This article was originally
published in “The Heart of Healing—Inspired
Ideas, Wisdom and Comfort from Today’s Leading Voices.”
Elite Books, Author’s Publishing Cooperative, Santa
Rosa, CA, 95403. © Allan Hardman,
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relationship has been both a blessing and nightmare for
many people in this new millennium. In the past, the rules
of relationship were relatively structured and well enforced
by families and cultures. Many relationships were based
on the need for security and financial well-being in an
uncertain world. Often, mates were chosen based on others'
expectations, class, race, or religious backgrounds.
Now, with financial independence
being available to most, and ethic and cultural distinctions
blurring, men and women are left more to their own discernment
and integrity for choosing mates and establishing the
rules and expectations of relationship. Along with this
freedom has come increasing confusion and uncertainty
in relationships of romance and marriage.
One consistent factor that I have
observed in my work with singles and couples is their
caution or outright fear of each other. They are not able
to be present in their relationships with the truth of
who they are and what they are feeling. I invite you to
consider the following suggestions about what causes much
of this difficulty.
I am writing this as a man, using
heterosexual relationships as the model. Please understand
that the dynamics I describe are not limited to those
relationships. Wherever I have written "man"
or "woman," please substitute "masculine"
or "feminine" if it better serves your understanding.
Know that the masculine and feminine can be dominant in
any gender and interact in any relationship form. It is
my hope that these observations will serve you, no matter
what form of relationship you choose.
Who taught you what it means to be a Man?
asking this question of countless men, I have learned that
the answer is often not what one might expect. The first
responses are usually "I learned to be a man from my
Dad," or "my Uncle" or a respected mentor.
Then a deeper truth emerges: "My dad wasn't around
much," or "Dad left when I was six," or "My
dad was an alcoholic." With deeper exploration, most
men are surprised to discover that it was not their fathers
who taught them what it means to be a man, but their mothers.
They are often even more surprised
to realize that the message that they received from their
mothers was "Don't be like your Dad." The message
might have been delivered overtly, when Mother was home
at night and Dad was out drinking. She felt alone, abandoned,
and afraid. She turned to her young son and said: "I
hope you don't grow up to be a bum like your worthless
father. He is not home, he is not taking care of us, and
I am left to do everything." Another boy, in a gentler
family situation, might simply observe that his mother
is unhappy, and receive the message intuitively. Perhaps
she has sacrificed too much of her self for the marriage,
and feels lost or unfulfilled.
In either case, the young boy feels
this hurt in his mother, and looks for the cause. He does
not have to look far to identify his father as the perpetrator
of the abuse his mother is suffering. "Mother is
hurt, and Dad is hurting her."
variation on this dynamic occurs when Dad is carrying the
feminine energy in the family, and Mom the masculine. Perhaps
Dad is complaining about Mom, and it is his feelings that
are hurt. The genders in the story are reversed, but the
resulting beliefs and agreements learned are the same: The
masculine hurts the feminine.
I believe that males are genetically
programmed to be Heroes, and to protect and rescue Damsels
in Distress. When a young boy sees his mother hurt, lonely,
angry, or depressed, he wants to rescue her. It is his
nature. To be a good Hero, there must be a Villain-- and
the boy has learned that the Villain is Dad. If the boy
stands up to his Dad and tries to stop him from hurting
his mother, he will quickly learn that how impotent he
is to protect and rescue her.
And here the boy encounters the
conundrum that may be with him for the rest of his life:
The Villain is not only Dad, it is "maleness,"
and the boy has identified himself with that same maleness
all of his short life. He is both the Hero wanting to
rescue, and the Villain causing the pain.
The young boy becomes the Impotent
Hero, trying to protect and rescue his Damsel in Distress
from himself, which he cannot do. He takes on the guilt
of the Villain, and the guilt of his failure as the Impotent
Hero. That conundrum has shaped the life and relationships
of many of the men that have answered my question about
learning to be a man. They go into the world feeling guilty
for being male. They know they are a man, and they
know that men hurt women. They know their job is to rescue
women in distress, and that they cannot. They are guilty
AND impotent. Rarely is a man conscious of this drama
being played out in his inner world.
The Impotent Hero as The Inner Judge
Another way that a boy learns that
his Hero is impotent is when it becomes embodied as his
Inner Judge. In a perfect world, everyone would be born
into a family environment that says: "We are so honored
that you are here. We are humbled that we have been chosen
as stewards of your precious Life. We will create a safe
physical and psychic space here that will protect and
nurture your growth into who you came here to be."
