Backbone and heart

Guest Editorial by author and family therapist Steve Biddulph

No backbone you collapse. No heart you're just an empty husk for the wind to whistle through. Men need strength to handle life's blows, but they need love to connect them to life, and keep them human.

And love means feeling. And feeling sometimes means pain.

I was impressed by one single image in these recent months of bad news. The chief surgeon in Hobart, devastated and grief-stricken by the aftermath of Port Arthur, and our Prime Minister, John Howard, hugging him with both arms. This picture on the cover of the Sydney Morning was more use to me than any other coverage of those events, because it held the answer. Men willing to feel, willing to heal, willing to help each other through.

Everything you ever put into a human being comes out again. If you put violence in, you get violence out. If you put neglect in, you get callousness out. Everyone knows this. Healing men is about putting care and love in, so that old wounds can come out, without hurting anyone else.

Robert Bly says "If you don't examine your own wounds, you wound your own children". Michael Meade says "The wounded man who denies his wounds is a dangerous creature".

So a lot of this issue, which Peter and his team have put together, is about examining wounds. In doing this we have to always walk that balancing line - admitting our pain, being honest, not minimizing it or covering it over with macho denial. At the same time, not indulging in hysteria, not swimming in the victim space, not playing the blame game.

Feel what you feel, speak out what has happened, get support. Look to the present, and the future.

A great pool of masculine pain is being uncovered - rape of little boys, neglect and beating, circumcision without anaesthesia or good reason, confusion about sexuality, shame and abandonment, the special kind of abuse that women can visit on men, the loss of children and home. The sheer loneliness of being male in the 20th century, so far from nature, so long pretending.

Certified Male dips this pain into the magic pool of men's care and attention, and it begins to lessen. We survived. No need to fuss. Let's rebuild the world now. Let's care about ourselves, and women and children and life itself. Lets be brave enough to love again.

Steve Biddulph, Winter 1996

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