In Part 1 of this series I used the image of the primal hunter to suggest that sensitivity and intuition are intrinsically masculine qualities. In part 2, I’m going to talk about the phenomenon of “soft men” and suggest that such men are not so much “in touch with their feminine” as out of touch with a fundamental aspect of their masculine.
In writing this I am implying no relative value judgements about masculine and feminine except to suggest that there is far more to the feminine than softness and far more to the masculine than hardness. Nor am I making any judgement about soft men. Such men can display admirable qualities and add greatly to the richness of life.
But what do I mean by soft men?
One of my best friends, sadly now dead, was Brian. From a lowly background, he struggled against obstacles and prejudice to get to the RAF college at Cranwell, became a fighter pilot and on leaving the service, a leading figure in freemasonry. On retirement he devoted himself to the pursuit of beauty, singing in cathedral choirs and became the gentlest, most sensitive and kind man you could hope to meet.
There is a male journey here that is mirrored again and again in myth and story. From strutting Hero to noble King to soft Holy Man.
But this journey seems rare now and there are generations of men have always and only been soft. These are men who identify the masculine with machismo, aggression, destructiveness, rigidity, insensitivity, competitiveness, materialism etc and want none of it.
Go to any workshop or festival on the “new age”, spiritual or personal development scene and you will meet such men. But they turn up in every walk of life. They are soft spoken, kind, thoughtful, deferential to women, they care about the environment, they don’t eat meat, they talk about love and peace, they meditate…
These are lovely qualities that men of two or three generations ago often had brutalised out of them, but these soft men have a shadow side. Beneath the beads and rainbow coloured clothes there is often grief, confusion and anguish.
Often there is an insubstantiality and a lack of fire, a denial of their own aliveness, a dreamy quality that is going nowhere and a tendency to fall into the spiritual bypass, or get caught up in addictions.
Or there may be a neediness that expresses itself in moodiness, manipulation and attention seeking, like a man I know who goes to dance events but spends the whole time lying on the floor because “it is all too much” and then hijacks the talking circle to ramble on endlessly about his problems.
We often speak of these soft men as “feminine”. Indeed they often describe themselves as wanting express their feminine side. But is the Feminine, no more than that which is left when the masculine is absent? Surely there is more to the Feminine than beads and thai pants?
To me, these men are not feminine, but in denial of the creative and generative possibilities of the mature masculine. They are rejecting the energy of King (authority and purpose) and Warrior (self-discipline and action) but finding nothing in its place.
This is not a new phenomenon.
In 1988, the poet Robert Bly spoke at a Men’s Conference of the five losses of contemporary men.
He spoke of the loss of Father energy. Men stuck in boyhood for want of clear role models of mature masculinity.
He spoke of loss of authority and power. Today, particularly in New Age circles authority is rejected as evil. But when we refuse our intrinsic authority what will fill the vacuum?
He spoke of loss of connection with the Cosmic Masculine, that simple visceral joy in being a man.
He spoke of loss of gods. In conscious and new age circles there is a lot of talk of the Goddess. But where are the gods? Are they fallen?
He spoke of the loss that comes when we view ourself as a victim, trapped in the wounds of our flawed childhood.
When we lose these parts of ourself what is left is not the Feminine but the shadows of the Little Boy: The Mummy’s Boy desperately running away from his fear of rejection by pleasing and appeasing, the Dreamer withdrawing into his inner fantasy world; the Weakling Prince in constant overwhelm (The terminology here is from Moore and Gilette’s King, Warrior, Magician, Lover)
So there is a work of reclaiming for many men balancing the beautiful soft qualities with what Sam Keen calls the fire in the belly:
A man must go on a quest
to find the sacred fire
in the sanctuary of his own belly
to ignite the flame in his heart
to fuel the blaze in the hearth
to rekindle his ardour for the earth
In Part 3 of this article, I’m going to explore what it truly means for a man to be in touch with his feminine and why he can only do that when his belly fire is burning brightly!
Look out for Part 3 and if you’ve enjoyed this article please share.
Mentor, transformational coach and author
"Holding a strong centre ground between life coach, natural health consultant and sexuality coach I work with the whole man, guiding you through the truly big challenges in life: Identity, purpose and confidence, work, relationships, sex, health and wellbeing."
"So I've got a string of letters after my name and 25 years in the field.... It helps being qualified and experienced. But the most valuable thing I can share is what I have learned the hard way in my own life journey from shy Mr Nice Guy to empowered King in my own realm."