Tag Archives: masculinity

Chuck’s Place: On the Road to Masculinity

“Is this the road to masculinity?” asked the traveler of the stranger.

“Yes, if you turn around,” replied the knowing stranger. “All roads begin with Mother!”

Mother Goddess…
– Illustration from the book, “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

Sorry Neo, it’s Mother who is really “The One.” In the beginning there was only oneness of being, life merged inside of mother. Though oneness became twoness at birth, the process of emotional separation and individuation from her power and resource can occupy a lifetime. Many remain attached to mother in her powerful archetypal mystique as benevolent goddess or dangerous witch, casting a shadow over the realization of  their own innate power, magic, and majesty.

Such a goddess status is hardly appropriate for the fallible mortal woman charged with raising a child. In fact, the famous child psychiatrist, Winnicott, desperately attempted to assure mothers that they only needed to be “good enough” for their children to be fine.

What he was referring to was the necessity for mother to only meet minimum requirements of loving presence to enable her child to come online to the vital energy of their own inner circuitry and to become a viable separate magical living being.

This is not to downplay the primal significance of an early connection with mother. If basic minimums are not met a child may perish via a failure to thrive. Beyond that a child may harbor a powerful dependency upon mother for years while the circuits for greater autonomy await her switching them on, in vain.

There is a only a narrow critical period in youth where mother’s attention can activate those switches. Beyond childhood it is the adult ego that takes charge of the circuitboard of the self. In plain English, the adult must take the journey to discover their own riches.

The circuits I am referring to are somewhat identifiable in the neural pathways of the brain and body, the earthly hardware of the soul. However, the mind, the outer wrapping of the soul, is a bit more ephemeral and includes both the ego, the conscious sense of self, and the unconscious, which at its deepest levels, the collective unconscious, contains the basic instinctual knowledge of our species, as well as its spiritual majesty.

In effect, the unconscious has all the knowhow we need to become a person and meet the challenges of life, but access to this inner font of wisdom is first projected upon the agent of mother, who through early attachment serves as conduit to these inner riches. Hence, the immortal goddess status is freely projected upon mother, vestiges of which can last a lifetime. Does mother ever become just the normal human animal we all are?

Given the power of the inner archetypal drama unfolding behind normal growth and development, in addition to the nuances of  one’s personal relationship with their actual mother, a lot can go wrong on the path to adulthood! That’s where adult psychotherapy comes in, helping an individual to individuate through developing a direct relationship between the adult ego self and the golden riches of the deeper self, turning on the circuits of wholeness within the self.

The major challenge on the original road to masculinity is to withdraw one’s all-powerful projection onto mother as “The One.” Fourth grade boys often trade “your mother” jokes to prove their personal power over this primal relationship. One must never show hurt feelings or rage at these jokes and risk suffering the label “mama’s boy.”

The technology of masculinity at this young stage is the ability to fragment and compartmentalize. If one has needy, dependent, soft feelings for mother they must be denied and hidden. To be masculine one must have power over feelings and needs. Instead the focus shifts to competition and the ability to conquer and control. Archetypally the dramas become identification with superheroes or sport’s heroes.

The thrust of adolescence is toward greater autonomy with needs shifting toward social groups and explorations of dating. Young adulthood focuses on deeper autonomy, planting oneself in career directions and the world of work. Intimate relations may move deeper into commitment but frequently dissolve beyond  the romantic idealization stage where love flows freely without obligation. Intimacy is a pathway to the magic, but only with maturity.

With commitment comes a deepening of intimacy and this is where the trouble begins. Masculinity gained through the tools of fragmentation, compartmentalization, competition, power and control are no match for the demands of intimacy, which brings one back to feelings, needs, and the omniscient power of mother that is resurrected in the person of one’s intimate partner.

Mother is the primal first love object who in one form or another is the prototype coloring all future intimacies. For men to truly secure their masculinity they must conquer this powerful female prototype of their infantile dependency needs, frequently represented in archetypal myths as battles with the dragon.

However, conquest of both need for mother and fear of her do not solve the final challenge of masculinity. The final challenge is to be open to deeply loving connection with an intimate partner. To achieve this there is no other road but the return to mother as she appears in the shadow of everyday life encounters, for it is there that we will encounter the ghosts of the nursery.

The ability to tolerate the power of these ghosts that can trigger us into rages and withdrawal is fundamental. The ability to stay present to regulate the archaic emotions that shoot forth from the depths and resolve their associated complexes are the deeper challenges of masculinity.

Adulthood and full intimacy with an other achieved…
– Illustration from the book “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

To be able to make contact, to experience union without the need to dissociate, to hold onto self and fully receive an intimate other are all signs that the power of mother has been successfully transformed; the magic has been discovered within.

Mother can be loved for her humanness, but in adulthood she no longer holds the power of archetypal projection. Full masculinity has been reached and one is truly ready for deeper intimacy. Owning this full masculinity transcends the pseudo-masculinity of power grabs, or the relatedness of childish neediness. This is masculinity that embodies its own magic. Thank you, mother!

On the road again,


Chuck’s Place: Sex & The Uninitiated Male

Why would men with such material wealth and power need to abuse that power for sexual contact with a woman? In fact, why would any man need to abuse his power to have a sexual experience with a woman?

True union…

Abuse of power is aggression. If a man exercises aggression to gain access to a woman, that man must, on some level, be terrified of woman. In his eyes, woman wields some power over him, which he must subdue to feel safe enough to engage with her.

It must also be stressed that “sex” under these circumstances has nothing to do with union, true joining with another person. Though the man may indeed gain access to his victim’s body, his sexual gratification remains purely narcissistic, locked within himself. Regardless of his victim’s physical reaction to his intrusion, there is no actual meeting in such an encounter. The man exits this kind of encounter still a prisoner to his own terror of woman.

All human beings issue forth into life as infants from the most powerful being on Earth: Mother! She who gives, nurtures and can even take life. The terror and total dependency upon this powerful Mother Goddess may recede into the unconscious as a man ages and develops in autonomy, but the power of this female imprint persists and is projected onto all women, the fascinating but terrifying, dangerous other. Even nonaggressive males deal with this terror.

Male initiation rituals, puberty rites of the ancients, resolved this dilemma for all males in a community by breaking the initiate’s dependence upon Mother through deliverance to the power of true adult standing within the community. From this position a man could stand on equal, albeit different footing from woman, and a genuine meeting with woman could happen devoid of violence.

Our modern world has rationalized itself beyond the need for initiation rites. Today these are largely held in the sacred journeys of therapy where the patient-initiate must slay the dragon of his Mother Complex to finally be able to see woman as equal partner.

What modern powerful men such as Weinstein, Cosby, and even Trump with his “pussy grabbing” reveal is that the acquisition of economic and material power in no way initiates a male into true adult manhood. Power might position a man to touch a woman as he pleases, but he’ll never touch a woman’s  soul or experience a genuine union with her unless he achieves true manhood.

Manhood requires initiation. Initiation requires the defeat of the dependencies and the entitlements of childhood. Modern men must find their way to the initiation chamber on their own, with little or no community support. One modern initiation chamber, the psychotherapist’s office, is ready and waiting to provide the sacred space for the journey to real manhood.

Sex for the uninitiated man is his own narcissistic cell, a world of one. No amount of material acquisition or political muscle will release him from this solitary confinement. Only through taking the journey to slay his inner dragons may he be freed to enter the world and truly and safely be with a woman in real union.


A special Sunday blog by Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R