Last year I was given a video of Pink Floyd’s The Wall to watch, and told that it would show me how men built walls around themselves and how lonely it gets inside them.
It gave great insight into how men get crushed by overprotective mothers, lack of a father model, schools with little or no creative outlet, society’s expectations, war…
I felt the pain and confusion of men who fight in bloody wars without faltering. ‘Big boys’ can’t afford to cry or they won’t survive such battles. As one friend put it, “I had to become like a wooden soldier because I hated the sound of gunfire and the smell of death.”
But when centuries of war have locked away a man’s gentle emotions, the only ones they may feel they can legitimately express are anger and aggressiveness.
Several years ago I was shocked by a conversation I had with a plain-clothes detective over coffee one morning. “Men are animals,” he said. “Don’t trust any of them – not even me.”
He went on to tell me about the number of rape and assault cases on women he had attended and was grim and disturbed. When he talked about the violent behaviour of men he got up and began pacing the room as if to impress this point upon me.
It marked the end of my acceptance that violence and oppression were things I had to learn to live with.
Today, while some men go off to war, others fight wars within themselves or turn their home into a bloody battlefield.
What it means to be a man has been deeply ingrained within the race memory; a memory built upon war and destruction. I sense that many men today have layers built one upon the other to cover hurts they are not ‘supposed’ to feel.
A man can release himself from the stress of holding in these emotions by allowing himself to feel again, and free the gentle side of his nature from the oppression of anger and fear.
Instead of seeking gentleness within a woman, he needs to develop the ‘woman’ within himself, just as a woman needs to develop the ‘man’ within her.
And then an internal marriage can take place where wholeness can be experienced, and where feelings of separation and emptiness give way to the fullness that comes with sharing the ‘whole’ you.
First Published in the Ballarat News, June 7, 1995