In the perfect world, children would grow up feeling safe
to be themselves, and become whole and empowered adults.
They would share that wholeness in all of their relationships.
Since this is not a perfect world,
there is unavoidable hurt and wounding that happens to
children. Probably the most damaging wound is when the
Inner Hero as the Protector, is distorted into an Inner
Judge under pressure to conform to the family's system
that a young boy or girl has a feeling part of
the self, and a protective part. For purposes of illustration,
I will call the feelings the "feminine" and the
rescuer and protector the "masculine." Children
express themselves through their feeling side. They experience
exuberance and delight, and tears and fears. In the not
so perfect world, many of these expressions are unacceptable
to their parents or other caregivers. The feelings and the
behaviors that naturally arise
in the child are judged, and the
child feels hurt by this rejection. Children are "domesticated"
into the prevailing beliefs systems about how to be good,
and how to earn and deserve love. They learn to seek out
the reward of acceptance, and to avoid the punishment
When the child is punished, the
feelings are hurt. The "feminine" aspect of
the self is the Damsel in Distress, and the "masculine"
is the Hero that rushes in to protect and rescue. Perhaps
that Hero yells out to a parent in a difficult moment:
"I hate you, you are mean. Leave me alone!!"
I think we can imagine (or remember) the response of most
parents to this outburst. (Some older books on child rearing
warn that this is a pivotal moment in the raising of a
child, and that its will must be broken at this time,
or they will grow up to be "willful, spoiled and
the child is punished for this attempt by his or her inner
Hero to stop the abuse against the feeling side, this inner
Protector realizes that he cannot stop the outside perpetrators.
He is impotent to protect and rescue the feminine., so he
must create a new strategy. He must protect the feeling
side by getting "her" to stop the emotional behaviors
that are causing the rejection and abuse. He learns to make
the feeling self wrong for what she feels. The Inner Hero
becomes the Inner Judge, a small masculine self, impotent
in the outside world, but increasingly powerful in the inner
This new Inner Judge internalizes
the criticism and rejection of parents and culture. He
recognizes that it is far less painful to his damsel,
the feminine feeling side, to be judged and shamed inside
by him than from the outside. The Hero turns to his feminine
Damsel and says: "Don't cry. That is stupid. Don't
let them see you like that! Nobody likes a crybaby!"
And, "You don't know what looks good on you. Ask
somebody. You are stupid about clothes."
The Impotent Protector becomes
the Inner Judge, in both little boys and little girls.
He is the masculine, wounded by his domestication, and
fighting to protect the inner feminine the best way he
knows how. Together they are in a battle for their emotional
Relationship Strategies of the
When a man enters a romantic relationship,
if he does so as the guilty Impotent Hero, it is impossible
for him to say to a woman: "I am a man, and want
you!" He is afraid that she will criticize him and
reject him. He believes his Inner Judge's criticisms,
and assumes that his beloved will discover his powerlessness
and unworthiness. He needs strategies for maintaining
the relationship in the face of his fear of not deserving
Probably the three most compelling
ways that men enter romantic relationship carrying this
feeling of guilt and impotence are as the Rescuer,
the Rebel, or masquerading as The Feminine.
The Rescuer creates relationship
by offering a woman relief from the hurt and fear that
she feels from living with her Inner Judge. Of
course, this means that the Rescuer must find Damsels
in Distress to rescue. The Hero makes a promise that he
cannot keep: "If you are with me, you will not have
to feel afraid or hurt or powerless any more."
He cannot keep that promise for
at least two good reasons. First, her distress is not
being caused by a deficiency of The Rescuer in her life.
Her hurt and fear are the result of experiences from her
past, her domestication, and criticism from her own Inner
Judge. Second, if he truly rescues her and heals her pain,
she will no longer be a Damsel in Distress, and will not
need The Rescuer. To stay needed, he must sabotage her
healing, and keep her in the Victim role. And she knows
that she must stay in that role and not claim her personal
power, in order to hold on to the love of her Rescuer.
The Rescuer and Damsel stay bonded in their relationship
and unable to change or grow, in fear of losing the love
and comfort that their mutually compatible wounds have
The Rebel is very independent.
