Man Enough

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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! 


~Travis

I’ve Struggled with Relationships Lately

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We feel jaded when someone treats us poorly.

 

We are furious when someone acts different than we think they should.

 

We pull away from those who have hurt us because it makes sense to protect ourselves.

 

We carry life-long grudges for minor disagreements.

 

We attempt to control and manipulate those around us.

 

We desperately seek genuine love from others even though we’re disingenuous.

 

We were hurt, broken, used, abused, traumatized, betrayed, and nearly shattered.

 

And, yet, we continue to push forward, timidly trusting the motto Love Wins.

 

 

Last week, I spent two full days in training for my next profession. I took part in The Gottman Institute’s Level 1 Clinical Training: Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I’ve read several John Gottman books in the past and gained a lot of insight so I was sure the training would be well worth my time and money. Throughout the two days, my mind kept wandering to so many people that are struggling relationally. So many of us have issues with either our mates, our families, our friends, or our coworkers. Relationship issues are at the core of nearly every emotional difficulty we experience.

 

 

For the better part of two decades, I have been reading and studying most anything I could get my hands on. My studies generally encompassed human developmental topics like self-help, religion, philosophy, writing, and relationships. Because of my thirst for knowledge, I strive to learn as much as I can for my own sake—not because I want to have all the right answers, be the smartest, or prove people wrong—I genuinely love learning and growing.

With all that knowledge and experience, one would think I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to have good relationships. Often when someone is having relationship issues, it seems like human nature to instantly blame the other party or disregard your own shortcomings. That wasn’t where my thoughts went. Instead, as I went through the training last weekend, I kept being reminded of ways I fall short.

 

 

So. . .

Anytime I’m wrestling with something, I find it most useful to write about it; so, in the spirit of self-disclosure, this was the outcome:

 

 

You struggle with relationships!

 

 

You struggle with women. Somewhere along the way, something was shattered in you. Somehow you consistently attempt to be man enough for a woman but fail miserably. A marriage dashed on the rocks, one on the ropes, and multiple shipwrecks in-between. You’re smart enough to know it’s more than just picking the right one and crossing your fingers (or holding your breath).

You have uncertainties you take to a woman and then punish her when she’s helpless to answer them. When things get difficult, you bow and try to sneak backstage, away from the bright lights and scrutinizing eyes. When it’s your turn to speak your lines, something in you detests having to play the part. You’re perfectly fine saying your lines inside your head thank-you-very-much. It seems like a fine approach, but the audience and other cast members are left guessing what you think, how you feel, why you’re mute. They know your lines, they could say them for you, but they are supposed to come from your lips just like you rehearsed so many times. Say them!

 

 

You struggle with family. You have so many relationships with one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Each of your family members would love to talk to you and you could benefit from their relationships. Why do you withdraw, bow out, keep quiet? Some of them could use some support, a listening ear, a friendly hello. What holds you back? How do you expect them to get to know you better if you don’t communicate with them? How might they explain to you their perspectives on life, love, and happily-ever-after if never given the chance?

 

 

You struggle with friends. So many times, friends have fallen by the wayside because you allowed the friendship to wither and die. As soon as the friendship required something significant from you, you crawled back into your shell. Your fear of being wholly known for who you truly are keeps you silent. Life is messy, relationships are messy, love is messy, feelings are messy, emotions are messy, being close friends with others may get messy. Don’t shrink. Take the risk of being authentic. Say what you mean and share your experience with others.

 

 

You struggle with being a father. Remember when you were growing up and you had no idea about life and what to expect out of it? You simply did the best you could. You did what you thought was right whether it was right or not. You faked it til you made it. Guess what, you have a million life experiences your children could learn from. Tell them. Speak up. Start talking and keep talking. The best decisions are always made when we have the most information. Why would you not give them all the information you possibly could? Just because you had to figure everything out on your own doesn’t mean they should. Tell them stories every chance you get—you won’t regret it and neither will they!

 

 

Just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Practice makes perfect. Being authentic isn’t always the easy option but it is the right one for you. If anyone can turn these struggles into triumphs, it’s you! “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.” E.E. Cummings

 

I would like to share more about the Couples Therapy training but I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I want you to know that if you struggle with any relationships, you are not alone. I fully support and acknowledge your desire for love and belonging.

 

Peace,

 

~Travis

 

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You Don’t Have to Try

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Last week, my daughter and I went to see Colbie Caillat perform at the Kalamazoo State Theatre. There were several touching moments throughout the evening Kelsi and I will never forget from my much-anticipated Father’s Day gift. With so many ego-filled performers to choose from, Colbie is a breath of fresh air whose mesmerizing voice is only outdone by her positive message.

The moment forever burned in my memory and heart was her performance of Try. With my beautiful daughter by my side, Colbie opened up about her very real struggles of being an awkward introvert and her terrifying stage fright. She slowly played the piano while introducing the song, and I felt the hair on my arms stand up. Leading into the song, she drove her point home that who you are is good enough. You don’t have to try.

And then she sang this song, Try . . . .

Why do we feel like we have to try so hard?

I agree with Colbie.

You don’t have to try!

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

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What Women Want: A Side Note.

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Apparently this whole “What Women Want” thing has been on my mind for quite some time.  While going through some old files on the computer I came across this pic I took in 2007.

It reminded me I need to continue my series and expand on this topic.

I trust you are having a fantastic week!

