Healing the Toxic Masculine to Save the World
How Can a Fantasy Story Help Heal the Culture of Toxic Masculinity?
“In creative work [we] are not trying to help the world go around, but forward.”
Our vacation on the Oregon coast was lovely, with perfect weather—but then we headed back to California. In Arcata, we discovered that the 2017 firestorm in Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino was between us and our home. Driving down Hwy 101 South through the thick smoke and burned areas is the closest I have yet come to a disaster that some call “natural” – but I call “unnatural.” Global warming augments droughts, floods, hurricanes, and firestorms far beyond what many, many of us consider “natural.”
Once home, I felt sad and disturbed to be safe while so many all over the world are not. Spending my time, money, and creative energy on writing and promoting my fantasy trilogy, The Star-Seer’s Prophecy, seemed irrelevant and useless. How could a fantasy story help in a world of disasters and upheavals?
But then I remembered how this story came to me and insisted that I write it, when I had no plan to do any such thing. It was like my “mission from Goddess,” and demanded that I go down into the darkest places of my imagination and face the evils humans inflict on each other: torture, rape, murder. And then, step by step, forge a path of healing and transformation to bring the protagonist, Kyr—who begins life suffering and inflicting these evils—back into the light of forgiveness, compassion, and love.
Now I realize that my trilogy speaks to an underlying cause of many troubles on the planet—wars and unnatural disasters, mass murders by deranged men, violence against women and children, global warming and the degradation of the planet. And that this underlying cause is the unhealed woundedness, pain, rage, fear, and grief that many men carry buried deep in their souls.
After earning MAs in sociology and psychology, and a 20-year career as a licensed psychotherapist, I strongly believe that centuries of warfare, torture, abuse, and violence have damaged many men and women psychologically and emotionally, generation after generation. And that many of us live in “dark innocence”—the state of being unconscious of our pain, grief, and rage while acting out of these buried feelings, unaware of how much suffering we are causing to ourselves and others.
A Poisonous Myth
What we women need to understand is that it is different for men. The poisonous myth of masculinity says that men should always be tough, unemotional, in control, and strive to be the most dominant one. This is what causes so many men to carry this buried agony, trying to hide all their terror, rage, and grief behind this “tough man” mask. Women’s story of suffering is terrible, but we are not so affected by this toxic myth. We generally keep more in touch with our feelings and react differently than men.
We need to realize that many men have been unable or unwilling to undertake the “hard path”—the inner healing journey that is the theme of my trilogy—and so fail to face and transform their pain, rage, fear, and grief. Instead they take the easier path of anger, revenge, or dominance over others whether by physical, economic, or political means, resulting in toxic masculinity. This ranges from bullying, abuse and violence, on up to war, predatory capitalism, corrupt politicians, and cruel dictatorships.
These men are cut off from their hearts and souls, and seek elusive/illusory safety by gaining more and more false power, which includes seeking dominance through violence and subjugation; or by acquiring economic and/or political power. They unconsciously pour out their buried suffering and damage onto others. Often, they project onto these others the vulnerability and weakness that they fear and despise to see in themselves.
Many resort to drugs and alcohol to try to numb their pain, and/or project their own unacknowledged rage and violence onto the “bad other” (such as “terrorists” or the “enemy,” or women who don’t please them, or people of another religion, color, sexual orientation, etc.) which gives them a “reason” to feel superior and perhaps to go fight, abuse, degrade, or kill the “bad other.” (Murder being the ultimate form of dominance over another). Thus, we endure the plagues of addiction, war, rape of women and the Earth, global warming, “lone wolf” mass murders, terrorists, predatory capitalism, etc., etc.
Toxic masculinity causes all of us— children, women, and men— to suffer.
It is clear to me that the angry, frightened, unhealed men who have sought dominance over others in so many ways are the ones who cause much of the damage and suffering in our world. In addition, all this abusive behavior fosters unconscious self-hatred, guilt, isolation, and self-punishment, which adds to the load of pain in these men’s hearts.
I know that many men are excellent human beings: caring, creative, strong, self- responsible, protective of others’ well-being, respectful, and kind. (I’m married to one). And that many women are damaged to the point of destructive behavior against others, or more often, themselves. However, the point is that, in my considered opinion, what drives many of the ills of our civilization is the unacknowledged and unhealed pain, grief, and rage that many men carry, and act out in such damaging ways to others and to their own souls.
How The Star Seer’s Prophecy Trilogy Can Help Transform Toxic Masculinity
The Trilogy is the story of Kyr’s difficult inner healing journey on the “hard path” from violence and abuse toward love and wholeness. Only after many years of writing, revising, editing did I wonder why this story ‘insisted’ that I write it, and what its purpose might be. In a deep meditation on this question, I received this bold and powerful answer, (which I then realized has always been my mission in life as psychotherapist and author):
The purpose of the Star Seer’s Prophecy Trilogy is to
end the personal and societal culture of hatred, revenge and punishment,
and evoke an inner and outer culture of healing, forgiveness, and compassion.
Inner Culture: Individual Healing Work
What The Star-Seer’s Prophecy Trilogy portrays in vivid detail is exactly what I believe is needed: for men to take the healing journey that Kyr undertakes. He chooses the hard path of healing, forgiveness, and compassion, rather than the easy path of rage, revenge, violence, and/or dominance.
