Three events over the last few weeks have helped me to re-consider my approach to telling the truth. You know that moment when your wife comes out in a new dress, as you are getting ready to go out for a celebration dinner. The moment you see it you think it is hideous and she asks you if she looks good in it. You stand in thought for a moment—not too long otherwise she will know something is wrong—deciding whether to tell the truth. The problem is deciding what the truth is, and deciding how to say it to her.
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My local Yoga Studio started a Men’s Yoga Class. It was mostly men who were new to Yoga and who struggled with the postures. Men tend to be strong but stiff, we tend to be overweight and are not used to exploring this in the company of others. We were a far cry from the nimble women you see in the Yoga books, but we struggled on, taking care of our damaged joints. We stretched and still appeared to be immobile. I loved that my body started moving again.
Why do I upset both men and women at the extremes when I write. What am I doing that scares them so much. Why can’t they acknowledge what is really happening in the world and join to make it even better.
In the story of my relationship with my wife I talk about the shift I made, about the transformation. It is important to understand that the shift was not where I suddenly learned about women and how to love them. It was where I suddenly learned about myself, who I was, who I was trying to be. I came to see how important this was to any potential partner.
Men, you start to relate to a woman because you are attracted by her. You realise, later, that you do not know how to go beyond that attraction. You do not know how to love her, how to get her to love you. You want to love her and you want the relationship to grow and be powerful.
You discover something important when you embark on a relationship. You discover that women are different from men. You discover that it is not enough to have a relationship with a woman. Continue reading →
Being dominating and using mental and emotional abuse is as bad as being physically abusive.
I was in Glasgow with my parents on our annual trip back to Scotland to visit family. I must have been in my early teens. I went off for the day to explore the city on my own. I’ve always enjoyed walking around new and strange cities. My love of steam trains (they still existed then) took me to St Enoch Station.
Standing on the steps looking at my map and wondering where to go next, I was approached by a man seeking to help me.
I was the typical innocent abroad and trusted this man. We started talking and he offered to buy me a coffee in the station cafe. I accepted.
We sat in a quiet corner and at one point he gently took my hand and laid it on his leg. I realised my hand was on his erect penis. I was horrified and only then realised why this man was so helpful. I got away as quick as I could.
Although nothing serious happened to me this experience has remained with me for 50 years now. Continue reading →
Graham Phoenix counters the ‘equality’ of Gloria Steinem.
On Friday over at Good Feed, we heard Gloria Steinem say, “We know that women can do what men can do, but we don’t know that men can do what women can do.”
They are extraordinary assertions that cry out to be challenged—not just the statements but also the assumptions behind them.
I have never heard of Gloria Steinem and am not aware of the work she has done. I am British, and in the UK we tend not to be as brash or confrontational in our passions. We see things more as shades of grey. Sadly, the Colbert interview with Steinem had no shades of grey.
The issue is equality. This is the hottest political issue in America. It fires people up and sets them against others, others they want to be equal to. It was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who said:
In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.
I see equality as a different beast altogether. Where Steinem sees equality as people doing the same things, I see equality as people having the freedom to do what others do.
“Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.” —Tom Robbins
It’s about celebrating our differences while opening ourselves up to freedom of possibility for all. While in Britain we have made great strides, there is still a long way to go. We work on issues of race, gender, sexuality, education, poverty, and age from the perspective of opening up channels of opportunity. In sexuality, we abolished our ridiculous law making buggery illegal and have created same-sex marriages. Recently, it has been deemed illegal to ban guests from a hotel because they are homosexual, even if they owner has a strong religious belief against homosexuality.
What is important to understand, however, is that we don’t require everyone to be gay or experience gay sex. Most of us are not gay and that is OK, as long as we give gays the freedom to practice their beliefs in the way we practice ours.
Steinem wants women to be men and men to be women. In her world, we each need to do what the other does. It’s fine if we want to but she requires that we have to.
“Before God we are all equally wise—and equally foolish.” —Albert Einstein
I have worked with gay Christians in the past, helping them to come to terms with their Christianity and their sexuality, so that they can live both without confusion or guilt. I am at one with what they believe. Homosexuals believe that they were born gay and their orientation remains no matter what socialization they put themselves through, never mind what society puts them through. This understanding is even more pertinent with transsexuals who believe they were born trapped in a body of the wrong physical sex.
