Embracing Emotional Maturity in Every Individual
I recently had a client in my office fall into a deep despair because his sister suggested that he was too heavily entrenched in “Toxic Masculinity” and was, therefore, treating her badly. I had never heard the term before and had to back pedal into the family dynamic and argument itself in order to comprehend what the client was presenting. The session itself was a success. However, the client was directly correlating in his mind that male is the same as masculine, and masculine = toxic. This is neither accurate nor true.
Toxic Masculinity is a by-product of the #MeToo Movement and has been embraced by Cognitive Behavioral Psychology as the source of the rampant sexual violence problem. There is a truth to this in principle, but as with any conceptualized theory, it lacks substance. The label alone has inadvertently perpetuated the very thing its creation and identity was intending to cure.
Toxic Masculinity refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine as violent, unemotional, competitive, sexually aggressive, and so forth. It is named “toxic” because it negatively impacts all of our society, but it is important to remember that it is “Toxic Masculinity” NOT “Toxic MEN.”
Toxic Masculinity is actually intended to identify a very young and immature form of the masculine archetype, the part that destroys. It is very easy to destroy things, and only at a mature level can something be created and then supported. All of us are meant to outgrow that destructive behavior and embrace a balance within ourselves. The frailty in the masculinity labeling is there is an inherent message that simply being a woman means that you do not have this destructive attribute, and conversely, that every man does.
Collective gender-blaming is unhelpful, individual responsibility and accountability is the important thing to remember.
My client is well-educated, having completed graduate school, and is highly successful and a leader in his chosen profession. The term Toxic Masculinity has been tossed about in everything from Fox News to Twitter, and a lot of people, like my client, misunderstand the term to mean that being male is toxic; since culturally there is no separation between male and masculine. This is the crux of the argument that never gets reported: being male does not directly equate to being masculine, and this specific information lacking in most media presentations is creating its own toxic environment.
A woman who mocks vulnerability or weakness in men is just as responsible for perpetuating Toxic Masculinity. Just as a man who accuses a woman of harassment should not be victimized. In the matter with my client, it was indeed the sister displaying the Toxic Masculinity character trait simply by labeling her brother as such, attempting to destroy him and knock him down a peg.
We are all born with both feminine and masculine attributes; they are not specific to identifying gender. Masculine and Feminine are meant to be equal parts. Each are their own archetypes representing qualities and characteristics that are within every single person. The path we are all on is to find and create a world within ourselves where both energies safely and securely co-exist in a balanced way. My book Sophocles: Mending a Broken Heart goes into great detail about how this process works.
The feminine is the nurturing home we all long to be and feel safe in. It is best identified as an unconditional space like the womb of mother: soft, tender, fluid, pliable, a place where all things are allowed to exist. The masculine can be defined as creator and destroyer, structure and boundaries. The masculine is an energetic form of external support that the feminine side needs in order for it to safely exist. The feminine then offers the tender nurturing and replenishment the masculine side needs to continue its quest to succeed.
What does masculine and feminine mean to you? What archetypal characteristics do you have or possess? How do you compete with others? How do you nurture and support your family and friends? What nurtures you? What safe boundaries protect you?
I look forward to hearing more about your journey to success in the balance of masculine and feminine!
Please stay tuned for more information about my book, coming out in March!