true there would be no need for parents, psychotherapists, counselors, clergy, and the like.
When men (along with society) ensure that adult men are resonantly initiated into authentic manhood, they will do what initiated men of authenticity do: integrate, translate, and apply appropriate support, experiences, and teachings rooted in a deep inner sense of purpose.
With such components, men will then craft them into gifts that help others thrive – because they as men are thriving (the impact of a vital life – vitalizes). When men are supported in this type of thriving process, they will reclaim their natural capacity to move toward others and society with greater dedication, wisdom, engagement, tenderness, service, care, consciousness, and compassion. When this occurs, there will be no need for a Mars Pandemic.