I am relieved that the topic of men’s mental health has cropped up into the consciousness of our culture, hashtags like: #itsoktotalk, #itsoktonotbeok and #mensmentalhealth are circulating the social media scene.
As a shaman, I see things from a slightly different angle, I see things from the mythic and the sacred, not just at the literal or the cerebral; so, what’s going on?
Firstly, I am only dealing with men’s mental health in this topic, I am fully aware of the issues surrounding women’s mental health and even young children, this, I will leave for another article.
I don’t really talk about my own personal issues, I don’t air my problems, actually, I don’t talk about them much at all, unless I’m confronted by my husband or I am in a healing session myself. But reading this without my own personal experience would not be very congruent. My own mental health issues started when I was a teenager; being empathic and also gay made me quite an outcast, years of bullying finally tipped me over the edge and in my late teens I had a break down. Mild depression developed into acute psychotic episodes, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, body dysmorphia, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I blame Seroxat, a pharmaceutical medication for depression; all I really needed was acceptance. More than a decade of pills, counselling sessions and cognitive behavioural therapies did not even touch the grief that lay within my heart, it was a spiritual issue, it always is.
In the western world, our men are dying between three and four more times than our woman. In 2014, suicides amongst men aged 45 and under in the UK reached 78% of the total of 5,140 suicide victims.
I have often noticed that when a little girl falls over she is swiftly picked up, kissed and cuddled, allowed to cry and held reassuringly till she is ok. When a boy falls over (not so much these days, luckily,) he is told to be a brave little solider, to dry those tears, boys don’t cry! His emotions are suppressed and he is taught how to suppress them throughout his life; here lies the problem.
Older men grew up believing that they have to be just as strong as their fathers and forefathers, after all, they went to war. They have to be the alpha male, the silent provider, the rock, the hero, to be austere in the face of adversary and not to talk about your feelings, again, they are taught to repress their emotions. This is seen in many young men too, where the alpha male is powerful in the family; the wound is strong in this one. As a backlash and because of a change in the woman in our lives, some men, especially younger men, have grown to become something new; something the older men cannot compete with. Woman are (quite rightly) becoming more socially and financially progressive and are often the main provider. This has created the ‘modern man’. He too must be progressive, open, creative in his outlook, in touch with his feelings, yet, be concerned with the feelings of his partner and his children above his own - again, repression of his own feelings - we as a culture still see men’s emotions as not as important. He is independent and can often be found clothes shopping or at the gym. He should have a good amount of seriousness and humour, with a touch of competitive and banter with his peers.
But both of these types of men are turning to drink, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or work to hide the fact they are not happy. Worse than these addictions, they go within, shut down and disappear from the world.
This vulnerability is seen as worse than death; remember the 78%.
There is something we as men are trying to push down and hide. We are terrified of it, scared someone might see it, yet we are scared too, that it may not even be there in the first place. Suppressing it is causing anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, panic attacks and addiction. In extreme cases, suppression of it is causing some of our men to act out in rage, violence and sexual violence. So, what is it that’s hiding behind this anxiety? What’s lurking beneath the depression? Who are we trying to pacify with drugs and liquor?
The Wild Man. The Hairy Man. The Fierce Masculine. We could call him the Dark Masculine, much like the Dark Feminine I have recently written about, he has been feared and suppressed. Deep inside all men there is an aspect of ourselves we are too afraid to see. The being who stands tall is frightening, fierce, fear-less, wild and unabandoned. Hidden deep in our psyche is the fierce masculine. Having a willingness to descend to him, accepting what darkness is down there, including the nourishing dark, your gold, takes tremendous courage, this path is only for the brave.
So, who or what is this Fierce Masculine? He is the authentic part of yourself, the original man you were supposed to be when you came into this world, before it got all fucked up during adolescence. Due to this, he began his journey as the inner child, the Divine Innocent and through an epic journey, became the Sovereign, the Father, the Hunter, the Warrior, the Sage and the King.
He is the fierceness in saying NO against the many and taking a stand for what he believes in.
