In his book, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, the Jungian analyst James Hollis recalls being asked to speak to women’s groups who ask him to help them understand men:
I have suggested that women look at men this way: if they took away their own network of intimate friends, those with whom they share their personal journey, removed their sense of instinctual guidance, concluded that they were almost wholly alone in the world, and understood that they would be defined only by standards of productivity external to them, they would then know the inner state of the average man. They are horrified at this notion.
They then ask Hollis if there’s anything they can do, and he replies, “No.” (It is up to men.)
Hollis has told a variation of this story in several audiobooks and podcasts I’ve listened to and his diagnosis always chills me. I found myself recalling it to a friend yesterday on my bike ride.
One thing I find hopeful is that I think you can reverse-engineer a to-do list from this diagnosis:
- build a network of intimate friends (start by being a good node)
- learn to listen to yourself, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, authorize yourself that what you notice is important, and trust your intuition
- search for meaning in your life outside the realm of the quantifiable
Easy peasy, right? Ha. (Cries.)
As for being a man, finding myself a member in a club I never asked to join: Whenever I think that we’re making no progress whatsoever, I think about the fact that I have two friends, grown men my own age, who, unprompted, within the last year, have told me that they loved me. And I told them I loved them back.
It’s a start.