Healing the Male Psyche 

Therapy as Initiation

EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network http://www.europrofem.org 


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41en_mas ... Masculinity


Healing the Male Psyche Therapy as Initiation

by John Rowan

"Being a man in today's world hurts. The male psyche is wounded, and needs to be healed. If men are to escape from the shackles of patriarchy, of the dominance society, of hegemonic."



Being a man in today's world hurts. The male psyche is wounded, and needs to be healed. If men are to escape from the shackles of patriarchy, of the dominance society, of hegemonic masculinity, of the false faces they have been made to put on, they need to be initiated into a new kind of masculinity. The word 'initiation' is used because nothing less will do. It is a kind of rite of passage which is required, where a man can move out of the old roles and into something else. Like all rites of passage, it involves aspects which are of the body, aspects which are of the emotions, aspects which are of the rational understanding, and aspects which are of the soul. The doors of the imagination must be opened. 

In today's world the old kind of initiation, which moved the person from one fixed role to another fixed role, is not an option. The roles are not fixed any more, and to the extent that they are, they are harmful. Today's initiation must be unique to each person, personal to each man. We can say certain general things about it, as for example that simply reversing the existing stereotypes, and trying to produce a gentle, feminine man, is not the aim. We have to go beyond all the stereotypes. Because the change required is so major, entailing nothing less than the undoing of many years of laborious conditioning - conditioning which is still going on, still being reinforced in many different ways - a weekend will not do. 

Five days or a week will not do. What is required is a continuous process, seeing the man through the ups and downs, the contradictions and paradoxes, the breakthroughs and the setbacks, the insights and the blindnesses. Only psychotherapy and the deeper kinds of counselling or personal growth can perform this task, because only therapy stays with the man through all his difficulties. Many kinds of therapy are not up to this task. They have a limited philosophy, or inadequate aims; they have goals which are too highly structured or too pessimistic. Many therapists do not have the required skills. We have to be just as critical of therapy as we are of any other aspect of the patriarchal system. Therapy cannot be taken for granted: it must be problematized just as much as anything else.
In trying to understand what needs to happen, the alchemical model seems to be useful. It offers a sequence of processes, involving all the paradoxes, circlings and re-entries already mentioned. It helps us to see in a pictorial way that what is involved is a path of psychospiritual development, but one which we are all on already.

Given the right kind of therapy, given the appreciation of the need for initiation, there is hope for men to come through. It has been said that for change to take place, what is needed is dissatisfaction, and a vision of what is possible, and some idea of the first steps to be taken. This book offers all three. The male psyche can be healed.

Table of content

PART ONE: Materia prima and Nigredo Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION Masculinity as pain; Problematising men and psychotherapy; Part of the problem and part of the solution; Masculine role as compulsive; The soft male; The initiated male; Therapy as initiation; Therapy as a new set of shackles; Two major contradictions; The alchemical process; Individual and group; Counselling and psychotherapy Chapter 2: LIGHT FROM FEMINISM Six positions; Patriarchy; Hegemonic masculinity; Power; Current feminisms Chapter 3. A CASE STUDY: THE MAN WHO HATED WOMEN

PART TWO: Fermentatio Chapter 4. DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES Early origins; Infancy; Research methods; Trauma; Separation; The false self; How socialisation happens; The adolescent male; Developmental tasks; Gender confusion; Identity problems; Psychiatric problems of adolescence; High costs of conformity; Fathers and fathering; Trust the process ; The real I; The Horned God

PART THREE: Separatio 

Chapter 5. WHAT IS IT WITH THERAPY? Where does therapy come from?; Early days; The structure of psychotherapy; Critiques of psychotherapy; The feminist critique of psychotherapy 

Chapter 6: THE PERSONAL/POLITICAL The personal and the political; First person or third person; Responsibility; Behind or within; The Patripsych; A way forward 

Chapter 7. WHAT IS THERAPY ABOUT? A map of the realm; The mental ego level: Adjustment; The centaur level: Liberation and the real self; The subtle level: The soul; The causal level: The spirit; Psychotherapy integration: The duck-billed platypus and the sphinx; Implications 

Chapter 8. WHAT HAPPENS IN THERAPY? An alchemical analysis; Phase one: Getting started and building trust (Materia prima and Nigredo); Identifying themes: Separating out the opposites (Fermentatio); Exploring the past: Understanding the opposites and inner hierarchies (Separatio); Dissolving the inner hierarchies and facing ambivalence; Accepting the opposites (Calcinatio); Making changes: Living with the opposites (Albedo); Connectedness: Expressing the opposites (Conjunctio); Endings and new beginnings (Mortificatio and second Nigredo); Phase two: Deeper explorations: Rites of passage (Solutio and third Nigredo); Struggles: Deeper oppositions (Coagulatio); Breakthrough (Sublimatio); Integration (Rubedo) 

PART FOUR: Calcinatio Chapter 9. INDIVIDUAL THERAPY WITH MEN Resistance to counselling; Male cycles; Sexuality; Normality as pathology; Sexiness; Good sexuality; What are we aiming at?; Penis and power; Case example; Grief work; Deep emotions; Father hunger; Gay and bisexual men; Ageing men

PART FIVE: Albedo Chapter 10. MEN AND WORK Communication; Interpersonal qualities; Changing patterns; Predictable crises of adult life; Presenting problems; Burnout; Men and friendship; Homophobia; Future trends

PART SIX: Conjunctio Chapter 11. COUPLE RELATIONSHIPS Different planets; The inexpressive male; Having the answer; The male ego; Nagging; Four types of relationship; Intimacy

PART SEVEN: Mortificatio and second nigredo Chapter 12. INTEGRATIVE GROUP WORK Theory and practice: Regression; Existential; Transpersonal

PART EIGHT: Solutio and third nigredo Chapter 13. THE SEXUAL POLITICS GROUP Types of groups; A ritual of wounding and healing; My own work; Some questions; Three types of work; The shakti; The lord of the dance; Some further issues

PART NINE: Coagulatio Chapter 14. TRAINING FOR MALE THERAPY Establish contact with the client; Operate referral procedures; Establish working relationship with the client; Operate within agreed codes of practice; Monitor and evaluate own work; Identify, monitor and review progress with the client: Use of supervision

PART TEN: Sublimatio Chapter 15. THERAPIST CONSCIOUSNESS Training issues raised throughout; Learning about intimacy; Power and competition; Vulnerability; Sex roles; Therapist responsibility; The new male manifesto

PART ELEVEN: Rubedo Chapter 16. INTEGRATION AND ACTUALISATION Initiation; Paradox; Autonomy; Connectedness; The serpent warrior; Going on

Appendix: Should I take on this client? Routledge 1997 285 pages ISBN 0-415-10049-5 pb 0-415-10048-8 hb


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