The un-screamed scream of men
There was something in recent social campaigns aimed at highlighting abuse perpetrated by men that I felt uncomfortable about. It wasn’t till recent constellation I facilitated in Turkey that I could understand my discomfort better, and also explore how different levels of acting in the world correlate or interfere with a systemic approach.
Surely, those who abuse have to be hold responsible and, if possible, be appropriately sanctioned. Surely, gender based abuse has been going mostly one way, in a direction from men to women. Sure, women on the whole have suffered greatly through centuries of patriarchy.
It is clear that social, political and legal action is appropriately called for, no doubt about that. But, there is more to it than that, these areas only highlighting some aspects of the complexity inherent to our male – female human predicament and the related issues. Having been a systemic constellation facilitator for many years, I am primarily interested in the systemic aspect of issues concerning a relationship of one half of humanity towards its other half. And there is no doubt that the relationship between these two editions of human beings has been badly damaged and is in trouble. We can all witness that. Women have been oppressed and treated like a “lesser value half” for centuries, only in the last hundred years or so gaining more ground in terms of their human rights and equality. But this battle is far from over, as we are reminded daily by more examples of oppression and unequal treatment. And it does seem appropriate to call this process a battle, as so often our male-female relations are remindful of the two sides in the waring conflict. It is as if we have less and less understanding of each other, less compassion for the other’s position and no solutions which would have us “battling” these issues side by side, together, rather than each other.
Adopting a systemic perspective provides an opportunity for both men and women to do exactly this: stand side by side and open ourselves wide to the insights that come to us about systemic forces which created such a stand-offish position between us at the first place. It also means non-blame, no judgement, it doesn’t necessarily call for punishment or demand a retribution. It does not need to be concerned with legal sanctioning. This position is devoid of anger and moral righteousness. It doesn’t fight against or for anything. It only observes, with equal compassion for all included.
Only systemic perspective offers systemic solutions, which, as constellators know all too well, is always a solution equally good for everyone in the system. Every other perspective, like social action, legal sanctioning, political campaigns and other, has got a place and a role to play, and yet, if we go with them, we often loose the neutrality of the perspective needed to find the solution on a systemic level. From a systemic view point, as soon as we feel too much compassion for the victim, we side against the perpetrator. As soon as we see the two positions of a victim and a perpetrator as fixed and attribute them to a particular gender, we have lost the ability for a systemic approach. As soon as we even label something as “abuse”, we have already made a judgement which closes the door to systemic insight.
And, yes, we can assume, these different aspects can be addressed parallel on different levels, and theoretically it is possible for a systemic facilitator to also be an avid social justice campaigner or take political action. I would argue, though, that such position is extremely difficult and that in order to develop our “systemic sensitivity” we need to practice this attitude of non-judgement and radical inclusion daily, and in all aspects of our life, not just when we facilitate a constellation.
Gender relations are one of these areas where our systemic viewpoint can be valuable, and possibly more effective in bringing deep, lasting change than social campaigning. But it is certainly more difficult to hold this position of systemic restraint which does not “play the first ball”, specially when we are all effected, we all are either a man or a woman, and when taking sides happens by default. The extent to which we are able to practice this systemic restraint though, may be directly correlated to the possibility of new solutions opening up for us all.
These are complex issues and much is at stake. Clearly, the future of humanity depends on us successfully negotiating its “dualistic gender nature”. And it seems we are not doing too well at present. What the real systemic causes are behind this, it is difficult to grasp, but we understand it mostly as a legacy of a long period of patriarchy.
The Turkish experience
Probably nowhere more than in Turkey we see the consequences of patriarchy better. As a descendant and the systemic inheritor of Ottoman Empire, Turkey is the country borne out of it, patriarchy being its basic social building block. For centuries women have had no value, rights or equality, certainly not in ways we understand these today. Men were the masters of their lives, and their bodies. Many a constellation in Turkey takes us to the painful experience of their female ancestors, their despair and suffering made palpable through representatives, almost unbearable to hold. In one poignant constellation, which depicted the times gone-by, one woman’s question about overweight took us to her distant female ancestor, whose destiny this woman knew of. She was captured in the far corner of the Empire, taken away from her parents, country and kin at a young age and was kept as a slave, a possible gift to a Sultan. The only defense she had, and the only means of control over her body, and possibly over her predicament, was to overeat and thus make herself less attractive and less desirable.
