The Biology of the Archetypal Masculine
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While the examples we have given in this series so far have all been about the ways in which an imbalance between the Archetypal Masculine and Feminine play out in our culture, the real work must of change must first be done at the personal level. Each of us is wounded by a wounded culture, and healing the culture begins with healing ourselves.
The first step toward healing ourselves is to recognize where and how we have been wounded. We do this not to wallow in our victimhood – which would be an expression of the Wounded Feminine – or to retaliate and make others suffer for our pain – which would be an expression of the Wounded Masculine – but so we can begin to bring ourselves back into Sacred Balance.
Because of our cultural and biological conditioning, the pathways to balance may often seem to play themselves out across gender lines. An excess of testosterone naturally makes men slightly more aggressive, and significantly more inclined to dominate. Competitiveness is increased, and the empathy, understanding, tolerance, and compassion necessary to sustain close, caring relationships (archetypal Feminine values) are compromised. At its most extreme, high levels of testosterone increase what is known as “the killer instinct” – useful in the cutthroat world of the Wounded Masculine, but also conducive to severe and dangerous imbalance.
As noted by Dr. Leon Seltzer (“The Testosterone Curse (Part 2),” Psychology Today, May 6, 2009):
"At its worst, high-T dominance and competitiveness can involve brute force, violence, and fighting behavior of all kinds . . . High-T males can be ‘rough and callous.’ Their more tender feelings literally ‘blunted’ by elevated testosterone levels, they tend not to be particularly concerned about or, for that matter, interested in the feelings of others. And unmoderated feelings such as lust, resentment, or rage can easily preempt the softer feelings of love, compassion, or forgiveness . . . Sadly, there's seems to be something about high testosterone levels that contributes to an almost predatory frame of mind, at least for those not reared very caringly in childhood."
In addition, high levels of testosterone can produce:
raw energy to do things in the extreme, as well as a tendency to indulge in impulsive, reckless, and risky behaviors that result in injury
the inability to mentally process ambiguity, paradox or complexity
greater danger of “veering toward the dark side,” engaging in psychopathic and sociopathic behavior, ignoring the rights of others
greater tendency toward becoming controlling, dominant, and abusive in intimate relationships
Not all men, of course, will exhibit these characteristics, and women can also have high levels of testosterone – although men generally have 10-100 times more testosterone than women. Beyond hormones, the culture at large often rewards men who are aggressive, dominant and willing to take risks (in sports, war and business, for example). In a Wounded Masculine culture, men who are more cooperative, egalitarian, and sensible can be perceived as being weak, so even when testosterone levels are not high, there can be social pressure on men to adopt Wounded Masculine behaviors in order to take their place in patriarchy.
To come into Sacred Balance, men will usually need to develop ways of being that are in some ways antithetical to their biological make-up and their cultural conditioning. Most men will need to learn how to feel, to trust their intuition, to care for their body, to care for others, to pace themselves, to be more responsible, to negotiate more egalitarian relationship, to find their way into a deeper awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and the mythopoetic complexities of the soul’s journey. These things do not come naturally to most men, which is why they are an important part of the learning curve on the way to Sacred Balance of the archetypal Masculine with the archetypal Feminine.
To read the next post in this series, go here.
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