Notes on the book entitled THE MEN WE NEVER KNEW by Daphne Rose Kingma

This is another one of my life-defining books.

I now understand that the sex roles hurt men as much as and sometimes even more than they hurt women.

As a lifelong feminist I used to focus, of course, on how women were hurt by the sex roles. Believe it or not, my time volunteering at a local prison became the turning point for this learning.

At that period in my life I had absolutely ZERO interest in a relationship with any man, period. I had enough of being treated like a second class citizen. I knew my place was never to be subservient to anyone and it just wasn’t going to happen. Being freed of any interest in men, also freed me to see the men of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, not as men but as people. I saw all these people and wanted nothing more than to understand. I was doing some counseling there and heard of the detailed life experiences of some of these male people who had traveled the darkest roads in life. I now understand that I was impacted so strongly by this experience partially because prison culture amplifies all aspects of societal problems. That amplifies the potential lesson.

For whatever reason, at the same time, I happened to pick up the book entitled The Men We Never Knew by Daphne Rose Kingma. She is a therapist who has worked with men a lot. That book was written to help women better understand men. It explained exactly how men suffer from the burden of the sex roles. I really needed to understand that and I finally did!! I found myself able to see the big picture so much better – why men do what they do and how they struggle. Sadly, they usually struggle alone because to be open about the personal struggles are still seen as “soft” which isn’t valued.

This learning was significant for me because it spurred on major personal growth and a major shift in my personal life goals. All of a sudden, while I honestly had no inclination whatsoever towards men, I started to allow that part of the human experience into my life again but this time, it was different. I had let go of many old feelings, beliefs and blocks. I am now happy to be free of these limitations and free to be just another human making my way down this journey called life with another wonderful human!

I hope for everyone to be free to be!

*****

Here are some quotes From THE MEN WE NEVER KNEW By: Daphne Rose Kingma

“For a great many men, the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams is the heartache which, along with their paychecks, they carry home.

That’s because in relationship to his family a man always sees himself first of all as a provider. It is not only his definition of himself, but his family’s internal expectation of him. Whether or not he is assisted in that undertaking (as he now often is, by his wife), internally, on an unconscious level he view himself as inescapably cast in this role.

As a provider, a man is a wallet, the money which, as a result of his work, he brings home to his family. While for many men providing does bring satisfaction, for a great many others it doesn’t. In either case it represents the living out of a deeply ingrained expectation that a man will shape his life around the demands that being a provider creates. Should he choose, by virtue of creative impulse, to try to have a more free-form life, he risks not only financial incertitude, but also the onus of losing that part of male identity that is defined by playing this role in his family.

Even if work weren’t contaminated by all these problems for men, in reality the definition of identity through work provides only a portion of that sense of self which is the inescapable psychological necessity of every human being. We forget at times that work is work – and that a sense of identity, that delicate aggregate of perceptions that confirms for each of us who we are, is made up of far more than simply what we do. We all need a definition of ourselves which, while it may include our work or profession, reaches far beyond what we do to provide financial support for our lives. In the same way a man’s work creates an identity for him, to that precise degree it can also rob him of discovering his deeper, more complex and beautiful identity.

Only the deeper relationship he has with himself can show him who he truly is: his questions and answers, his joys and curiosities; his heart-felt affiliations, his longings and sorrows; his fears; the acts of his imagination, his spiritual depth. All these spring from the deeper ground in any man; whether he is plowing the fields, painting signs, cooking hamburgers at McDonald’s or running or President of the United States….”

The Burden of Biceps

…. “In a sense, men have always been separated from their emotional lives by virtue of their, in general, superior physical strength. We know men are physically stronger. With their larger physical frames and superior biceps, men are the oxen of the human species, designed to pull the plow, hold the fort, and carry the burdens. In fact, it is physical strength, per se, which has traditionally distinguished “men’s work” from “women’s work.”

But as a culture, we have also treated men’s physical strength symbolically, extrapolating from it the notion that men would be willing and able to carry all kinds of burdens. Thus men have been the carriers not only of the physical burdens that their more developed biceps can shoulder, but also economic, social, environmental, political, and even a great many psychological responsibilities.

Since being strong is the antithesis of being vulnerable, it has been virtually impossible for me to get in touch with their vulnerabilities, and in carrying out their vast array of duties, mean have by necessity been separated from the tender fabric of their own emotional lives. The undertakings of men have left them very little room to discover what they feel, to consciously know what they intuitively need, perceive or to disclose to themselves what occurs in the hidden chambers of their emotional selves.