It seems that many women in present day Turkey are not only angry with men in general, but have also given up on them, having no faith or hope that the hurt caused can be compensated for or healed. Some don’t have partners and if they do, they (women) seem to have an upper hand. They often are hiding and protecting their feminine nature, with the sense of not being able to afford being vulnerable, to trust and to rely on men.
There are also women with a strong masculine energy, maybe compensating for absent or emasculated men. Many men have, during the days of the Ottoman Empire, suffered this fate, being emasculated in a literal sense, having been castrated so as not to be able to “saw their seed” and interfere with inheritance lines while performing their, usually servant functions. Regardless of our possible stereotyped images of Turkish men, it seems that their masculinity has been weakened too. Constellation after a constellation shows absent fathers, emotionally non-present partners, men who died early, took part in conquests all over the world, who killed and were in danger of being killed, constantly, through centuries. In other words, we see men weakened by traumas of violence. We see this in constellations mainly set up by women, and it is about their fathers and other male ancestors. Not many men partake in workshops and are cautious about setting up their questions. One man’s work was mostly about just crying bitterly on a seeker’s chair for a considerable amount of time. For another one it took six workshops to decide to set up his own work. It is this man’s constellation that impacted me, and others present, greatly.
He mentioned at the beginning that he had not had any older male models in his family. One of his grandfathers died when his father was only three years old. The other one suffered a terrible trauma serving as a soldier, being inside a tank as it exploded. As we set up this second grandfather, many participants in a group could feel sick to the stomach with sheer horror of his experience, the pain and suffering literally spilling out of a constellation. We all witnessed the representative for the grandfather going through agony, but not really being able to express his pain. It was as if he had to contain it all within himself.
This portrayed a somewhat universal picture, almost like an archetype of a contemporary man, of how men are supposed to be. Outwardly, this man’s suffering was manifested as “strictness”, that is how he was in his life, as described by his grandson, who also added that he never liked this grandfather, and kept away from him. Before the constellation this grandfather was described without much compassion, as a cold and strict man. His representative reported on his inward experience, as he was channelling the glimpses of the grandfather’s trauma: “There is a huge scream in me wanting to come out”. But nothing came, he remained silent, containing all the agony within, motioning helplessly. This image made me wonder, how many men go through life like this, each closed in within their own tank, unable to let the scream out!?
It was interesting that many women in the holding circle though, have felt and expressed, seemingly, what he could not. Also, during and after a constellation many participants wept with compassion for this man and his fate. Everyone was touched as it was obvious how this man, and how many men have suffered through endless wars, army service, far away from their homes, their lives endangered, often forced to kill as not to be killed. Observing and feeling the group, I had only one thought in my head: “the suffering of Turkish women through centuries can only be matched by the suffering of Turkish men”.
And I understood that this is how it has been, and partly still is, all over the world and all over again. Men are the victims of patriarchy too. Many of them could also say “me too”. But even such outing, which could provide a bit a of relief, is not available to them. Because they are, on the whole, seen as the perpetrators of patriarchy, the ones to blame and hold responsible. And, it is true, their kind has caused suffering too, so now, in addition to their pain, they have to carry that responsibility as well. This often means desperately trying to hold onto their masculinity, or the stereotyped view of what it means to be a man and act “manly”, which often includes introjects like “be strong, don’t cry, don’t show vulnerability”. And it is still expected of them to go out there, earn the living in increasingly competitive environment, support their children if not their wives as well, and to be a protector, and also “sensitive” to our, women’s needs. And how on Earth can they do that without our support, our compassion, not just for them and their position in the world, but for all of us caught in this deadly tango we can only dance together?!
Me too, I suffer this predicament us women and men found ourselves in. And I understand that you too, dear man, suffer, suffer deeply and without the right to victimhood, without the outlets for sharing pain available to us women, suffer in silence. I too understand now how deeply you have been hurt, carrying the pain of violence and wars in your body/soul without the permission to cry, and how tough you had to make yourself to contain that scream inside. I understand a bit better now as I systemically open myself to everything and everyone, across gender lines, and without preconceived judgement, thus enabling my soul to hear not only the cries of women, but also the un-screamed scream of men.
I do believe that as more of us, men and women, are able to hold this position of a systemic observer, just allowing everything that has happened to find its place and its expression, without need for judgement, action, punishment, compensation or atonement, the new systemic insights will emerge, creating a path for us, men and women, to walk onto, towards our shared future, in more harmonious ways. Systemic constellators among them surely can help to pave that way.
first published in “The Knowing Field” International Constellations Journal, issue 32, June 2018