He doesn't need anyone, especially women that might intimidate
him and see through his facades to discover the Impotent
Hero within. The Rebel is oddly attractive to women. There
is a safety they see in his emotional distance. After
many years of exploring why women often accuse men of
being "emotionally unavailable" in relationships,
I have figured out who is attracted to those men: Emotionally
Unavailable Women! This is a safe place for everyone involved.
There is no danger of the intimacy that will threaten
the facades and reveal the self-judgments and fears behind
Feminine Man creates safety in his relationships with
women by becoming like them. Some boys, in an effort to
rescue their mothers, bond with them emotionally. As adults,
they learn feminine ways of relating to feelings. They do
not assert themselves in their relationships-- they believe
in "equality." This is the eunuch who dresses
up in women's clothing to hide in the harem. This man dresses
in women's emotions, to avoid being recognized as a man
and revealing his guilt and impotence.
Many romantic relationships are
based on this foundation of guilt that the man feels for
being a man. He must hide his fear of discovery and self-judgment
from his partner, and she must agree not to notice.
The Woman's Role
But what about the woman's role?
Remember that girls are raised in the same system as the
boys. They have the same Inner Judge, the same insecurities,
and the same fear that the Judge is right about their
defects. They are often taught that to survive financially
they need a man. They, too, observe that Mom is hurt,
angry, or lonely. They understand that maleness is guilty
of causing the pain, and that they can use that guilt
to meet their own needs in life. Perhaps Mom says: "Your
father is never home, I have to do everything myself,
I am so tired-- but he is good to us and provides us with
our home and food, so we should be grateful." The
message? "The man is guilty of hurting us, but we
need what he gives us, so we will use his guilt and impotence
to keep him providing for us."
Perhaps the Mother tells or shows
her daughters that the real control in the family resides
in the females. With their underlying disrespect for their
man, they secretly or overtly use their power to manage
the family, leaving the man in the role of outside provider--
a veritable stranger in his home.
The Unspoken Agreements
If women are afraid of losing their
man, and men are afraid of being exposed as Impotent Heroes,
then romantic relationship between them will be difficult,
at best. They will need many unspoken agreements to manage
the dangerous truths that lie beneath the surface.
Many of these silent agreements
are brought into the relationship from the distant past,
some are from the relationship itself: "I am not
really worthy of love, so I am lucky to have found someone
who loves me. I will do whatever it takes to hold on to
this marriage." "A good wife is always willing
to follow her husband's lead." "What is important
in relationship is the long haul. If I demand too much,
it will cause problems." "She threatens
to leave me every time I bring up our problems. It is
better to work these things out myself, rather than saying
Every society has its beliefs and
agreements about how things "should" be. That
society could be a family, a group of friends, a university,
a religion, an ethnic group, a political party, or a country.
When we are born, we arrive into a family that has already
agreed on their system of beliefs. It is their "dream,"
and they are sticking to it! Since we are born into that
dream, we accept it as the truth, learn the intricacies
of it, and then even teach the other new arrivals what
we have learned: "Don't cry, mommy will get mad at
As we grow older, we enter more
societies with more beliefs and agreements that govern
the behavior of the members. Often, the beliefs contradict
each other, but the mind has a marvelous facility for
compartmentalizing them to avoid the conflict. Think about
how many messages there are in western culture about being
a Man. For instance, there are the beliefs in the family
I described. Imagine the different perspectives of the
vital young man beginning his life in the world, and the
aging man who feels his physical power and social authority
fading away. There is the message from a man's religious
faith about what it means to be a man, a husband, a son,
and a father. There is the image of being a man as a high
level manager in a corporation. . . .or a homeless man
on the street. Each of these dreams of being a man contains
its unique models of behavior, expectations, and the markers
of success and failure.
In relationship, all of a man's
beliefs and strategies come together with a partner who
has accumulated her own set of agreements about what it
means to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a lover,
and a member of a community. Since most people are not
aware of these agreements in a conscious way, they simply
react according to what they "know" to be true.
It has been suggested, by some,
that men and women are from different planets, and thus
talk different languages and have different needs. It
is my experience and belief that all of us, men and women,
are from the same Earth and have the same desire: To know
and love ourselves, to be authentically ourselves in relationship,
and to do so without fear of rejection and abandonment.
believe that it is very possible to have that which we desire.
To do so, we must become conscious of our many inner voices
and the unconscious messages that they would have us believe.
