Male and female energy: it is healthy for men to embrace both
Men do have a feminine side and it can be beneficial for them to accept it. When early homo sapiens became more feminine—due to changes in levels of testosterone, which resulted in less muscular bodies—they were able to work better together. They also started to develop helpful hunting tools and other cultural advancements (like cave paintings) that were attributed to their increased social sophistication. (1)
Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote about female energy within a male’s psyche as the anima: the unconscious, undeveloped contrasexual component of a man’s personality. Jung was among the first to note that there is a struggle between male and female energy within males. He observed that men usually unconsciously project the anima— their inner image of the feminine—onto women. He warned that the man who fails to recognize his anima projection (and aligns solely with the masculine spirit) suffers “diminution of vitality, of flexibility, and of human kindness.” It can also lead to a host of troubling behaviors, including (2):
· Fanatical one-sidedness
Unfortunately, many young boys continue to be taught to have anti-feminine attitudes. This includes receiving strong messages in their formative years that they should not express their emotions. Those who do exhibit stereotypically feminine characteristics are at risk of being stereotyped as gay. These boys often learn how to act in a more masculine manner to avoid being ridiculed (3). As adults, these men feel pressured to live up to real, or imagined expectations, such as being the:
· Main breadwinner to financially support the family
· Emotional “rock” to maintain the family’s emotional well-being
· Physical protector to ensure the continued safety of the family
As Jung suggests, maintaining the “strong masculine mask” in adulthood can be confusing, stressful, and lead to grave emotional and/or physical symptoms. The pathway to change often starts by helping men identify where they are having difficulty “measuring up” to real or perceived expectations—including the harsh expectations they place on themselves.
1. Fordy T (2015). We men must embrace our feminine side fast - or face total extinction. The Times. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11659368/Gender-and-sex-Men-must-embrace-femininity-fast-or-face-extinction.html.
2. Jung, C. G. (2003). Aspects of the masculine (J. Beebe, Ed.) (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). New York, NY: Routledge. (Original work published 1954)
3. Cook, G. N. (2011). Male friendships: The longing for meaningful connection (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest (Order No. 1486935).