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The weakening of the hero

Dependency is the best word to describe the basic survival mechanism of the human organism - and so the repression of fundamental dependency needs leads to disastrous consequences. Masculine gender ideas leave a man wounded in the deepest reaches of his psyche. He is dissociated from a feeling self, separated from maternal feminine qualities and life-giving energies. Men are oppressed by their own expectation to conquer everything from their baser animal and emotional natures to the world at large. Under all the narcissism, however, men are at war with themselves with nothing to win. In his book The Hazards of Being Male, Herb Goldberg writes:

Oppressed by the cultural pressures that have denied him his feelings, by the mythology of the woman and the distorted and self-destructive way he sees and relates to her, by the urgency for him to “act like a man,” which blocks his ability to respond to his inner promptings both emotionally and physiologically and by a generalized self-hate that causes him to feel comfortable only when he is functioning well in harness [remember Freud’s Pegasus in Harness], not when he lives for joy and personal growth.

(1976: 4)

In actuality, behind all the mastery is a constant attempt to recapture or conquer the mother in the outer world. “False self’ acts substitute for creativity because they make a male feel acutely awake and alive, an illusion of holding onto the mother that provides something vital to his self. Compulsive greed and power lust are simply manifestations of a false manhood. Narcissism provides the defense for infantile energies and emotions grounded in the unconscious tie to the maternal object. It is the presence of this attachment, in fact, that makes the eradication of shame unattainable, and results in the phenomena that men, long at the pinnacle of power in our cultural hierarchy, can become infantilized by small imputations of their inadequacies. In Dinnerstein’s words, “If he lets her, she can shatter his adult sense of power and control; she can bring out the soft, wild, naked baby in him” (1977: 66-67). The consequences for the repression of shame are grim: a man becomes a prime candidate for possession by the succubus, the repository for his shame.

When a boy avoids separation, he fails to recognize his dependency which warps into a hidden shame that follows the laws of magical rather than rational thinking. He comes to use blinding and diabolizing as prevention from seeing what he has learned are bad things about himself. When a man suffers a sense of personal insignificance, of being helpless and of no real value as a person, of being mocked or treated with scorn and contempt, an urgent and desperate need to reinforce a sense of manhood and personal worth is created. He is quick to seek revenge for any humiliation. He may be compelled to punish those who look at him the wrong way, meaning in a way that makes him feel small and powerless. For men, the power of shame is inversely proportional to the magnitude of the precipitating cause: the more insignificant the precipitator, the more shameful it becomes to even acknowledge that one feels so ashamed. In fact, it is precisely for this reason that whatever leaves a man feeling so ashamed, he will be more ashamed of being ashamed and project his feelings of being so slight, trivial and unimportant - and the infantilized part of the male self can distort anything way out of proportion. As Gilligan puts it, “the most dangerous men on earth are those who are afraid that they are wimps: wars have been started for less” (1992: 66). Further on he writes

truly, the more tiny and trivial the cause, the more powerful, deadly, and violent the result. The Great Chain of Being may go from atoms to God, from the smallest to the greatest, but the Great Chain of Non-Being goes in exactly the opposite direction.

(p. 136)

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