Throughout history, men have been called upon to do the very things which, in order to do them, required they suppression of their own needs and their feelings. Men have had to kill the wild beasts, fell the forests, sail the seas, wage the wars and build the skyscrapers in order to secure the progress of civilization. To do this required, precisely, that they set aside their needs and their feelings.

A classic tale along these lines is the Greek fable of the warrior and the fox. As the story goes, in order to feed his starving troops, a Greek warrior stole a fox from behind enemy lines and tucked it under his cloak. As the warrior walked back to his camp, the fox started to suffocate under his coat, and, wanting to escape, attempted to chew his way out, eventually biting a hole in the soldier’s heart. Found bleeding to death by his comrades, the dead warrior was lauded first of all for daring to go behind enemy lines and steal the fox, but above all for never having shown his pain.

This tale was recounted specifically to celebrate his true manliness; he was so brave that in order to save his countrymen he suffered and died in silence. The suffering soldier was the epitome of a hero because in his hour of anguish he neither cried out for help nor embarrassed anyone with his suffering. His reward was that he went with honor into his early grave.

If we wonder whether men are still living by this code of hone, and if we wonder if – or how – men still obscure their pain, we need only to look at the pain they carry in their bodies, in their faces, in their self-destructive habits and decisions – men between the ages of 18 and 29 suffer alcohol dependency at three times the rate of women in the same age group; more than two thirds of all alcoholics are men, and 50 percent more men are regular users of illegal drugs than women – in their heart attacks and early deaths.

Men have been taught that in order to hold the world together, to make political, economic, or social decisions, they have to ignore their emotions and needs because the intervention of feelings could make mincemeat of their choices. Thus they have been encouraged to not only not have feelings, but have also been specifically instructed to shove down whatever random needs or tendrils of feelings that from time to time, manage to crop up.

Indeed, we all carry in our deepest unconscious myths about the sexes the belief that men, by nature, are willing to carry and inflict the pain that is required for civilization to advance. Whether that’s in the form of laying the railroad tracks or fighting a war, we have always assumed that men have a special capacity for bearing pain in silence. Indeed, we assume that men will not be affected by what the male role requires of them, that they will not be driven insane by packing their buddies out in body bags, losing contact with their young children in divorce, enduring the irreversible insults of aging, suffering the violating words of parents, bosses, or spouses. In short, in our society, men are expected to be like the Greek warriors, the silent wearers and bearers of pain.

If You Don’t Feel It, You Don’t Have to Deal With It

Men are cut off from their feelings not only because they have been socialized to be that way, but also because there are some significant payoffs for staying in emotional Antarctica. Simply, that what you don’t feel, you don’t have to deal with, emotionally or any other way. Because they have suppressed their needs and their emotions for so long, men are unconsciously terrified of what might occur if they did experience their feelings. So, without being consciously aware of it, they’re afraid that if they address their needs, they’ll be seen as unmanly, totally crumble, collapse and shred into smithereens. Or they’d be overwhelmed and disappear. As one woman’s ex-boyfriend said, in a moment of emotional honesty, “I’m afraid if I talk about it, I’ll explode. I’ll lose control.”

Most men don’t own up to this of course, but generally speaking they arrange their lives and behaviors in such a way that they avoid stumbling into feelings they’re not prepared to have. “I worked the graveyard shift for six years so I didn’t have to deal with my wife,” admitted a client of mine. “Three months after I changed to days, we had broken up.” Intuitively they know that they’re not equipped to handle the strong feelings and so, one way or another, they avoid the situations for which they are not prepared.

This male penchant to deny and rearrange feelings still operates constantly and often in the most subtle ways. For example, one of my male client’s most poignant memories of his father has to do precisely with his father’s suppression of needs and emotion. As he tells it: “My father had nine children – and worked 365 days a year checking brakes on the railroad. He’d get up for 5AM Mass, then go to work. He did this every day for 50 years-and never once complained. He was a saint. I wish I could be more like him.”

While his memory is in one respect a beautiful honoring of his father’s steadfastness, it is also a reaction formation, a celebration of the suppression of feelings: his father suffered, but refused to address his needs or to feel. It obviously hadn’t occurred to my client to view as tragic the fact that his father had denied himself and was unable to express his sadness and anger about the magnitude of his loss and his burden. In fact, it was his very inability to do so which made him heroic in his son’s mind.”

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4 responses to “Notes on the book entitled THE MEN WE NEVER KNEW by Daphne Rose Kingma”

  1. Rob says :

    This is a book I’ll have to read.

  2. ShimonZ says :

    This is a very fine post. It is a pleasure to meet you.

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