Tribal Instincts

We have come a long way since the days when the men would gather together to go off hunting for their tribe, leaving the women and children at home, to return days later with their food and tales of the successful and unsuccessful parts of their trip. In such times, whole villages would share in the fortunes and misfortunes of each individual and family. An illness suffered by one was supported by tens, maybe hundreds. A successful story was heard by the whole village or tribe and recognised accordingly. A problem was shared, not just by the partner, but by a community. Man and woman, through their individual talents and skills, be it in hunting or medicine, in teaching or mothering, were able to respect and value the strengths and weaknesses of each other.

How does that compare to our society today?

Today, a man may still go off for days or weeks at a time. He will generally be the only representative from his ‘tribe’. Instead of bringing home food at the end of his trip, he will generally be rewarded at a later date with money. He will come back to either his own lonely accommodation, or to a house where his wife and children, although pleased to see him return, will neither thrill to the tales of his adventure nor share immediately in the physical rewards of his conquests. In fact, the rapturous and victorious welcome that was prepared for his ancestor is replaced very often by a begrudging reception that almost seems to imply resentment of the fact that he has been away at all.

Today, the extended family and tribal support network, so important to male and female alike, has disintegrated. Because of this we have lost much of the support that men and women have enjoyed in the past. Families tend now to meet up occasionally, rather than daily, and very often under such time constraints that a meaningful sharing rarely takes place.

This fragmentation of our society may be more damaging than we realise. I believe that men are desperate to be acknowledged and understood and yet many of us don’t understand ourselves. On the one hand we are seeking recognition for what we do or achieve, on the other hand we are seeking to recognise who we are.

We want our problems to be understood both at home and in the work-place - and yet both places may offer quite conflicting solutions. We want to have our desires accepted. We may, at a much deeper level than we are consciously aware, want to share our emotions with a broader section of the community than just our partner or therapist. But when we look for those supporters - if indeed we do - what we tend to find is a society of independent units containing a number of isolated individuals each fighting for his own survival.

Men have suffered greatly as a result of this isolation. At a deep level we have become virtually friendless, often dependent upon our partner for our only emotional support. And even then we find ourselves unable, untrained, to make best use of that support. So many of us have been brought up to demonstrate to everybody else that we’re fine and we can cope, when the truth may be very different.

How do we communicate that truth? We don’t. Men have become great editors of information, broadcasting what we think people want to hear whilst cutting out anything which may seem unnecessary - such as feelings. We spend so much time on ‘transmit’, showing the world we’re fine and the life and soul of the party, that we may have forgotten how to ‘receive’ - either from ourselves or someone else.

As a result, we could be blanking out all sorts of information from which we would benefit (other people’s feelings, problem situations forming) choosing instead to present a surface image of perfection. And when we are not busy presenting ourselves to others, we speed back to a life of ‘doing’ which continues to prevent us from ‘receiving’. And then we find ourselves expressing shock when the problem we have been failing to observe finally surfaces.

There is much to be done to repair the damage; fortunately there may be much that can be done. There is nothing to stop entrenched patterns being changed. Neither age nor health need be a barrier. We need to repair the holes in our families; we need to take the initiative as men to show that the family, all aspects of it, is of immeasurable value to us. For it is through those closest to us that we get the best chance to see and find ourselves.

Do you find time to share with your parents, siblings and children (by sharing I mean open and honest two way communication)? Do you have the patience to listen to them? Could you help them to help you become a man who transmits and receives openly and without fear?

©2008, Barry Durdant-Hollamby

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Barry Durdant-Hollamby is the founder of The Art of Change , a UK based organisation specialising in helping individuals and corporations to effect sustainable, holistic, positive change. He works intuitively on a 1-1 or group basis and also conducts many talks and seminars - all without notes or preparation! Barry is also the author of three books the latest of which is The Male Agenda - a book which seeks to inspire men to create greater life balance and happiness. He is the father of two daughters and lives in the South East of England. Contact E-Mail

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