Mother Wound: Am I a Traitor?

A topic I’d rather avoid came to the forefront recently via the myriad connections of the world wide web. Be Brave Campaign (to which I’ve previously contributed) highlighted a Huffington Post article by Rick Belden, a sometime contributor to insideMAN (a blog I’ve also contributed to). It’s almost like a conspiracy theory (if your imagination is vibrant enough).

Men and the Mother Wound” discusses a matter that Rick Belden frames this way: “I know my Father Wound well. It hurts but does not scare me. My Mother Wound terrifies me. It feels like a pit from which there is no return.”

Because I write with my real name I’m reticent to say anything too personal. Suffice it to say that Belden’s words are important. Before going on I think it’s important to say that no one can emerge from childhood without both a father wound and a mother wound because no one is perfect. Perfect parents don’t exist. And I’m not a parent, so I’m not about to pass judgment on people whose life experiences as parents are something I cannot truly understand.

That said, I want to add that I feel lucky that I don’t have a significant father wound. My dad has an enormous father wound, and he made the choice not to replicate that with me. He succeeded. I don’t know whether my sisters would say the same thing or not. But I do know my relationship with my dad is unique.

Before going on, I want to say something about how wounds happen in the first place. Simplistically, I’d say that we wound others from our own woundedness, and from the narrow perspective and lack of awareness our wounds engender.

What I mean is that very few people wound others maliciously (but those who do are psychopaths). I try to bear this in mind when someone does something hurtful. Rather than ascribe malicious intent the first course of action should be to try to understand this person better. Easier said than done, no?

Why is it so hard for men to talk about mother wound? Belden states that, “Most sons have been trained and are expected to be protective of their mother and her feelings at all costs.” He elaborates that as a child he was taught “that women (especially mothers) are inherently virtuous, self-sacrificing, and morally infallible, making a tough slog through the dark feminine underworld.”

But that stands in contrast to the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” This song is from The Wall, the uber-metaphor for men. “Mother” ends with the line, “Mother, did it have to be so high?” I suggest you listen to the song to get a full sense of what Roger Waters is communicating.

Belden is also concerned about the larger implications of mother wound:

It often seems that we are inundated with an apparently infinite stream of stories about misogyny, abuse, and violence inflicted on women by men, accompanied by similarly unending commentary as to the causes. But the one factor I almost never see included in these discussions is this: Many of these men are being driven, at least in part, by the powerful, unconscious emotional energy of an unresolved Mother Wound. Until we’re ready as a culture to explore and address the causes and implications of that, I don’t think we’re going to get too far in addressing the more dramatically problematic and damaging behaviors some men exhibit with women.

I could quote Belden’s entire piece, but I’ll take a shortcut and just recommend that you read his piece. But before I sign off for today, I want to second Belden’s statement that:

Any man who is consciously, actively working on his Mother Wound deserves support, understanding, and patience. By confronting one of our culture’s most powerful and deeply entrenched taboos, he is charting a necessary and critically important new route through largely unexplored territory for other men and doing some of the bravest, most critical work in the arena of modern masculinity.



“Cloudy Visibility”: Men’s inner emotional lives are more complicated than you might think

Hit the nail on the head

Gender & Society

By Joseph R. Schwab, Michael E. Addis, Christopher S. Reigeluth, and Joshua L. Berger

Stereotypes of men tell us that they are stoic, unemotional, and in general not very interested in talking about their feelings. This is what women do, so the stereotype goes, and men are often assumed to be uninterested in engaging with the “feminine” side of life. And as stereotypes go, many of us are guilty of perpetuating this assumption about men’s inner emotional lives. We may not ask men about difficulties they may have recently experienced, or about “softer” emotions like sadness, grief, loneliness, or anxiety. Men themselves also perpetuate this stereotype by not talking to other people about the struggles they may be experiencing in order to appear strong and appropriately masculine.

Man walking

But if you talk to men about their emotional struggles––really sit down with them and ask the tough, introspective questions about what’s going on emotionally for them––you…

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Trumbo: A Tangential Movie Review (Of Sorts)

Trumbos been out for a while. I realize that. Somehow I missed it when it was in theaters, so I rented it from Redbox.

Trumbo is based on a true story. I love that. And I love Bryan Cranston, who plays the lead character. I mean, who doesn’t love Bryan Cranston? Weirdos, that’s who.

Trumbo follows the travails of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in the late 1940s because he was a communist. He was even sent to prison for contempt of Congress when he refused to answer a question from the House Un-American Activities Committee about his affiliation with the Communist Party USA. The first amendment guarantees freedom of association, but constitutional liberties are a trifle when you’re defending American values.

Dalton Trumbo wrote movie classics such as Roman Holiday and Spartacus. But he wrote the former under a fake name because of the whole blacklist thing. The latter starred Kirk Douglas, who defied the blacklist and let the Trumbo cat out of the bag.

A commie as a hero? That’s sure to make Donald Trump supporters really mad. And communism/Marxism is indeed terrible. Communists are responsible for the deaths tens of millions of people in the 20th century. Joseph Stalin‘s human rights violations far exceeded anything the House Un-American Activities Committee was doing at the time.

But that’s not the point. And none of it excuses the human rights violations and un-American activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee, nor the complete disregard J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI had for basic American liberties.

Which brings me to my point. I think reactionaries and radicals are cut from the same cloth. The biggest difference is that one is right wing and the other is left wing. And in case you’re wondering, I describe myself as a fiscal moderate and civil libertarian.

In my experience, both radicals and reactionaries tend to be dogmatic and intolerant of anyone who has a different viewpoint. Both are prone to human rights violations when they have power. They often fail to realize that no one ever gets everything they want, and so pragmatism and compromise are essential. They frequently have the attitude that you’re either for them or against them. So I’m against them both.

But the thing is, it’s not a crime to be a communist. There’s that whole first amendment thing. If someone actively plots to overthrow the United States government then they’re committed a crime. But the crime isn’t being a communist, or being an Islamist, or being a Dudeist. The crime would be plotting violent acts against the government or civilians.

Except that a Dudeist would never even contemplate that. He’d be like, “All this revolution stuff is, like, fucking with my Zen, man. I’m gonna light up a jay. Who wants to call for pizza?”

Besides, in the United States right wing reactionaries are a much bigger threat than left wing radicals. The US is a conservative country by international standards, and there are way more reactionaries than there are radicals here. Plus, reactionaries tend to come from demographic groups that currently and historically have had far more power than other groups.

Look at it this way: reactionaries like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump actually have a chance of becoming president. But in Europe, Hillary Clinton would be called a moderate. And while Bernie Sanders would be called a liberal, his views are mainstream in many parts of Europe. Besides, Sanders doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of Congress passing his key policy proposals.

And here’s a question: can you name the 2016 Communist Party USA presidential candidate? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? As far as I can tell, there isn’t one.

Oh, by the way, Trumbo is an enjoyable movie with some really good acting. Especially the part where he’s writing scripts in the bathtub. (I think there were several scenes like that.) Anyway, I highly recommend it.