When people own up to and live their sexuality, they live what they were born to. It is the same with men and women. We were all born to a degree of masculinity or femininity, and when we live our lives fully, we live in that masculinity or femininity.
Masculine and feminine are different, with differing qualities, characteristics, and skills.
This does not mean that men should do men’s work and women should do women’s work. It means that we should do the work or live the life that is most in tune with our character. There are many women who desire and are able to do work that is normally associated with masculine characteristics, work that requires the focus and power of masculinity. Equality is when anyone is able to do this work, when anyone is able to recognize these qualities within themselves and live accordingly.
Equally there are many men who desire and are able to do work that is normally associated with feminine qualities, work that requires love, care, and compassion. Equality is not requiring all men to do this or all fathers to nurse their children, even if the world might be a better place of they did.
The world exists and prospers through the tension and excitement of polarity. The interplay between masculine and feminine is one of the key drivers of society. To flatten this out with a distortion of the concept of equality is to damage society in a dangerous way. America is a society that is in danger of losing its way. There is pressure for women to become men and, most worryingly, there is pressure for men to become women.
Men are losing their way because they are confused and afraid. They are afraid to stand up and be men and they are afraid not to. They are afraid of the reaction of women such as Steinem, and they find it difficult to do anything other than ignore them or, as Colbert did, mock them. What we did not get in the interview was any coherent argument from Colbert. As a man he didn’t know how to counter a woman showing such strength.
Do Men of Action make the world go round or are they dinosaurs who cause chaos wherever they go?
A recent email from a friend let loose about talk and inaction. It made me stop and think about what a man is at his core and question whether there are there common qualities in men. I’m not talking about the media view of men but a personal view based on experience and knowledge.
The email said,
“I feel angry and sad that coming up on a year we are essentially speaking about the same things we did when we formed alignment, collaboration, purpose, and leadership. […] I want us to stop discussing, planning and analyzing. Either produce or move on.”
Those words resonate with so much that has happened in my life.
My eXperience of Men of Action
For the first decade of my working life I was in the theatre in practical and design roles. The key to the work was achieving successful productions. People could see the results and judge the level of success. There was a resistance to spend time talking: there was usually too much to do.
Later I moved into the construction industry, as a designer, and discovered a world of constipation and dissension. You could easily spend most of your time in meetings discussing endless details of design and cost, and forget the work that had to be done. People were afraid of action, afraid of the cost implications, to the extent that projects often lost that spark of imagination that great buildings are known for.
I have been known in my life as a man of action and have both achieved and caused upset. I often do before I think, even though I love logic and conceptual thought. The question is what is more beneficial to the world, men of action of men of thought.
Hugh Thomas Brown considered this in 1854 in a debate at the Dialectic Society on Men of Action. He said,
“It may however be said, by those on the other side of this question; that those ambitious warriors, and conquerors, who have swept some of the fairest climes of Earth with devastating armies, have done more serious injury to the human race, than the skeptical French philosophy, and they will no doubt parade this before you, as one of their strongest arguments. But It seems to me, that we have no right to decide on the motives of men in the abstract, but we are to look at, a man’s acts, and his life summed up together, apart from their moral quality, and see whether they were detrimental or beneficial to the human race.
Now there have been many ambitious heroes, whose aspirations were only for dominion and conquest, and who cared not how many widows and orphans were made in the accomplishment of their purpose; yet when we come to look at the ultimate result of their careers, they were, we find, decidedly beneficial to the world. It is a fact that all history, sacred and profane, teaches that the great Author of our being in the working of his misterious providence, does not always choose his owneas instruments for working good to mankind.”
Brown was himself a man of action who became a lawyer, after graduating university and was killed as a captain in the Confederate army. He separates men’s achievements from the morality of their actions, a necessary device as action never considers its rightness or effect.
Alexander The Great – One Of The Great Men Of Action
Alexander the Great was, in many ways, a brutal man, but he carved an empire that had a lasting effect on Europe and Asia. He brought men together and encouraged them to see beyond their locality and beyond simple conquest. He elevated the nations he overcame and encouraged them to think and work together and to move beyond petty racism.
“Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies closely to hand.”
But Alexander turned that on its head and saw into the distance and into the future. No amount of philosophising and argument would have enabled his vision to prevail, only action was possible.
“Mark this well, you proud men of action! you are, after all, nothing but unconscious instruments of the men of thought.”
( Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)
Alexander was the instrument of Greek philosophers he had studied when young, but it was Alexander who showed the world what the men of thought were considering.
Action is a truly masculine quality. It is forged from base metals of focus, direction, power and strength. It sees far into the future and it sweeps aside petty considerations. What is important is achieving the end desired. People often question whether the end justifies the means, men of action certainly think so.
Femininity is less inclined to take precipitate action. Women are more caring and compassionate. They see the effects on people and that concerns them. It is right that they should because the world of men needs their balance. Great men live in polarity with great women who temper their action without dissipating it, they know how to love a man. This partnership is practically unbeatable.
Men look at yourselves and what you do. Do you take action or do you vacillate in thought and lose the opportunity you had? What would be better for the world, what would be better for you?
“Spiritually, no action is more important than surrender. Surrender is the tenderest impulse of the heart, acting out of love to give whatever the beloved wants. Surrender is being alert to exactly what is happening now, not imposing expectations from the past. Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything, even when you cannot foresee the outcome of a situation.” —Deepak Chopra
It is common to see relationships as battlegrounds where couples act out their needs and desires. Relationships are where people most often seek to control another person. Relationships fail more often than they succeed because people try to manipulate them into what they want.
When did you last look with detachment at your intimate or most important relationship? When did you last honestly appraise it and work out what it really means to you? Have you ever done this with compassion and understanding?
I was married, previously, for thirty years without ever honestly looking at my relationship. I never considered what it meant to me and I think if I had i would have left it earlier.
I was trying to be in control, as was my wife, and we fought it out for years with no-one winning out in the end.
Have you been there? Are you there now? Do you see a way out?
It’s time to let go, time to surrender. This is not considered to be a very masculine thing to do. Letting go of control is considered to be more of a feminine quality. Indeed it is one of the qualities that most defines femininity. When a woman surrenders to herself and her impulses she finds she can start to trust others in her life, particularly her man. Trust is what she looks for in a man, trust is why she constantly tests her man.
For a man to surrender is considered to be a loss of face, the ultimate insult. Albert Einstein said,
“If men as individuals surrender to the call of their elementary instincts, avoiding pain and seeking satisfaction only for their own selves, the result for them all taken together must be a state of insecurity, of fear, and of promiscuous misery.”
John McCain said,
“Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight. We’re Americans. We’re Americans, and we’ll never surrender. They will.”
It’s so simple being an American, just fight to the death and you will die honourably!
But, as Deepak says at the beginning, “no action is more important than surrender”.
Surrender as a spiritual practice shows a depth of knowledge and understanding of yourself that is undeniable. It shows a care and compassion for the other person that is deep and meaningful. To be able to give up control shows a love of the other that sets you apart.
The ability to stand firm in the face of your enemies is a masculine quality but the ability to surrender in the face of love is a simple human quality. Would that we could all see our human qualities.
I have been looking at Male Stereotypes on the Internet. It has not been edifying finding that men are portrayed at the edges of society.
It seems to be mostly stereotyping about men who are Alpha, Gay, Christian or New!
Graham Reid Phoenix is dedicated to helping men to re-awaken their core and believes that all men are capable of re-discovering their masculine essence. In doing this men will be re-establishing their presence and their strength as men. This is something that society is currently lacking and that women are seeking for men. This will take men beyond their typical male stereotypes.
In finding this role men will be placing themselves between the male stereotypes of the Macho Hard Men and the Soft New Men so often portrayed in today’s society. This is a position of normality where men show strength rather than domination or submission. This is where men are seen as a ‘rock’ with focus and certainty.
Male Stereotypes At The Edges of Society
The portrayal of men as male stereotypes gives me great cause for concern. When you search around under Men and Masculinity, on Google, there is a picture of men which does not encourage them to shift from the often weak places they are in currently. It is difficult for them to find a ‘normal’ presentation of what it is to be a man, rather than un-edifying male stereotypes. What I found are types of portrayal that are beyond the norm.
