Reflections from the Masculinities Think Tank

by Natalie Collins May 2, 2019 A

Reflections from Under Saturn’s Shadow

In the Masculinity Think Tank, we have been reading “Under Saturn’s Shadow; The wounding and healing of men” by James Hollis, a US based Jungian analyst.  We’re halfway through the book and these are reflections from different people in the Think Tank…

‘As we found ourselves talking about masculinity and the expectations that are often experienced by men in terms of how they must act or express their masculinity I found myself reflecting that for whatever reason I haven’t found myself feeling pressured into those perceived expectations in my life. This conversation however did remind me of a journey I’ve been on around what ‘acceptable’ worship looks like and the experience of growing up in a culture of 00’s youth work whereby the message (spoken and unspoken was that) real and authentic worship must be loud, lively and extroverted with anything more traditional being ‘boring’ and ‘dead’. Whilst this journey of discovering a broader understanding of worship didn’t directly fit into the masculinity discussion (and is probably a whole blog in itself!) the parallels of what society tells us about how we must express something, be it gender or worship of God, were really interesting to reflect on and challenging for helping us think about how we encourage young people to express themselves.’

‘Whilst not agreeing with theory or conclusion that James Hollis makes in Under Saturn’s Shadow, there were parts that really resonated with me. In the book Hollis writes, “Surely the greatest tragedy for men in regard to the feminine principle is that their fear alienates them from their own anima, the principle of relatedness, feeling and connection to the life force. This alienation from self obliges alienation from other men as well. Often their only connection with each other comes through superficial talk about outer events, such as sports and politics”. (p.36). This lack of connection has often matched my experience, both within and outside the church. How often do male friendships go deeper than the superficial, even in well established friendships? How ready are men to deepen relationships and let others see what is really going on inside? How prepared are men to let go of the societal programmed macho-competitiveness that is drilled in from a young age and allow people to see the reality?’

It’s not easy being a vulnerable man these days – as Depeche Mode sang ‘It’s a competitive world’ but we males can’t but find ourselves of sizing each other up all the time whether openly or subconsciously – even in church environments.

When we introduce ourselves, it’s not just a comparison of what we do or who we know but it’s often ‘how in touch’ we are with our sons, our wider or church family, or God. Under Saturn’s Shadow raises some points that I resonated with – neither Hollis, the author or I are very optimistic about the direction of most Christian men’s movements.

At the Think Tank we talked about the anecdote from the book about when he visited his son in Santa Fe and a Men’s Group Guru he’s introduced to immediately grills him about who he knew, what he knew, and… if he drummed!? He was confronted with the question “I’ll throw you a fast one now. Why do you spend so little time with your son?”

In seconds this introduction had raised competitiveness and shaming in the author. When this is how so-called men’s experts kick off a conversation – is it any wonder that we find it hard to open up and be vulnerable with other men – I find that only a bond of real friendship and trust allows for this and as someone who mostly holds people at arm’s length that can take a while!? I’m hoping that by the time I’ve finished reading the book Hollis will unpack some key strategies about living more effectively as a guy but I’m not holding my breath…

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