Tilting at windmills


The Return of the King

Psychological work with men

Jamie Elkon
As men we are particularly prone to the construction of fragile (though often quite stupendous) narcissistic defenses, which wait in ambush for unsuspecting travelers upon our life’s journey. Whether conscious or not, we maneuver others onto the traps we have laid and when they snap shut, we puff up with righteous indignation at the injustice of it all, thereby inexorably repeating and reinforcing the alienation with ourselves and particularly with those we claim to love.

The philosopher Schopenhauer claimed that mankind was doomed to vacillate eternally between distress and boredom. Indeed, many men believe themselves cursed to living half-lives, wandering the periphery of their own awareness, stumbling blindly through destructive old behavioural patterns. Our attempts to nourish our stale, brittle selves with repetitive self defeating strategies savagely limits our growth and a deeper connection with our core selves.

As a clinician who has the honour of working with men, I have borne witness to many pale deaths, depression, anxiety, addiction, whether it be to power, sex or even servitude, men continue to remain entangled in their Shadows. Many of us have long struggled with how to understand and make use of the emotional wounds we have gathered, emotional wounds we all bear.
As men we are particularly prone to the construction of fragile (though often quite stupendous) narcissistic defenses, which wait in ambush for unsuspecting travellers upon our life’s journey. Whether conscious or not, we maneuver others onto the traps we have laid and when they snap shut, we puff up with righteous indignation at the injustice of it all, thereby inexorably repeating and reinforcing the alienation with ourselves and particularly with those we claim to love.

What, you may ask is the alternative to this aimless wandering? Is it to be a good citizen and provider? To pay your taxes, to be reassured and soothed by your congruence with those around you? To slowly become lulled by the security of the known, while your heart aches and your dreams of adventure and passion slowly fade, replaced by your numbed daily rituals of work, docile husbandry and that after dinner drink. Maybe the automatic lifewas the freedom you sought, the release from the discordance of being, from colliding emotions, from the burden of growth.
Men’s work requires courage before the abyss of possibility. You will have to deal with your core issues (for the rest of your life). By not examining your core issues, you will be doomed to repeat them and you will live at the mercy of your defenses, for it is your defenses, not your wound, that arrests your growth.

Men’s work will challenge you to face your shadow, that which you do not want to be, that which you find frightening and threatening to your self image, that which follows you wherever you go. Through an examination of your shadow defenses and by keeping that shadow in front of you where you can see it, a man can stop defending so exhaustively, so unconsciously and begin to develop the capacity to live with integrity and in alignment with his core self.

Imagine if you will, that just before you were incarnated on this planet, your God, your higher self, whatever you wish to call it, leant forward and whispered the varied meanings of your life into your heart. The very centre of your being absorbed these, was imbued with their power and since then…you have been doing everything else. But now and again, whether it be in traffic, or while you are making love to your wife, or looking at the face of your sleeping child, they flutter deeply within you, calling you. If only you would be just be still enough to hear them.

About the author

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Jamie Elkon http://shrinkrap.co.za/

The author can be found rummaging through life looking for nourishment in the early hours of the morning. He is slowly going sane by using his actual life and relationships to wake up.He lives in Cape Town with his teenaged daughter, two bassett hounds named Thelma and Louise and Digit... the cat. He hugs trees, has experienced numerous dark nights of the soul, collects incorrect Chinese packaging and tracks curious things to their lair.

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