This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 593 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Thoughts on the Male Feminist

Copyright: vadymvdrobot / 123RF Stock Photo

I want to sketch out some rough ideas which have arisen from contemplating the behaviour of some men who support feminism. There are risks involved in speculating about what goes on inside people’s heads. But it is also dangerous to leave ideas unformed and unexamined in our minds. Laying them out on the table and assessing them seems the way to go.

When trying to understand a phenomena, sometimes the best place to begin is with its most exaggerated manifestation. If we can see meaning in the bold shape of the extreme, then it may enable us to see the same pattern, but with softer edges, elsewhere.

I’ve noticed that there are some men who, having adopted the cause of feminism, become almost rabidly savage in their condemnation of any signs of sexism they find in the speech or behaviour of other men. This is the relatively rare extreme. That someone with a generosity of spirit and ethical integrity should decide that equality between the sexes is a goal worth pursuing enthusiastically is understandable enough, but where declared support for that aim takes a form in which generosity of spirit to one’s own gender seems seriously compromised the behaviour makes less immediate sense.

I have misogynistic thoughts and feelings. I have racist thoughts and feelings. I have homophobic thoughts and feelings. None of this is much of a problem for me, because I accept these thoughts and feelings when they arise, and so they quickly depart.

Life and our interactions with other people involve a degree of frustration. When we feel frustrated, the process of interacting with someone of a different mindset or culture than our own may be a little more difficult and low level hostile feelings may be generated. If we accept them, they will quickly dissipate, but if we feel ashamed or guilty about them they may become a fixation and grow.

Misogynistic feelings, from the fleeting to the ingrained, have clearly been common in men from the beginnings of civilisation down to the present day. When we men have oppressed and mistreated women it has been an expression of such feelings.

Now if a man takes  up the cause of feminism, doesn’t it make sense that he would take this approach in interacting with other men :

“Look, guys, I know you have these feelings of frustration with women. It may have got to the stage were you feel embittered and hateful towards them. I understand. I’ve had those feelings too, maybe not as strongly as you do, but I know. The thing is, though, that allowing those feelings to determine how we interact with women isn’t doing us any favours. I’m not talking morality. Stuff that. I’m talking about our own self interest. We share this planet with women. The happier they are, the happier we’ll be. Happy women are generous women. And no amount of power or wealth is more valuable than being surrounded by people who are fond and supportive of you in a way which comes from the heart.”

There may be some men who take that very approach to promoting the cause of female equality. But what of the guy who is screaming at his fellow men about what sexist pigs they are?

Let’s skip to another cultural phenomenon in which someone becomes very angry and contemptuous in support of a cause. I was watching a video recently of a man who considers himself a Christian. He was strutting around a stage, spittle flying from his lips, as he condemned homosexuality and called for the state to execute all gay people. Why the extreme hostility? Does it not seem likely that he is caught in a negative feedback loop arising from the anti-homosexual beliefs he has either adopted or been indoctrinated into? It seems likely that most non-gay men have at least passing homosexual urges from time to time. Some may indulge them, others will let them slip away and go back to lusting after women. But if you believe that homosexuality is an abomination, you don’t have the luxury of taking twinges of this kind so lightly. There may be a moment of horror when you face the possibility that you yourself may be the abomination, then you shove that thought deep down into your subconscious, and you begin to build a wall to keep the horror contained. You can’t accept this part of yourself, and thus you fixate on it, but because you can’t even bare to face the fact that it is a part of you, you split from it and become deeply paranoid, going to battle in the world around you with anything which resonates with the monster within. You would slay all the gay people in the world if you could, but it could never satisfy you, because that monster within would not have been slain. The irony is that all that it takes to make the monster go away is to own it. It is denial which feeds such monsters, and acceptance which slays them.

Is it not possible that the angry male feminist is in the same position as the gay-hating preacher? He has gone to war against the misogyny of his fellow males (something which, unlike homosexuality, is genuinely a problem) as a way of maintaining his denial of his own repressed misogynistic feelings.

Generosity of spirit requires what we might call psychological room. If we are caught up with internal battles we have little room to really listen to others or accommodate their needs or desires.

I think that most of we men have a battle going on within us (often one of many) between our misogynistic feelings and our conscience which tells us that it is wrong to have these feelings and even worse to act upon them. If we could tell our conscience to back off a little, we might be able to simply accept the feelings and allow them to dissipate. The more our conscience crowds us, the less room we will have and the more likely we will be to accumulate further misogynistic feelings.

And the more insecure we feel because of the turmoil of this kind of battle, the more we need to cling to some kind of “proof” of our worth. We may try to “prove” ourselves by some kind of competitive activity or by accumulating material goods or whatever. One way that we may try to demonstrate our worth is by taking up a cause. At least with regard to this cause we are on the side of the angels, we tell ourselves.

Just as Saul of Tarsus, having been battling the Christians, renamed himself Paul and tried to leave his angry self behind by taking up their cause, so the man who feels guilty about his misogynistic feelings may decide to rise above them (i.e. repress them) and become a champion of women’s rights.

This can seem like a good idea. He doesn’t have to view himself as the bad guy. He may get superficial acceptance from feminist women (I say superficial because they are accepting only the front he is putting on and not the repressed misogyny which really needs the healing touch of acceptance). And he gets an outlet for some of his frustration, in the same way the preacher does, by expressing anger towards men who give outward expression to the feelings he is repressing in himself. But this won’t bring him healing. It won’t give him the room for generosity of spirit, even to women, let alone his fellow men.

If he could own his own dark side, then he could bring to other men the release that they need. He could show them how to make the monster inside go away. And so doing he could be a part of melting away the barriers to equality for women, rather than leaving women to have to break them down, as no doubt they do have the capacity to do.

Now you may be thinking “Hang on a minute. I know men who accept that they are misogynists and that misogyny hasn’t disappeared, rather they aggressively and unrepentantly act up on it.” This is bravado, not acceptance. Such aggressive, arrogant behaviour is defensive. An army is not needed when there is no insecurity to protect.

The Achilles heal of feminism has always been the tendency for its criticism, real or implicit, to make it harder for we men to learn to accept our misogynistic feelings and thus let them dissipate. Generosity of spirit is the natural state of the non-embattled human, but we, men and women, have been so embattled - so troubled by all the things we have found it next to impossible to accept about ourselves - that it has been easy for us to fall into conflict and drive each other deeper within those battlements.

We tend to view the concept of confession of sins that we find in the Christian religion as a form of reparation through the humbling of oneself before God. But I wonder if that is how it was originally intended. I have a different vision. I see a bunch of people sitting around in a circle. A woman says, “I’m pretty lustful you know. All I think about is sex.” Another says, “Wow! What a relief! I thought it was just me.” A man says, “I get so angry at my wife I just want to sock her in the face.” “I feel that way, too,” says another man. “And I want to kick my husband in the balls when won’t listen to what I’m saying,” says another woman. “You and me both, sister,” says another. No-one feels particularly repentant, but as they open up to each other in this way their self-consciousness, their selfishness, melts away. They laugh about their aggressive feelings and they don’t feel aggressive any more. And once their sexual feelings are expressed they no longer have the selfish, i.e. self-directed, quality which comes with hiding and repressing something. A key aspect of this is that nobody is judged or expelled because of their confession, because it is understood that the process is a healing one, if they are expelled because they admit to bad behaviour then they will most likely return to that bad behaviour, but if they are shown acceptance and remain within the community the acceptance they find there will heal the motivating force behind that behaviour.

Perhaps this is too simple, too naive, a fantasy for our troubled world, but sometimes things have to begin with unrealistic dreams.

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