~Travis

 

 

What Women Want: An Introduction

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Life is mysterious.  Life can be frustrating.  Life most definitely gets messy.  And when I started out with honest intentions to ask What Women Want from their partner, I was a little overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback I received.  The last thing I wanted to do was rush together a list, publish it, and call it good.  Women are more mysterious and deserve more effort than narrowing them down to a simple list (which, I must confess, I do have a list thanks to your helpful suggestions).

Just because I have a list to choose from doesn’t mean I have to spew it back to you in bullet point fashion.  As I read through all the great responses I received from my initial question about What Women Want from their partner, the patterns didn’t hit me at first until I decided to take a pencil and put a star by the ones I felt were bare-bones necessities just to keep a relationship going.  Then, I drew a little triangle next to the responses that I thought were extra bonuses (or above and beyond bare-bones).  Next, there were many responses that had to do with teamwork so I scribbled a T next to them.  And, finally, the last group of responses were the added spices, or the whip-cream-and-cherry-on-top suggestions that you gave me.

I wracked my brain for a couple weeks trying to decide whether these four areas were pillars, layers, components, or all-encompassing and I finally decided they do build on each other.  So I came up with a pyramid that starts with the most important aspects of What Women Want from their partners as a base and then moves up through the aspects that are still important, but not as crucial as the first one.

WomenWantPyramid

I feel as though I should state the obvious here.  I am by no means an expert on What Women Want.  Just ask my wife or any woman I dated in years past (actually, it’s probably best you don’t ask them about me). 😉  I have tried and failed miserably over the years and even now I struggle to grasp the larger mysteries of What Women Want. I attempt to be the best possible partner for my wife but even after all your helpful suggestions I still fail on occasion.  Some days it feels as though I’m chasing after the horizon.  Even though I chase after it, no matter how close it feels I may never get there.  But I try anyway.  Sometimes trying is half the battle.

I appreciate how Erich Fromm (1956) described this issue of love in The Art of Loving:

There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.  If this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better–or they would give up the activity.

Since I haven’t given up on love just yet, I have decided to be eager about some of my reasons for failure.  Thus, the deep interest in love and relationships.

Just so you understand where I’m going with this, I will give you a few examples of how I categorized your responses and narrowed them down.  In future posts, I will share in greater detail each aspect of the pyramid and give some insight for each one. As a teaser, here’s what I’m working on:

SHOW HER SHE’S #1

  • Be Honest with her
  • Be Faithful to her
  • Show her Respect
  • Show her Honor
  • Be Appreciative of her
  • Good communication (listening and sharing)

GIVE HER AFFECTION

  • Hold her hand
  • Kiss her
  • Tell her you love her
  • Small gestures
  • Smile from across the room
  • Show her passion

INVITE HER INTO TEAMWORK

  • Work together
  • Help her with the kids
  • Encourage her
  • Be Patient with her
  • Help her with daily chores
  • Thank her for every meal

OFFER HER THE ADDED SPICES (OR THE WHIP-CREAM-WITH-CHERRY-ON-TOP)

  • Be Spontaneous
  • Humor her, make her laugh
  • Have Strong Faith
  • Find new ways to woo her
  • Surprise her in and out of the bedroom
  • Please her sexually
  • Take her on vacation
  • Be adventurous

As you can see, I have a lot of information to unpack.  There’s enough here to fill a book, let alone try and write a simple blog out of it.  That is why I decided to break it up into installments.

I understand that all women are different and some things might be more important to you than they are to others so I’m not trying to minimize what might be important to you personally.  You might find the area you are lacking the most in your relationship is the area you would say is the most important.

For instance, you might have a partner that is great with the spices; he pleases you in the bedroom, makes you laugh, and keeps things adventurous. But he fails miserably with all other aspects of the pyramid.  He’s called a friend-with-benefits, not a genuine partner.

Your partner may do a great job of showing you you’re #1 (faithful, honest, respect, appreciates you, etc), but the spices are GONE and the affection is hanging on by a string.  This relationship is in jeopardy just as much as the relationship with the unfaithful partner.

Or, you and your partner may make a great team.  You take turns with the chores, you help one another with the kids, and you share the financial burden as equally as possible.  He may not show you affection like you wish and the spices might be stale but he’s a good man.  Some days you feel more like a roommate than a romantic partner.

As you can see, simply saying SHOW HER SHE’S #1 is the most important aspect of What Women Want is very misleading.  It isn’t the most important aspect but it is the base on which the rest of the aspects build on.

A quick note to the men that stumbled in here: Guys, if we don’t show our women they are #1, give them affection, invite them into teamwork, and offer them extra spices; we are headed for a world of heartache.  Life is mysterious, women are mysterious.  Life can be frustrating, women can be frustrating.  Life most definitely gets messy . . . you get the idea.  I can tell you this, guys, its easy to sit on a pedestal and keep our macho-man ego out of harms way, but there’s a lot we can learn from our partners if we let them influence us.

I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to scratch the surface of What Women Want.  Be sure to follow this blog so you don’t miss future installments.

I’d like to close with a direct quote from a wonderful lady who added a fresh perspective to this issue for me:

I think all women want to know they are the most important person to their partner… all women want to feel loved and cherished and important. When we don’t receive tenderness, touching, those little looks and genuine interest in conversation, we feel like we aren’t appreciated and loved.

I would love to hear your feedback.  I much prefer this (and future posts) to be a conversation about what we are learning from one another instead of me simply stating What Women Want.  So please, share your thoughts.  Share this post and invite others to give their feedback.

Peace and Love!!

~Travis