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Anger and the Superior Man – Is it about Gender or Personal Inadequacy?

I look at the anger surrounding the recent shooting in the US, and explains how it all relates to an expression of personal inadequacy.

Anger is a part of all our lives whether it comes from inside or whether we experience it from other people. Anger is a recurring theme in relations between men and women both on a personal and cultural level. The recent shooting in the US has generated countless pages both about the shooter’s anger and the anger of those reacting to him and what he did. Much of that anger has been directed at a perceived battle between men and women, some of it has been about the pressure of men’s entitlement and the effect this has on women.

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What On Earth Is A Good Man? (And What Is The Good Men Project All About?)

For Graham Phoenix, being good means going beyond what he feels inside himself into what he feels about the world outside. Here, he explores just what that means.

I write stories about myself that relate to my essence as a man. I draw parallels for other men that might help them to look at the issues they face in a different, more powerful, way. This is a superficial view of the columns I write; on a deeper level I am exploring my world and challenging it.

What is the purpose of this exploration, is it important to do it?

Many years ago, when my children were young, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, and went to a prominent Episcopal Church in the city centre. I was approached to co-lead a group being set up for men and women to explore their sexuality and christianity, and find ways to integrate them. I felt that my involvement could highlight the intersection of being gay and being christian and help open up the congregation to the fact that it could even exist. My intention was to challenge people in this area and, at least, open up a conversation.

That is the purpose of the Good Men Project, to open up a conversation, in this case about men, in particular, good men, and to challenge what people think. But what is a good man? What does ‘good’ mean for me and for the Good Men Project?

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
(William Shakespeare)

The alleged Indo-European root of good is ghedh (to unite, join, fit), so that which is united is good. You can stretch this to mean that if you accept the majority view, you are good, in other words being morally right is good, being conformist is good.

This approach relies on an authoritarian view of the world. It re-enforces a patriarchal view of society. It establishes the status quo and does not accept challenge. If you challenge you do not fit the majority view. This is how many people see the world and if you step out to change this, it scares them. It is hard for them to see that letting go of their certainties could make a better world.

“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.”
(John Ruskin)

In Ruskin’s nineteenth century world there was a need for people to come together to create a new world of industry that would respect nature and build a bridge between life and art. That was a great idea but still does not help in defining what a good man is.

For me being good means going beyond what I feel inside myself into what I feel about the world outside. The essence of a man being good is when he looks outside himself, beyond his world view, and challenges himself so that he can challenge others. It can be seen in a man who asks what he can do to contribute to improving the world or changing it. Being good means committing to have a bigger vision than just feeling great.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
(Edmund Burke)

This famous quote from Burke encapsulates what I mean. It is not men that are evil, it is the system that is evil. Most men are essentially good in themselves, they have a balance that leans towards good.

I realize that what I seek to do in my writing is to challenge men to go beyond themselves and see goodness as what they do out in the world. Whether it is about masculinity, the environment, relationships, fatherhood or any other of the issues that men face today, I encourage men to challenge what they think and find a new world view.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
(Voltaire)

For men to stay comfortable in their own world is for men to give up on themselves, their family and the world. We are in a time when most people realize that we have to do something to change the way we are socializing men. We want to find ways to encourage men to act and to no longer perpetuate what is broken.

“Good men are the stars, the planets of the ages wherein they live, and illustrate the times.”
(Ben Jonson)

The Good Men Project challenges men’s view of the world. The key to the power of the collective message on the site is the diversity of voices in the men having the conversation. The writers are progressive men, they are comfortable with themselves as men.

As writers we have to consider what the people we are talking to are trying to preserve. What are they are trying to protect themselves from? People want to believe in their own world view, in what they believe is right and wrong. They want to know that the world can stay as it is, that is their safety zone. We are here to challenge that safety zone.

We need to concern ourselves with what’s happening in the world and how we can affect it. That is why I write, that is why I push forward in my own way.

I realize that, as a writer, I need to be aware of my own strength and keep challenging. The readers who resist are still exploring their own model of the world. They are showing that they are not yet ready to go beyond it, but they have gone far enough to come and visit the site. So there is a point at which the movement is happening, the movement is getting bigger and more people are accepting the challenge of how they see the world.

