Patriarchy is damaging to men as well as to women.
As we awaken on an individual and collective level and the old structures and paradigms that dominated our world begin to collapse, we have an unprecedented opportunity to take an eagle eye’s view of the human condition and evaluate the underlying forces that have shaped us into our current disconnection from the Earth and each other.
This expanded view gives us powerful tools and perspectives for our own healing.
While the traumas suffered by women and the feminine during our recent past have been clearly recognised and described, the suffering of men and the masculine have remained more invisible. It’s time to shed light on these so that men can move forward and recover their divine masculine light.
The dominance of patriarchy
An over-arching human experience for the majority of us in “civilised cultures” has been the dominance of patriarchy. A common definition of patriarchy is “a system of interrelated social structures which allow men to exploit women.” Patriarchal social systems have been present in Asia and Europe for over 6,000 years and many more parts of the world adopted patriarchal systems of rule through invasion and imperialism.
The historical sexual exploitation and political oppression of women within patriarchy has been the key focus of the women’s movement, which has and continues to play the vital role of helping women to reclaim their political power and rights, and rewrite their role in society as powerful, free and creative beings whose minds, spirits and bodies are their own.
This is creating a legacy of powerful women who are embracing their spiritual gifts and becoming leaders in awakening and change. But many of these women are aware that their men “have not woken up yet” and I would like to explore why men may have trouble awakening — and I believe this relates to an unacknowledged level of patriarchal trauma that men hold at a collective and multi-generational level.
Man as a victim of patriarchy
In the system of patriarchy, men have ostensibly been “on top”, with greater legal rights, political powers and control over their women and children — so it’s easy to associate the patriarchal order with a social system that has genuinely benefited men at all levels.
However, the reality of patriarchy is that men have also been traumatised, oppressed and exploited — but in largely different ways. If we look at world history, the great majority of men have been subject to multiple levels of trauma and oppression which include being forced into slavery or serfdom, being disconnected from their ancestral lands, and being forced to fight in violent and bloody wars to name just a few.
In fact, the very nature of patriarchy is that it has benefited only a very few men in vastly unequal positions of leadership and power, generally men representing a deeply distorted version of masculinity that bases its power in ruthlessness, greed and violence.
There are three key areas of patriarchal trauma in men that I would like to bring attention to: disenfranchisement, war and slavery.
Virtually all men have suffered the trauma of “fundamental disenfranchisement”, which I would define as being stripped of a fundamental relationship to the natural order, including one’s connection to the Earth, and right to be self-governing as a sovereign being.
Disenfranchisement trauma is particularly apparent in the men of cultures that have been more recently stripped of their land and cultural heritage, such as the Native communities of North America and Australia.
However, it can be argued that through repeated invasion and wars over thousands of years, displacement disenfranchisement happened far earlier for European men. It is these same Western men that forged imperialism and colonialism, thus projecting out and replicating their unacknowledged disenfranchisement traumas on those who still enjoyed a sovereign connection to the Earth.
Now the trauma of disenfranchisement is reaching a peak, with the waves of forced migration flooding across our world as fewer and fewer places on Earth are safe politically, or inhabitable and productive ecologically.
The trauma of disenfranchisement is the loss of belonging to the Earth, along with the culture, values, ceremonies and practices which bind us in a loving connection to our Mother. This loss of belonging creates the trauma of survival fear, where the basics of life (land, water, food) cannot be counted on, and one must labour to survive.
Disenfranchisement is deeply wounding for man, who needs to be in a trusting and tender relationship to the Feminine (through the Earth in this case) in order to feel his core identity, grounding and belonging in life.
Generations of men have suffered at the front lines of war. Not fighting for their individual or even community level sovereign rights, but as slave-soldiers obliged to fight for a hierarchical political class without being able to question the rightness of war and battle itself.
To take the example of Western Europe alone, war has figured almost continuously in Western Europe in the last 7000 years. There include violent land and border invasions, border wars, empire-building wars, armed resistances, and most recently our World Wars. World War I alone robbed Western Europe of a generation of young men, who were brutally conscripted — and in some cases forced to fight on despite incredible levels of psychological trauma.
The physical and emotional effects of repeated forced warfare are difficult to comprehend for those who have not experienced this first hand. In contemporary society we are now recognising the post-traumatic effects of armed combat (for example PTSD) — but for thousands of years this kind of trauma was not recognised or treated. This accumulates along masculine genetic and ancestral lines so that men who are not actually subject to war in the lifetime are still carrying the burden of this trauma as passed onto them from their fathers and grandfathers.
Being forced into violence is deeply wounding to the masculine, who in his divine nature and his mature warrior energy, wishes to protect and provide for his human community. Repeated violence, apart from the physical scars it leaves, creates deep fractures at an energetic and emotional level and forces his to disassociate from his deep emotional nature in order to survive.
Men, women and children have been enslaved within many cultures, geographical regions and timelines. At the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will, either in some form of slavery or serfdom. Although slavery is no longer legal, human trafficking remains an international problem and an estimated 25-40 million men, women and children are enslaved today.
