Man Enough: Fathers, Sons, and the Search for Masculinity is an amazing book I recently read by Frank Pittman. I highly recommend this book to any man. I also recommend it to any woman trying to understand men—either her partner or even her father. Below I have included some of the highlights that stood out to me and I hope it gives you something to think about.
Philanderer, Contender, and Controller
“If the boy becomes over-programmed in the art of seduction, he may become a philanderer, reassuring himself that he is a man by escaping the woman at home and seducing the women away from home, thus winning double victories over the ‘opposite’ sex. If he practices competition too compulsively, he may become a contender, seeing life as a contest with other boys, in which only the winner of the most contests gets to be considered a man. And if he becomes too rule bound he may become a controller, assuming it is his job to act like the boss and keep those around him under his control. All three varieties of masculopathy, pathologically overdeveloped masculinity, occur when the father is not around, not involved enough, and not sure enough of his own masculinity to tell the boy he’s doing it all quite well enough and can cool down the masculine display. Each of the three syndromes of masculopathy cripples the boy in his efforts to mate, to live comfortably in a family, or even to live in peace and comfort with the world around him. As we strive to be man enough, the world does not really penalize us for failing to live up to the masculine mystique, but for anxiously overdoing it.”
Am I Man Enough?
“Some of the men I see are masculopathic, in one or more of the three syndromes, but others are just trying to be the men they think they are expected to be, and in doing so make a mess of their lives and the lives of those around them. Their battle is not with their wives, not even with their mothers, as much as it is with their fathers—even if they haven’t seen their fathers in years, or ever. These men seem locked into a struggle to somehow finally get their fathers to anoint them, and declare them man enough.”
The Power of Myth
“To be mythic, a story must connect with something primordial, deep within human consciousness; it must offer some profound, shared insight into the human condition. It is a story which is so true it transcends the mere words. Myths not only enlighten us, they connect us. And as the world changes, we change, and our myths must change, so we get a new crop all the time, and some of them work, so we keep them. Our modern mythmakers are busy tackling the relationships between fathers and sons, to find connections between pre-patriarchal and post-patriarchal consciousness, between the old fear of the too powerful father and the new longing for a father to love and teach and anoint us. The pain and grief and shame from the failed father-son relationship seem universal.”
Sometimes, Manhood is Lonely
“Male friendships are not like female friendships: men are not as likely to have confidants as they are to have playmates. Most of the time male friendships don’t need to be like female friendships. Men can silently assume that we have all been through the same ordeals and we all feel pretty much the same about everything. Being together and not having to talk about it is wonderfully comfortable. I sometimes think that if men didn’t talk to women, they might not talk to anybody: they might go through life telling dirty jokes and quoting baseball statistics to one another. But sometimes there is something that a man needs to reveal, needs to talk over with another man, and there may be no man available to him. Sometimes, manhood is lonely.”
Archetypes of Masculinity
“The heroes that continue to inspire boys and men are characterized by aspects of masculine identity that psychoanalyst Carl Jung calls ‘archetypes.’ These myths and heroes resonate with something inside us, something of our own, something universal. They make us aware of what is inside ourselves. If we choose certain heroes as our heroes, and put their voices in our male chorus, their voices can encourage and inspire their special aspects of our character.
The four archetypes of the mature masculine, as described by Jungian analysts, mythologists, and Bly colleagues Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, are King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. The King is the energy of just and creative ordering, which makes rules and maintains order, which provides fertility and blessing—I think of the patriarchal father. The Warrior is the energy of self-disciplined, aggressive action, concerned with skill, power, accuracy, and control, with knowing when to take action—I think of the athlete. The Magician is the energy of initiation and transformation, who understands the unseen world and can think through the issues that are not obvious to others, the energy of awareness, insight, and bullshit detection—I think of the psychotherapist or the court jester. The Lover is the energy that connects men to others and the world, the energy of play, of sensual pleasure, and of passion without shame, of aesthetic consciousness and understanding through feeling rather than just through intellect—I think of Mozart.
When these archetypes that are in all of us are not developed into their fullness and are not used to connect with others, when we fear we don’t have enough of them so we overdo them, instead of a King we get a Tyrant, instead of a Warrior we get a Bully or a Sadist, instead of a Magician we get a Detached Manipulator, instead of a Lover we get a Love Addict. My practice, my movie screen, and my world are all filled with men who are grotesquely overdoing one or more of these masculine archetypes.
Controllers and other domestic tyrants, in their shame, are Shadow Kings, bullying others and trying to display the power and position they don’t find inside themselves. Contenders, who never get enough and can’t let any other man have a moment of victory, are Shadow Warriors, trying to prove they are winners because inside they feel like losers. Philanderers, sex addicts, and love addicts, who can’t love a real partner because they spend all their time getting reassurance or escaping into ‘in-love’ fantasies, who try to define their masculinity through sex, are Shadow Lovers.”
Men and a Woman’s Anger
“Men hear anything a woman says with strong emotion as just hysterical carrying-on. And while a woman’s anger is as terrifying to a man as the wrath of an angry god, we don’t hear what a woman says when she’s angry; we only hear that she is angry and we strap ourselves in, turn off our receivers, and wait in terror for the storm to pass. When we men have any important message to deliver, we deliver it as logically and unemotionally as possible. We know that what we say when we’re angry should be ignored, and our friends do us the favor of ignoring it. We often wish women would do the same.”
The Healing Power of Fatherhood
“These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child-raising is not the child but the parents; the child on whom the parent has been practicing and learning how to be a human being must then go on and learn it for himself by practicing on his own children. That is the way it works. As parents, we must remember to be grateful to children for letting us practice people-making skills on them. If we don’t make our children aware of what the process was, and how it felt, and what we got out of it, they may opt to skip it themselves. They would deprive themselves of the most productive stage of their development, when in the process of child-raising we examine and question everything we thought we knew about human development, about masculinity and femininity, and about the nature of the human condition.
Being a father, to our own children or to someone else’s, or being something like a father—an uncle, a mentor, a coach, a teacher, a therapist—is the real way to become a man. We gain our masculinity not by waving it from flagpoles or measuring and testing it before cheering crowds but by teaching it to boys and girls, and to men and women who haven’t known a man up close and don’t know what men and masculinity are all about. If men would raise children, it would not only save the world in a generation or two, it would save them their lives.
Will this generation discover the healing power of fatherhood?”
I hope you enjoyed these excerpts as much as I enjoyed reading the book. I realize it’s Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day is coming next month so this will give you time to read the book. 😉
Peace my Friends!