That awareness, in turn, gives us the power to chose which
of our beliefs and agreements serve us, and which we wish
to discard. In creating our own set of beliefs as adults,
we "re-domesticate" ourselves into a new way of
life. Our new agreements nurture our freedom to live our
lives in love, grace and happiness.
The World's Greatest Lover
Imagine how we
might all relate in romantic relationships if men were
proud and powerful in their masculine nature, and women
trusted themselves and their man. How might a man show
up with his woman if he were not afraid of her? And how
might that woman receive that man, if she trusted his
of my favorite movies is "Don Juan de Marco,"
with Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp. Don Juan is "The
World's Greatest Lover," and in the movie he says:
"Women sense that I search out the beauty that dwells
within them, until it overwhelms everything else. And then
they cannot avoid their desire to release that beauty, and
envelop me in it."
That is a great lover:
A man who searches out the beauty in the feminine with
such authority and love that she cannot help but surrender
herself to his love. He is saying "I want you."
It is true that a woman can be The World's Greatest Lover,
however there is something inherently masculine about
that way of penetrating a woman's heart.
In the past, women needed to make
themselves smaller than their man to surrender to him.
Then, awakening to their collective dissatisfaction, they
fought for their independence, and their right to assert
their masculine power in the world. Women became well
balanced in their masculine and feminine energies.
Sensing the change, men set out
to connect with their disowned feminine natures. They
learned to express their feelings, and to listen to the
women in their lives. Many began to say that they preferred
the company of women to that of overly masculine men.
Men and women became equals, and
this shift in awareness has been very healing. From this
balancing came a new dilemma, however: No one wanted to
surrender to anybody else, and nobody needed anyone! In
this equality many people seem to lack any passion for
relationship outside of convenience and sexual pleasure.
I would like to suggest that something vital and alive
is missing. There is a spiritual healing and purpose to
relationship that is available when our Impotent Hero
becomes "The World's Greatest Lover."
Qualities of the World's
For a man to be
The World's Greatest Lover, he must learn a new way of
loving and accepting himself, and his beloved. He must
learn that his critical Inner Judge is not telling the
truth. He awakens to discover that he was programmed in
a certain way to believe his guilt and impotence, and
the program is a lie! The World's Greatest Lover comes
to understand that his nature is Love, not the fear and
doubt that he has lived with all his life.
He comes to this powerful experience
when he is no longer judging himself. When our Hero accepts
himself exactly as he is, without pride or deprecation,
he is prepared to love and accept others just as they
The World's Greatest Lover sees
the perfection in the Universe unfolding exactly as it
is. He is no longer victimized by anyone or anything.
His power comes from knowing this Divine Order in Life,
in trusting it, and keeping his heart open to the wonders
of Creation. He is IN Love with Life. He knows himself
AS Life, and knows that all of Life is that same Divine
Knowing his own perfection, The
World's Greatest Lover is not afraid to feel what he feels,
nor to think what he thinks. He is not afraid to want
what he wants. He is free to come to the feminine, with
"I want you!" He is not afraid of rejection,
because he has ceased to reject himself. Of course,
this voice is alive in the masculine of both genders.
When a man speaks it, and the woman sees that she can
trust his authority in it, she has the opportunity to
surrender to his wanting. I have not known many women
who would refuse to surrender to a man who knows what
he wants, through the expression of his Divinity. In a
woman's surrender to this Lover, there is the call to
her greatness. She knows she will not be asked to be small,
because she feels embraced by the expansiveness of his
As she surrenders to him, and he
possesses her, he experiences the greatest surrender of
all. The World's Greatest Lover surrenders to the feminine
through his absolute certainty of wanting her.
In larger spiritual terms, we can
see that the Masculine is opening the feminine to the
beauty that he sees. Using the authority of his inner
Divine, he acts as a mirror for that Divinity in her.
The feminine, as the mate of The World's Greatest Lover,
or as any aspect of Creation, sees her reflection in him.
All of Creation is thus penetrated and enlightened by
The World's Greatest Lover.
The Impotent Hero, destined always
to rescue, now comes to his Beloved and all of Creation
as the Lover, to release her from her illusion that she
is not Divine. He celebrates the highest expression of
living as a man: As The World's Greatest Lover, knowing
the truth of his Divinity, and reflecting that Divinity
back to his Beloved. In that reflection, she joins with
him in knowing their highest truth together.