Individual Therapy, Men & Male Individuation, 2
This is the second post in my series on men and male individuation, and how that all relates to individual therapy.
Being Male: Not As Simple as It Looks
The women’s movement, over the last 45 years, has strongly — and rightly — made the point that traditional male-dominated structures in society tend to keep women from being individual selves. What isn’t as well appreciated is that, often, those same old patterns keep men from individuation, just as effectively. These stereotypes even contaminate certain types of individual therapy.
The Last Thing Men Need is Another Stereotype
There is a stereotype waiting in the wings in our society, ready to fill the vacuum for individual men, but not in a helpful way. The archetypal pattern of dominance and submission, or, as you often hear it put today, the “Alpha Male / Beta Male” image, is rooted in the archaic instinctual division between competent, capable males who lead, and supposedly incompetent, clueless men who need to get led by Alphas. Often, our culture holds out the image of these Beta Males — the majority, according to this view — as hopeless big kids, or even more toxically, stereotypical “failures” or “losers”. Examples of this Beta Male stereotype abound in our culture:
- Al Bundy from the sitcom Married with Children;
- Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond; and,
- last, but oh-so-far from least, Homer Simpson.
Not surprisingly, the only alternative that the culture holds up is to be the invulnerable, all-conquering Alpha Male:
…like, say, “The Donald”… Is this really all that there is for men? If so, God help us.
Pressures Within; Pressures Without
The pressure is on, inner and outer, for men to either strive to embody the unassailable success of the Alpha Male, or else to accept the subtle but definite sense of failure with which our culture taints men who are not perceived as Alphas, and accept that humiliation by fleeing into the various distractions and anaesthetics our society offers. Isn’t there any other possibility?
There is. It involves creatively opening up and exploring who I am as an individual male person. It entails going into my depths, and coming to accept and embrace who and what I am as a unique individual. It requires accepting my woundedness, and being open to the healing that acceptance can bring. It entails a new kind of awareness, stemming from what it is to uniquely be me. Individual therapy can be key to this process of male individuation.