Slavery is alive and well in other more subtle forms including debt slavery (the debt carried by individuals through mortgages and other debts underpins many advanced economies) and the impact of our historical and current slavery is deep and multi-layered. Historically, men have carried the burden of economic slavery in its overt and subtle forms and often have borne in silence the frustration of being chained to jobs, companies, debt and other pressures that rob them of the time and freedom to express themselves and their spirits in more joyful and authentic ways.
While in patriarchal societies men may have “lorded it” over women, the great majority of them have had to serve a greater “lord” thorough different kinds of bonded labour and allegiance.
Slavery trauma has robbed Man of his feeling of sovereignty, self-worth and empowered freedom. It has also created a deep sense of being trapped — obliged to labour for another man’s profit until the end of his days or until he can buy freedom. This creates a deep sense of shame and endless frustration.
How masculine patriarchal trauma shows up
Patriarchal trauma lies deep in the great majority of men alive today. These scars run deep and are collective, multi generational and even exist through past-life imprints. By multi-generational trauma I mean inherited trauma that might be inherited genetically, and emotionally through behavioural templates from father to son all the way down the ancestral line.
Emotional denial, disassociation and confusion
The trauma that men carry is often so deep that it lies out of sight. Given that for men, emotional expression and sharing can be associated with weakness, and that emotional repression is inherent as a social norm in many patriarchal cultures, taking the first step to admit that there is trauma in the first place is a difficult one.
Many men do not realise that they even have a problem. Since their denial and emotional suppression have been normalised, and no-one even notices them, men can have a difficult time bringing the necessary awareness to their emotional traumas in the first place.
This can lead to confusion — particularly the men who have become “successful” at a material level, and who “have it all” — yet are feeling the emptiness, loneliness and disconnection at their core that is symptomatic of their unacknowledged trauma.
The traumatised man, driven by his unconsciously held pain and and inexplicable feeling of rootlessness, emptiness, and shame, will look compound his suppression and find solace in addictions. These include sex, alcohol, drugs and other highs that momentarily fill the gaps and emptiness created by trauma.
An unconsciously traumatised man may also obsess with wealth and material accumulation, which are obvious ways to feel safe and powerful and help protect his from his feelings of unsafely and rootlessness.
However, a more subtle trauma need is that for status and recognition in spheres of life such as academia and politics and other highly competitive professional spheres.
The forcing and coercion of men into violence and slavery has led to deeply held feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame that can barely be acknowledged, the are so painful. This leads to the next symptom — of anger, rage and projection.
The traumatised man may project through obvious means such as blaming and shaming those around him, or justifying his violence, sexual violence and abuse.
Projection protects man from the pain deep within his own emotional centre, and focussed out onto the external world of his workmates, boss, partner and children who must carry the blame. These behaviours compound his isolation and drive guilt and shame deeper into him.
The rapist and the domestic abuser are two tragic examples of the projecting man who is transferring his trauma to woman (or the feminine) so that she is obliged to hold his trauma for him and with him. He has forgotten that his true archetype is to protect and heal the feminine and has disconnected so deeply from his own feeling of sacredness that he can no longer perceive it in women.
How men can help themselves
Owning the trauma
One of the most empowering things a man ever do is to stand up and admit that he is broken. This step is epitomised by James Greenshields, an Australian soldier suffering from PTSD and whose family life was falling apart, who finally broke his shell of masculine emotional repression and pride to admit he could not function. From there he healed himself and now holds space for other men to heal.
Men worldwide need to break the old conditioning of “boys don’t cry” and hold a space for themselves to feel deeply what they are holding. They need permission to break down so that they can break through into emotional freedom from the multilayered trauma that has held them down for literally millennia.
Awakening the emotional warrior
It is nature of the true mature man to also be an emotional warrior — able to feel even the deepest and darkest emotions in order to transform these through the inner alchemy of his strength, self-acceptance and self-love.
Men need to learn the skills and tools necessary to heal and transform their emotions and to understand that emotional self-management is the key to authentic masculine power.
I have seen men who are moving into their emotional warrior archetype sit and sob out their pain, holding a clear space for themselves as they allow emotions to release. They acknowledge they are doing real Men’s Work — not only for themselves but for the collective and for all their ancestors.
Awakening divine masculine service
One of the most empowering things a man can do is consciously restore himself to his true Divine Masculine role — to serve and protect the Feminine. This manifests primarily by being of service to the Mother Earth, and humanity.
Man also needs to rewrite his power in relation to women. When men heal themselves and purify the suffering and trauma of their ancestors, they restore their deep divine masculine healing energy which is literally designed to act as a light in the darkness. Man’s sexual energy is designed to penetrate woman’s sexual mystery with sublime light and create the deepest healing possible. This is the true expression of masculine power in male-female relationships.
Finally, Man needs to understand that all of his masculine powers of intellect and material manifestation are in service to the deepest intuitive truth of his soul. By breaking free from slavery, he is once again free to be true to himself and embody the leadership, transformation and healing that is so needed in our world.
- Joan Marler, 2006, “The Beginnings of Patriarchy in Europe: Reflections on the Kurgan Theory of Marija Gimbutas”
- Gordon, April A. (1996). “Transforming capitalism and patriarchy: gender and development in Africa”. p. 18
- Horobin, David F. (2002) “The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity”
- Belfort, Jordan, (2007) “The Wolf of Wall Street” Source