On his arduous journey, Kyr has to:
- Awaken to the violence and pain he has inflicted in his dark innocence;
- Face his remorse and guilt, and learn to forgive himself;
- Safely express his own pain and rage about what he has suffered;
- Forgive others who have hurt or betrayed him;
- Develop inner strength and integrity;
- Accept himself and know that he will protect and care for himself and so does not need to seek safety through dominance over others.
Ultimately, Kyr learns to release himself from identification with the terrible story of his past, which allows him to awaken to the grace of the present moment. (This occurs in Perilous Bliss, Book Three of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy Trilogy, due out in January 2018). As long as we are identified with the story of our past suffering, we cannot move on and open our hearts fully to love and joy.
Reading Kyr’s story has helped some readers to begin or continue their healing journey.
“By living vicariously through the characters in a safe, fun, and captivating manner, I began to relate to my own dark and deep feelings. I found I could safely start to heal old wounds, and question things about my own beliefs. And it all happened through the story’s presentation of terrible suffering, acceptance, and growth.” —Tetja Ann Barbee (see her interview about reading Dark Innocence: Book One)
“Gritty and Uplifting: The author uncovers the depth of human suffering in order to create the vision of healing and growth. Sharing the character’s journey supported me in accepting my own journey from suffering to growth. A richly rewarding story for those with the courage to seek the fullness of being alive.” —Richard Schieffer – 5 Star review of Fierce Blessings: Book Two on Amazon
Reading this story can be a less-threatening way for men to begin to understand their own pain and harmful behavior. For more about the healing effects of my books, visit: https://starseersprophecy.com/healing-through-books/
Here’s what one therapist says about this:
[Dark Innocence is] “An excellent book outlining how healing can happen for those who have experienced severe abuse and trauma and who also abused others. …There are so few books out there that address this issue for men. I used to work with…male teenagers who were offenders but they didn’t have a lot of books to choose from with the healing of male characters. A book like this with the abuse and in-depth healing of a male character who experiences but then heals from multiple traumas should have been written long ago. And it applies to healing for women also. —Sarah Weinberg, MS in clinical social work, Columbia University, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
In addition, there are many good groups and therapists to work with, and good things happening in what is generally known as the men’s movement. See list of Resources at end.
Outer Culture: What We Need to Do as a Society
Much needs to be done to heal our outer culture of toxic masculinity:
- Acknowledge that everyone carries pain and shares in our dark innocence to varying degrees, whether recognized or denied;
- Develop compassion for ourselves and each other
- Avoid acting from rage and the desire to blame and punish
- Reject the poisonous myth that supports the culture of toxic masculinity
- Realize that we are all in this together, not a bunch of “rugged individualists” fighting for dominance
- Provide a healing, compassionate society for all
This is a tall order, but I believe that the fate of the world literally depends on this. If we cannot make this shift into greater consciousness and compassion, it is quite possible that our civilization will crumble, and we may even destroy ourselves, if not all life on Earth.
My intention for my books is: to inspire more people to take the hard path of healing, forgiveness, and compassion; to ultimately awaken to our Oneness; and to learn to live in ways that are sustainable for all life on Earth.
The Star-Seer’s Prophecy Trilogy is an epic fantasy of a transformational journey from evil and suffering toward love and awakening; from hatred and punishment toward compassion and forgiveness. Not for the faint-hearted or straight-laced, these books are recommended for adults who want to be challenged, touched, and inspired.
DARK INNOCENCE: Book One – Kyr struggles from suffering and evil toward healing and forgiveness (now available online as paperback or e-book)
FIERCE BLESSINGS: Book Two – Kyr fights to protect his soul against familiar seductive evil with fierce compassion (now available online as paperback or e-book)
PERILOUS BLISS: Book Three – Kyr faces betrayal and despair on his path toward love and awakening (forthcoming January 2018)
Resources for Men Seeking to do the Inner Work of Healing and Behavior Change
The Mankind Project (MKP): a nonprofit training and education organization with three decades of proven success hosting life-changing experiential personal development programs for men. MKP supports a global network of free peer-facilitated men’s groups and supports men in leading lives of integrity, authenticity, and service. www.mkp.org
Note: I have witnessed the great results this organization has with men, and highly recommend it.
Illuman is a global not for profit organization committed to supporting men who are seeking to deepen their spiritual lives (and) focus on providing men with an opportunity to do their ‘inner work’ in the company of other men. www.illuman.org
Recommended by Mike Morrel
BOOKS AND ARTICLES
“How to be a good man: what I learned from a month reading the feminist classics” by Carl Cederström, The Guardian 10/2018
The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives by Lewis Howes
The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help by Jackson Katz
A Circle of Men: The Original Manual for Men’s Support Groups – New Edition – by Bill Kauth
“An Open Letter to My Brothers in Light of #MeToo,” blog post – www.MikeMorrell.org
“One Man’s Journey: How I Stopped Watching Porn for A Year and Why I’m Not Going Back” Dan Mahle – A personal account of the detrimental effects of porn addiction and the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of quitting
“‘We Talk About Women Being Raped, Not Men Raping Women.’ Meet the Man Behind the Viral Quote” Jackson Katz takes on the power of passive language. Article by Valentina Zarya
http://redwoodmen.org/wp/resources/ – listing of many men’s groups and organization
http://www.minnesotamensconference.com/ – many offerings, events, books, poetry, etc.