Every boy is inducted into the code of patriarchal masculinity, and thereafter becomes both primary benefactor but also unwitting victim of the patriarchal system of thought – of the hierarchical, one-up/one-down way of relating to others, and to one’s own self. As Terence Real states: “Both the roots of [man’s] pain and also his entitlement to run from it, inflicting it, instead, on those he most cares for, lie at the heart of patriarchy.” Or, as the late Black radical feminist scholar bell hooks (2004a) put it, boys learn “that the patriarchal man is a predator, that only the strong and the violent survive.”
The understanding here is that “Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit” (hooks, 2004b) - that men are ourselves oppressed by the unspoken patriarchal code. We are “taught that a boy should not express feelings” (hooks, 2004b), and it is this learning that seems to underpin many of men’s presenting problems in therapy, for not only do we often not know how to express our feelings beyond acting out upon them, we also often appear not to know how to even feel them.
hooks, b. (2004a). We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. Routledge, New York.
hooks, b. (2004b). The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. Atria Books, New York.
Real, T. (2002). How Can I Get Through to You? Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women. Simon and Schuster, New York
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health