He is the empowerment in saying YES and asking for what he really wants in life, he is also the belief that he actually deserves it.
He is the strength in vulnerability, acknowledging when he needs the support of his brothers or the love of a partner.
He is the openness that enables him to share what sits deep within his heart, he is the way in which he expresses it.
He is the Divine Masculine, the authentic masculine, the true King.
He sits, waiting for you to find him under the murky waters of your psyche.
Clearing this psychic, muddy water is the first step in returning the fierce masculine. Dealing with all our emotional baggage and deep-seated wounds, past traumas and karmic pasts can be slow and painful, it is also often times, quite liberating too. With each healing step we make, with each group work, therapy, illumination, talk or meditation we undergo, we take a step closer to our true selves. Each laborious breakthrough is an honouring of who you are, each one a sacred bucket of our psychic pool being emptied, eventually revealing the one we have been seeking. If you feel angry, terrified or shame during this process, you are on the right track!
We have all lost something of ourselves, normally during puberty, sometimes, sadly, earlier. Maybe it’s our safety in the world or our sense of adventure. Maybe It was our voice or sense of place in the world, mostly, it’s our bliss. Where did it go? Why did it leave, you already know those answers. I know who holds them now; like the ball we lost in our scary neighbour’s garden when we were six, he holds it. Dare you knock on your neighbour’s door? Dare we ask the Fierce Masculine for our ball back? When we are face to face with the true power of who we really are, dare you ask for your golden balls back? Suddenly we are six again, feeling sick to our stomachs as the door opens.
Marianne Williamson, an American spiritual writer, once wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure, it is our light, not our dark that most frightens us.” A quote so true.
I could go on, this is only a tiny fragment of the article I originally wrote, I would have to write a book, instead, I’m going to ask you to read a book, both men and woman, go read Iron John by Robert Blyth. For men, it is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can gift you. “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein, aka wisdom-keeper, said this. The next level up from our mental health issues, deep seated wounds and emotional baggage is the mythic. Take all of this story, all this murky water you have accumulated and take it to the mythic realm, read Iron John and see where you fit within the story. Take your stories, and with honour and grace, let them go. What is your new story?
For me, I met a shaman, Chris Waters of Spirit of the Inca, I had a healing session with her and skipped out of there like a child. After ninety minutes, more progression was achieved than over a decade of therapy and medication, a new journey was set, a new mythic map was created, I started my training to do exactly what she did for me for others. As shaman, we are the strangers that show up, the ones who reverently help to bucket out the murky waters, we are the ones who hold sacred space while you meet Iron John, the Hairy Man, the Fierce Masculine and then help you create a new mythic map for you to follow. I have met my own Iron John, it was scary, I had to metaphysically rip myself in half to reveal him, it was physically and emotionally painful, but it was liberating and joyous too.
There cannot be peace in our world until we heal this wounded masculine that sits lurking within us men. For we as men will continue to fury and rage at each other with war and torment, we will continue to ignore and even assist in the violence towards women, and we will continue to rape and abuse our women, our children and our earth.
We all need to heal our puzzle pieces, so we can all fit together as a community.
The woman and girls in our lives need us to do this, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters.
The men and boys in our lives need us to do this, our brothers, our fathers, our sons.
The earth needs us to do this, our Sacred Mother, our planet, our home.
For more information on one to one healing sessions or advice on dealing with some of the issues raised here, please contact me on my contacts page.
Samaritans 116 123
SWITCHBOARD An LGBT+ helpline 03003306630 www.switchboard.lgbt
SANE 03003047000 www.sane.org.ukhelpline offering practical advice, information and advice.
RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS www.rethink.orginformation and online directory of local support.
Anxiety UK 08444775774 www.anxietyuk.org.ukinformation and support
CALM a campaign against living miserably, www.thecalmzone.net0800585858 provides listings, support and information for men at risk of suicide.
The Silver Line 08004708090 support for older gentlemen.
Shamanism has been a passion and an inspiration for me for many years now.