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Take Care of Your Mother - Or Else

A Personal Story

Copyright © 1993, 1997 by Scott Abraham


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"Take care of your Mother"

Can you hear that phrase, gentle men of the movements?

Does it resound with a shiver in the soul, a reflexive shadow of childhood?

Naturally. For it was what we were taught by our primary nurturer. Take care of Mother. Provide and protect and never, ever be angry at your selflessly giving mother, or at the surrogates we date and mate and marry.

It's a dynamic as old as time and as unavoidable as death. Men carry the rage in many families and battle with their fathers, while peer out from hiding, cheering the vanquished. We guard the walls, and slay each other. We do our mother's bidding. We protect her from our rage.

We meet and beat drums and perpetuate patricide, slaying our fathers in words if not in deed, while mother hides and orchestrates the bloodshed.

Rare is the man who will stand and vent his justified anger at women; rarer still is a man who will confront women with his righteous rage. The few who do so around our sacred circles touch a raw nerve and release a basso-profundo growl that fades, forgotten and ignored, yet still resonates below the threshold of consciousness. Those men create a nervousness and paranoia, then atavistic conditioning kicks in. We ignore our mothers, turn to our fathers, and we scream our challenge to only one of our parents.

We have all been deeply wounded by women, as they have been deeply wounded by men.

I believe most men have an unformed, nebulous indictment to present: that they silently yearn to confront the women who have wounded them and scream, "J'Accuse".

Yet they lack the courage of a Emile Zola, or his resolution to suffer the consequences of challenging hypocrisy and scapegoating.

For men know they shall be punished and ostracized, blamed and shamed; they fear losing their mothers. They fear being abandoned if they see women's shadow and hold up a mirror. Men fear losing our emotional umbilicals, and they do not know, deep in their hearts, that they can feed themselves.

Men suffer the slings and arrows of women's rage in silence, and bare their breasts to the justified and the ludicrous. If projection is an arrow, it sticks where it finds a soft spot, and the target carries the disowned parts for the archer; the fletching of the bolt betrays the pattern of those who let fly their shadow.

Men have listened to women, absorbed their arrows.

It is time men insist that women return the favor.

It is time men shot their arrows back , along with a few carefully crafted shafts from their quivers.

Sam Keen wrote a paragraph that has haunted me, "Honor your anger, but before you express it, sort out the righteousness from the unrighteous. Immediately after a storm, the water runs muddy; rage is indiscriminate. It takes time to discriminate, for the mud to settle. But once the stream runs clear, express your outrage against any who have violated your being. Give the person you intend to love the gift of discriminating anger."

Men have no holding pond where the silt may settle, no safe backwater to allow toxic contaminants to separate and settle safely to the bottom before they give that gift. The men's movements have created a place to cope with the wounds of fathers, yet has not yet developed the maturity or courage to build a pond where men can distill their rage against women. It is as if, in the varied attempts to name and heal the wounds of our childhood, men have triaged a portion of their souls, condemning it to fester in silence.

We still speak in our councils as if we are bugged by the Great Feminist in the Sky, as if our women can hear our words, as if our mothers know each whisper before it is uttered; we know we will be condemned. I sense in many men the fear that their women can read their minds, and know that on the first Saturday morning of the month, we meet to plot the most grievous of crimes.

If the original motivation of beginning their healing journeys for many men was the salvation of a relationship-an ultimatum of change delivered by a woman-then it stands to reason that men still follow a hint of their directions, a faint tracing of a woman's blueprints for our growth. Except in very rare circumstances, that does not include examining women's crimes against men, for no one relishes confronting their own shadow. Men anguish about their relationships, yet never spelunk for ghosts in the darker caves of the soul, where our mothers lurk, where ex-lovers and wives and female friends hide their scheming.

It's time men invited women into the circle for a few rounds, as we have figuratively stomped our fathers and mentors and friends, for in their own passive aggressive deniability, in their sly subtlety, in their new-found overt aggression, women have wounded us as grievously as we have wounded them. Detailing the wounds will take far more space than I have here, and each man has his own map of scars: suffice to say that the wounds are real.