I may not agree with everything that is written on the site, in fact I do not agree with a great deal, but the intention is, and has always been, to raise men’s consciousness, to encourage men to think beyond themselves.

It is very hard for many people. They come into this world, are raised a certain way, associate with certain people, and read certain books; they are socialized to see the world a certain way. It is hard for them to open themselves up to a different world view, indeed it is hard for any of us to open ourselves up. The answer is to talk about it and see how we can create change.

The Good Men Project sub-title is ‘the conversation no-one else is having’. It is in the nature of a conversation that it ebbs and flows, but it should, in my view, always move forward otherwise it becomes an argument.

“A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.”
(Richard Whately)

We need to concern ourselves with what’s happening in the world and how we can affect it. That is why I write, that is why I push forward in my own way.

Why do you come to the Good Men Project? Why do you read the articles? What do you want to see change? How are you a good man?

Let me know in the comments, keep this vital conversation going.

Do Men Cling To Their Mask of Masculinity?

I used to regard the life I was leading as a lie. My fear was that people would see me as weak, indecisive and scared. I wonder whether this is typical for men?

According to Tony Robbins we all have a Primary Question. It’s a question we ask ourselves everyday of our lives, one that controls our focus and the direction of our lives. For many years my Primary Question was, “What if I’m found out?” I regarded the life I was leading as a lie, a mask, an attempt to bolster my male power. My fear was being found out by someone, by anyone. My fear was that people would see the real me, the weak, indecisive and scared me.

To avoid being discovered I put on a front of strength and determination. I hid behind a view I had of masculinity, of male power, a view that I thought protected me.

As I developed my view of myself and moved beyond this phase, as I started asking myself better questions, I found that I was left with a borrowed view of masculinity. I realized I was lost, as a man. My view of myself was based on an idea of being a man that I thought was attractive to women. I realized this was false when I discovered that the women I knew saw through this mask.

It was only when I looked closely at myself, when I discarded what I thought a man should be, that I started living as the man I am. It was then that my outward presence shifted, it was then I became just me, a masculine man not a not pale shadow of a male stereotype.

The context within which I now see myself as a man is one of honesty and authenticity. Its not that they are necessarily masculine characteristics, but they do reveal a man in his true essence. My mask is swept away and what I now see as masculinity appears free and clear. Women see this and respond to the clarity. The nature of the masculinity revealed is personal to me. There is no one model, there are many forms of masculinity, all equally valid.

Looking from the other side of the shift I wonder where the mask came from and why it was so deeply entrenched. It contributed to the failure of a 30 year marriage and to the bankruptcy of two companies.

♦◊♦

I am British, white, and from a normal middle class background. My family were not well off but we did not want for anything. I had a good education and nothing abnormal happened in my life. This is the kind of background that produces many normal men, men who grow up behind masks, feigning masculinity.

I believe that there is a core essence we are born with, an essence of sexuality, gender and personality. This essence creates us as straight or gay, masculine or feminine, extrovert or introvert, etc. This is not the whole truth but it does influence how we react to life, how we make decisions about ourselves.

This core is overlaid in the early years, up to about age seven, with the experiences that most powerfully influence our development. This period can re-inforce or suppress our essence. The influence and effect, or lack of it, of our parents is primary and it is backed up by friends, teachers and many others.

It is in this period that I believe the idea of a mask is born. This when we decide whether we are worthy, whether people like us. It affects our sense of self. Our sexuality and our view of gender can be affected as can be seen in the dramatic effect that sexual abuse can have. It often corrupts the victim.

Beyond these years we continue to grow in a cultural milieu that influences us. As men, if we have decided that by the age of seven that we are not worthy, we will often seek refuge in stereotypical ideas of masculinity to hide what we really are.

William Pollack said in his book “Real Boys’ Voices”,

“When boys speak about ‘being themselves’. Many describe a double life in which they are one person in public — a cool guy who plays fast and lives by the rules of the Boy Code — and somebody completely different in his private life, often a much more creative, gentle, caring sort of guy. Others say they can ‘be themselves’ only after they go home, go to their own rooms, and shut out the outside world. What just about every boy says he knows all too well is what I call the mask of masculinity, a stance of male bravado and stoicism boys learn to use to cover over their inner feelings of sadness, loneliness, and vulnerability, to act cool, and to protect themselves from being shamed by their peers.”