This does not mean that these types of men are not normal or outside of society in any way. They each have their place in society and are all perfectly acceptable. They are, however, not what I would be recommending to men seeking to become more of themselves. In this context it helps to understand what puts women off men.
The first common type of masculinity portrayed is that of the ‘Alpha Male’. This is by far the most worrying of the three and the most abiding of the male stereotypes. In this category I would also place ‘Pick Up Artists’. They all play what they call ‘The Game’ which teaches men how to become successful in picking up and having sex with women. I have written on this before (Are Alpha Males Real) and am very concerned about their effect on men and how they are seen by others.
My issue with them is their domination of women for a short-term, selfish goal. They use elements of truth to justify their actions and demean people who don’t agree with them as ‘Betas’. The fact is that women like and enjoy strength and certainty in men, they look for power and that certain something that oozes from men who are totally comfortable with themselves. This does not mean domination. It can and should incorporate compassion and a sense of leadership that used to be inherent in the male role in society.
There are many Alpha Males on the internet who blog about their experiences but there are also many who seek to profit from the desperation of many men seeking help. To do this they perpetuate the myth of this view of male stereotypes.
Gay men are, by their nature, active in trying to create legitimacy for themselves and trying to create a more normal role in society. This I support and have no issue with. They are not trying to propose being gay as a solution for men who are unsure of their role. The difficulty comes with the effect on those very men of the sheer quantity of sites around.
Gay men use the term ‘masculinity’ in a provocative, sexual sense which makes sense to them but confuses others. It tends to scare off the man who is seeking and often ensures he retreats to his cave. It is difficult to use the term masculinity without the overtones the gay community put on it causing fear over what masculinity and sexuality actually mean for men.
In fact there is no threat to men who are comfortable with themselves. They know who and what they are and never feel threatened by other’s portrayal of them. It is, however, on of the male stereotypes often picked up by the media, so distorting our view of society.
This was the most surprising discovery for me. I am a christian myself and have been part of men’s groups in the past. They are admirable and can be very helpful to men trying to understand themselves and the society in which they find themselves. The portrayal of the christian male, as one of the male stereotypes, is interesting and somewhat close to the truth of what is needed for men, it shows an internal strength and a role in the family which can be helpful.
I struggle to find fault with it whilst knowing that it is not the way for men to go, unless they already have deep christian faith. This is part of the issue, that it suggests that to become a man you need to find faith. I have no problem with men finding faith, but I don’t think it is a necessary pre-requisite for finding your masculinity. This will frighten men off who only know the dominating images of men from the Bible.
The New Man has become the norm for men in recent times, and is the most difficult of the male stereotypes to deal with. It has been his response to the strength of women and the aggression of feminists. Many men have retreated into their caves and become submissive and compassionate partners who let their women rule the roost and give up all attempts to be strong or certain. This has caused much anxiety amongst men who only see domination as an alternative.
They confuse strength with abuse and are confused by the constant portayal of men as abusive to women and children in the media. It is precisely because many men are abusive that they retreat from their potential position of strength. They do not know how to be a man.
What should Men do?
The easy answer is ‘be a man’, ignore the males stereotypes and judge carefully what you read on the internet. To be a man you need to go inside yourself and find your own strength. This will never be provided by others, even by me. It will only come from getting to know yourself and how you portray yourself to the world.
If being Alpha, Gay or Christian is part of this, then so be it. If not don’t let that frighten you away from your destiny. Men are not frightened away from anything!
Balancing last week’s look at the Bushido Code I am looking at Shiva Shakti, the Hindu god.
It is worth examining who he is, what he represents and the lessons he has for today’s man. Some of you found Bushido too attached to violence and a destructive way of life, it’s interesting that Shiva is also connected to destruction. This seems to be a theme in men.
I looked, previously, at Shiva in Kali’s Sword, a post about women and their view of us men. In it I tell the story of Kali, Shiva’s consort, causing chaos on the battlefield. To calm her down Shiva lies down and lets her step on him. This shows how …
… when a man stands like a rock in the midst of female chaos she can lock on to him and let it all go.
This doesn’t seem to be about destruction, in fact it’s the opposite, preventing it. Continue reading →