Toward Manhood

Andrew R. Warnecke, MA, LPC

I recently went to a conference here in Atlanta that featured some of my favorite speakers. I was blown away by some of the subject matter. I believe that one of the most important and influential movements taking place is the men’s movement. Two of the speakers at the conference, John Bradshaw and John Lee, talked about some of the problems men are facing in modern society. I have been reading a lot about the failed patriarchal archetype that has caused so many problems in our culture, and I have noticed that more and more men are willing to come into counseling and deal with their confusion and frustration. I also recently read an article published by the New York Times on May 21, 2001. The article was about male therapists being an endangered species. The article cites that men aren’t going into the field because there is no money in it. This is a problem because we have found that most men need and want a male counselor. I believe all men need a “men”-tor. I see so many men who are lost and overwhelmed. I have noticed and personally experienced the failings of mainstream teachings on how to be a good man.

The roles of men have been changing dramatically since the end of WWII. There is really nothing in our DNA that would make us anything more than a donor in the case of fatherhood and husbandry. We have been “sold down the river” by the media to believe that we have to be a certain way to be considered successful as a man, generally the drive for money and power, neither of which brings any real happiness and fulfillment. Men all grow up with an inherent inferiority complex that if not arrested can last a lifetime.

The men I treat are strong, intelligent, and creative. They really want to move past their dysfunction and find the true happiness that comes with a healthy and positive self concept. So the movement is on to find some real definition and a model to bring our sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers out of the dark. I recently had a male patient tell me that he feels like he “abdicated his throne.” He explained that he feels like his life lacks real meaning and purpose even though from the outside looking in he appears to be what would be considered successful.

One of the things that I thought was interesting that I learned at the conference I attended was that most grown men are really just big boys. One of the presenters, John Bradshaw, had a family history (genogram) of one of the most famous American families, the Kennedys. He explained how it would be fair to say that just about every male suffered from sexual addiction and what would appear to be an inferiority complex. He said, “I really didn’t start growing up until I was in my forties.” We have seen many examples of “successful and powerful” men acting as if they were adolescents. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.” Men have a tendency to spend a lot of their energy to accumulate wealth and power and never really understand how to self actualize. I have even seen women join in over the last 20 or so years with what has been called the pseudo-male complex. Women are becoming more aggressive and driven toward wealth and power. I am spreading the word and I hope you will join me in understanding that a real men’s movement is growing and will help shed light and offer solutions to some of the most damaging and costly problems in America today. If you are a man that is struggling, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. I used to think therapy was for wimps, but now I am very aware that the opposite is true. It may just be the bravest thing as a man that you will ever do. Just imagine how much healthier we would all be if we could heal the father wound.