If there is ever to be a healing of the rift between men and women, men must treat women women as equals, and equals do not need to be protected. Men must take the risks of punishment and ostracism to grow: in the process of separation from women who refuse to own their shadow, men develop the necessary emotional skills to gather their needs from themselves and other men, rather than single sourcing their needs.

I believe we must create a sacred space where men can explore their own exploitation by women, their own woundings inflicted by women, and the inevitable feelings of anger and rage.

Men cannot do this work with women, as by and large, they could not do this work with men. While women have the support structure in place, and men are inundated by the flood of their anger in the media, in the workplace, and in our homes, men have no comparable sanctuary, no societal permission. Men do not yet have a sacred mat where wrestling with this particular demon is encouraged and allowed: no ritual, no example, no framework.

I have this sneaking suspicion that we, as a society, will never heal the rift between men and women as long as society exempts women from accountability. Each man has his own wounds for which women tend to evade responsibility. I've found that the men I meet in our gatherings tend to have done much of the hard work of holding themselves responsible for their crimes of the heart, yet I have seen no comparable trend in the women's writings and gatherings.

If men are to avoid the tragic mistakes of the women's movement, the polarizing, blaming affect of raw, undiluted, undiscriminating rage, men need to create their own place of purification before they hand that anger back where it belongs; most women will not help us, and I fear that most will actively oppose that work.

For they fear men's anger, with good reason. They fear men will beat them, and rape them, and dehumanize them. They live in terror of male rage, a fear almost as deep as that of looking into their own dark side.

I know that fear, as I still live in terror of female rage. Though my story is rather extreme, I am not alone or unique in my fear: wounds need not cut to the bone to inflict agony. I knew my mother's rage when she raped me, my grandmother's rage when she molested me, and I predictably chose women who were infected with similar anger. We acted that rage out, and I battered and was battered, abused and was abused in the endless dance of swords.

The only way I have learned to harness and release my rage was to speak my truth, to seek the source of my rage, and to express that anger directly to those who harmed me, rather than acting it out in the banal circle of re-enactment with designated surrogates.

The only true safety for women from my rage is my commitment to confront my own demons.

All the anger management classes and battering awareness programs in the world may change some behavior, but they will never get to the core problem: men are angry with and at women, and women caused a large portion the old fashioned way-they earned it. You might be able to stop a boy from battering but you can't take the battering out of a boy by shaming him-he will continue to act out that anger in different ways.

The rage that women fear has its genesis not just in the conditioning of our society, or in the myth of testosterone poisoning, or from our father's fists, but also in our mother's arms: our current thinking treats only the symptoms, but not the disease. For if our father's were absent, who raised us? Who molded us? Who tailored us to their needs? Mothers.

Men are angry, and a large portion of that anger is righteous.

Men need a place to discharge that rage.

Stand back, gentlemen.

Your mother is, by the proclamations of her peers, a strong and capable human being; let her defend herself.

Men need not protect her, her sisters, or her successors, from the consequences of their actions.

I believe the next evolutionary step in men's movements is to create a place where men can hone the gift of anger, to join later in loving combat. Men's anger is neither congenitally abusive or inherently unjustifiable: it is the inevitable product of their experience with women. I fear men cannot find healing and reconciliation until they know their darkness, and can name their tormentors: first to their brothers, then to the face of their intimate enemies.

First to brothers, who can and will listen and hear.

First in sacred circles, and men's magazines and books.

Then to mothers and lovers and friends: clear and brilliant, the gift of our anger rather than the poison.

Related stories:

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold, by Scott Abraham.

Be Gone!, by Scott Abraham.

Climbing Out From Hell, by Jeffrey Miller.

Wounded Boys, Courageous Men, a photo-essay about male survivors of institutional child abuse in a Canadian institution, by E. Jane Mundy.

Survival and Living, by Scott Abraham

"False" Memories, Repressed Memories, by Scott Abraham.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Book Reviews, by Scott Abraham.

Yes, Women Do Abuse, by Scott Abraham

John Lee on Anger, an interview with John Lee

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