We are continuing this series on shame and its effect on passive men. Once again, I was inspired to work on this series after reading an article titled, Turning Shame to Gold: Men Feeling Shame, Men Healing Shame by Dr. Guarnaschelli. This is a kind of dark topic for most men so consider if it is a post you can read without letting it weigh you down too much. Today we are going to look at how shame has become a part of every man’s life.
Father’s have a tremendous role in establishing the role of shame by using the technique to establish what an adult man should be. In days of old, there were trades that men were known for. A man may be a cobbler, smith worker, a farmer, or a merchant. Typically, a man’s son would apprentice his father and seek to either take over the work for his father or move nearby and setup his own business. In today’s society professions are as open as one’s dreams. A lawyer’s son could just as easily become a burger joint cook as much as a burger joint cook’s son could become a lawyer. A son that is different from his father in his dreams, desires, and goals, though, can be an area that a father shames his “different’ son. A father may not validate the interests his son may have and this may lead to a feeling of shame by the son. The father probably feels threatened or frightened that his son’s goals will cause him to be looked on as a failure as a man. Maybe his dreams of a football playing son only enjoyed soccer or didn’t enjoy sports at all. Before we move further, let me say that mother’s have just as substantial a role if not more in many cases of creating an environment of shame in stressing ideas of what a “good” man should be.
Once a man move’s beyond his parents’ eyes and into a profession he is cast into a world where he is expected to be a slave to the work world doing a man’s job. That is to say a world where ninety percent of all work related deaths occur among men. Dr. Guarnaschelli describes this as, “granted no permission whatever for asserting their genuine selves, most men willingly take refuge in their assigned roles. Thoroughly conditioned Do-ers, and never Be-ers, they unquestioningly sacrifice body and soul to the demands for work, for providing support for their loved ones, and for military service that are imposed upon them throughout their lifetimes.”
To be considered a “success” as a man there is the thought that a man should strive to get to the top of the corporate ladder. Those that have played the system well and attained the status of top dog, CEO, or boss must give up all commitments in thought, time, and devotion to the business. They must live a life married to a company where their family does not know who they really are and are often so consumed by their work that they often die shortly after leaving their job in retirement.
Dr. Guarnaschelli describes the raising up of a man as, “Rather than shaping men to exercise ‘domination’ or ‘masculine privilege’ then, traditional male upbringing hollows men out, impoverishes them, so as to render them into unfeeling automatons without needs, virtual robots without rights.”
Shame will work its way to the core of a man totally brainwashing his ability to see reality. He may not be able to see when a problem exists in his world because that is the way it has always been done. He is trapped in his own world to the point that he believes that anything outside of his thought system is not acting like a man. Dr. Guarnaschelli makes this clearer by stating, “The basic wound therefore perpetuates itself because it denies itself. Raising any question aimed at realizing who a man genuinely is necessarily obliges him to violate what he’s been socialized to believe he is: someone who must never be concerned about who he really is? There is no way out of this vicious double bind. Thus there is very little sympathy for men or for the needs of men…even from men. To feel it would be ‘unmanly’.”
Shame completely destroys. It eats the life from a man. It puts a man in a situation where he has to disregard or discard any true feelings. Dr. Guarnaschelli describes this better by saying, “His qualities and his needs must remain permanently unseen, unsupported, unfulfilled…kept hidden even from himself. It should be clear that most men have been hurt so deeply by this experience that they cannot subsequently reveal themselves, be vulnerable or ‘available,’ in relationships with other men or with women. “
Shame is a pressure that is unrelenting. It holds the constant promise that revealing one’s true self could be a painful experience. Limited to a life of self protection, it should be no surprise that it turns men into “distant, fearful, angry men.”
Because the rest of this post has been so rosy, I will get to the darkest part. Men feel like they have been bound by their gender to submit themselves to the act of being “men.” With that comes adhering strictly to the social norms and expectations of being the main breadwinner for the family. Dr. Guarnaschelli explains that, “shifting gender roles, hostile feminism, unemployment, competition from affirmative action, downsizing, altered job definitions, and all the rest…from an already confused and assaulted personal center that has long since prepared them to experience life-long shame. Consequently, the enormous mass of shame burdening men in modern society can only be worsening. This cannot be beneficial for men, for women, for children, or for the very earth.”
I still have a few more posts that I will be writing on shame. While it is a difficult topic, I want to give you a preview that there is hope and we will talk about that as we go along.