This can happen to all of us but why is this particularly an issue for men.

♦◊♦

Men are normally raised by mothers not fathers, although this is slowly changing. During the formative years, up to age seven, boys tend to be more influenced by women. This is still so today with the large number of absent fathers, for whatever reason. A boy accepts this female role model until the time of separation comes. This is the time when boys are about to become men, puberty is approaching and society dictates that they need male role models in order to develop their sense of masculinity. In tribal societies this was dealt with by ritual and initiation, recruiting the boy into the dominant male group.

Is your life relaxed and peaceful? Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man? Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man?

The transition to manhood can fail to work for many reasons. It can be forced and happen before the boy is ready for it, the father may fail to provide guidance or it could be unnecessary and harmful to the boy. In many urban contexts this transition happens on the streets with gangs taking over the role of parents. The story of Oedipus is a myth about this period of transition.

This passage can result in confusion for the boy/man, depriving him of connection to his mother and not replacing it, causing him to fall back on the stereotypes he is fed by the media and by friends. This slowly becomes a mask, a masculine stereotype.

In my case I lacked the guidance from anyone to make this shift and, as I retreated from both my parents, I found it difficult to know who I was or how I should behave.

Much of the blame I put on the view of men I had from the media. All men face these issues and the resolution is to help boys and men face the shifts they go through and understand that they can make their own decisions and frame their own masculinity.

I now live way beyond the mask I wore when I was younger. I see myself clearly and understand the issues I faced through my life. I have successfully dealt with the issues and feel happy and relaxed as a man. I no longer worry about being found out, I happily let people see my true essence, see me as I truly am.

Many men have not had the advantage of gaining the understanding and experience to take their life beyond their troubles. I now work as a Men’s Coach, helping men to move forward and come to terms with what they have been avoiding.

Is your life relaxed and peaceful? Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man? Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man? Let me know in the comments what your view of masculinity and how you balance it in your life.

“Life is all about making a choice regardless what is thrown at you. Overcoming these so call obstacles that will assist you in becoming a better person. Go against the grain and do not just grow into that idol that society wants you to be. Fighting to keep your own image and standing fast for what you believe in is the only thing that counts.”
(Fendson Dorvilus)

Photo Credit: Flickr/Martin Cathrae

When a Man’s Responsibility Has Gone – What is There Left

Men keep going because their wife, children, colleagues expect them to. They keep going because of the shame of giving up. Graham Phoenix looks at when he went to the edge and kept going.

I lay under the duvet cover screaming, screaming out loud. I could feel the break coming. I felt helpless and hopeless and I did not know what to do, I did not know how to deal with my wife, with my life. I was lost; as a husband, as a man, as Graham. I knew something was wrong, something more than the clash of brute force and stubbornness, something more than titan struggle that had been going on downstairs. I was so lost I could not even work out what was wrong, I just wanted the world to go away.

After thirty years of marriage all I could see was destruction and emptiness. The love was destroyed, the friendship and companionship was being prised apart by the alcohol and the addiction. Over recent years I had done what a man does; I had solved the problems. It was supposed to easy. The application of male logic to a situation could solve anything, no?

I screamed as I realised I had not only not solved the problem of my wife’s alcoholism, I had made it worse. My logic had failed to lever open the door of my wife’s emotions to reveal the dark secrets in side. It had, in fact, nailed the door shut and sealed the gaps. Read more

The Awakening Man by Jeff Brown

The awakening man is conscious, heartfully defined. Through his eyes, being conscious is not a cerebral construct, nor an intellectual exercise bereft of feeling. It is a felt experience, an ever-expanding awareness that moves from the heart outward. It is feeling God, not thinking God. The new man is always in process, awakening through a deepening interface with the world of feeling. He continues to strive for a more heartfelt and inclusive awareness.

jeff brown

The awakening man has shifted his focus from a localized and ethnocentric perspective to a world-centric framework of perception. His community is humanity. Rooted in the relational, his sense of responsibility extends well beyond his localized self and community. Where possible, his choice-making is fuelled by an expansive vision of possibility for all of humankind. Not every man for himself, but every man for humanity.

The awakening man has reverence for the divine feminine, in all her forms. He celebrates the wonder that is woman. He is respectful, honouring and gracious. He is saddened by the horrors perpetuated against women by the malevolent masculine. He holds his brothers accountable. He makes amends for his own misdeeds. He co-creates a world where all women will feel safe to move about freely, to find their voice, to actualize their inherent magnificence. He welcomes a world where women and men stand as equal partners. Humankind. Read more

One Man’s Journey (So Far)

“You can’t teach anybody anything, only make them realize the answers are already inside them.” (Galileo)

My name is Steve Nash. I am a British mixed race 48 year old Yorkshire-man. I’ve been striving to find meaning to my life, to ‘the world’, ever since I can remember.

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It Is About Control Not Sex – Henry Rollins Speaks Out

Rape is generally about control not sex. It is about domination, usually by men of women, although it happens in other combinations as well. In my view it is not so much a gender issue as a human issue. It is about sad people who cannot see how to live decent lives and take that out on others.

What is tragic, though, is how it blights the lives of those involved. Often the lives of the victims are shattered with devastating ripple effects. The lives of the perpetuators are affected as well, often for the rest of their lives. Victims can become perpetuators, and so on.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

♦◊♦

Some years ago my son started a tradition of giving me a journal every year. The first one he gave me had a quote at the front, that he had written, from Henry Rollins. It was my first introduction to this former punk musician, from my punk musician son. The quote said,

“A lot of people spend their lives never getting to know their potential. They show up for work, despise their boss and the way they have to live but lack the guts to walk out the door and never come back. In the end they get what’s coming to them.”

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Become A Man in 21 Days

Week 1
Vision and Clarity

Men, you get advice all the time about how to live, but you are wasting your time unless you take action. You need to look at your life and change it if the advice is going to mean anything. Do something to become a man.

I want to make it easier for you to take the action you need to take to put your life in order. I have created and listed 21 actions, below, you can take in your life. They are all specific, practical actions that will improve your life.

The 21 actions have been split into 3 sections, each covering a week. The intention is that you focus on one action a day. Below are the first 7 actions, the first week. Links to the remaining two weeks will be below the article.

The more actions you undertake, the more progress you will make.

You may have already incorporated some of these into your life, but I guarantee you haven’t done all of them, I have not. If you think you have completed all of them, please tell me in the comments. Better yet, share one of your own tips. Read more

Taking Control – How To Avoid Getting Beaten Up

Have you ever felt the urge to exert control? Have you ever needed to get people to listen to you? Have you ever resorted to violence to be in charge? The answer should be no, but is too often yes!

taking control

I left home and school at 18 and went off to work in the theatre. I was rebelling against what I felt was a restrictive background. Yet I was shy and not at all sure of myself.

I had a friend when I was around 14. I remember going round to his house to play and coming home in tears because he hit me. I do not remember why, just being upset and unable to hit back.

Out on my bike one day, around this time, I was pushed around by a group of boys who hung my bike up in a tree. Not really bad stuff, but it went inside.

This became wrapped up in being the youngest of three boys and the son of a dominant father. I felt pushed down at home, unable to express myself or take control.

This was important to me – the need to take control. Read more

My eXperience Of Male Sexuality – How I Came To Enjoy Sex

Sex is something we all want, but do we enjoy it? Sex is something we all have, but does it make us feel better? My experience of sex left a lot to be desired. I did not understand my Male Sexuality.

male sexuality

Most of us do not want to talk about sex because we do not want to face the truth. We believe that those that do talk about sex are not telling the truth. At least we hope they are not telling the truth.

We feel that everyone else is having a great time with sex and we are the odd one out. We read about sex and it is never as we experience it. We feel ashamed about sex and so we hold in our shame in case we are made a fool of.

It is time to own up, I am writing in the second person to try and hide behind what I think everyone else thinks. I do not mean ‘we’, I mean ‘I’…

So much of the experience of being a man is bound up with sex, yet I have not talked about it much on ‘Graham Reid Phoenix’, on a personal level. Male Energy is bound up with Male Sexuality, yet all I have done is imply it. Read more