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What is being a man?

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

Working a lot with men, I often get the question: "What is it like being a man?"

Do you know what it is to be a man? Do you have a specific picture in your mind of what a man should be like in relationships, in work, in sports, or in life? I certainly had an image most of my life. A picture built by movies I have seen, friends I had, men I have had as an example in my life, teachers, and last but not least, my expectations.

Real men work on oil rigs!

During the first decade of this century, I worked on many oil and gas rigs worldwide, but mainly on the UK North Sea. I was a young engineer working on control systems for big rotating machinery.

Most men on these platforms were of a particular type. Short, muscled, unshaven, and covered in tattoos. The general conversation was about beer, football, and sex (or the longing for as soon as they went ashore). The entertainment in the evening was watching a football game on the telly, regularly burping or lifting the butt for a fart, welcomed by the laughter of the others in the room.

The guys worked hard and were friendly, but somehow it never flowed between them and me. I thought it was because I was always new on the rig. But slowly, I became aware that it concerned my interests. Their ambition in life generally was not mine. I was not a lover of football, so many times the conversation stagnated at the question: "Who's your favorite team?". Or when someone mentioned they had been in Amsterdam, I was curious about their impression, but mainly they talked about the famous 'coffeeshops' and being stoned from landing to departure. When we left the helicopter after it brought us back to Aberdeen, a pint of lager (or two) was enjoyed before collecting the luggage, after which everybody went home.

Slowly over time, I started to doubt my masculinity. I worked in a men's world and did not feel I belonged. I didn't focus so much on the 'men's stuff' they discussed. I couldn't feel the same rawness and primal needs. Was I in touch with the Iron John archetype in me? Sometimes, yes, I could feel him during sex, but often he was kept under the radar.

It was time to confront this 'problem' and do an intense men's training. I wanted to face my 'Wildeman' like we call the archetype in Dutch. I wanted to become a real man! Whatever that meant.

My initiation as a man.

I did a 4-day initiation for men on Venwoude in the Netherlands. During these four days, I constantly looked for the Wildeman in me. I was convinced that that was the masculinity I was lacking. I found it and lost it again, or so I thought. To my surprise, the training wasn't about shouting and releasing; the training was about masculinity and femininity in men; it was about the polarities in us; it was about heartfelt leadership, responsibility, vision, love, and tribal brotherhood.

After the training, I was more confused than ever until I met someone who showed me the 'spine of men', with the seven archetypes. Iron John, the Lover, the Warrior, the King, the Fool, the Magician, and the Saint. I was fascinated by this perspective, and his workshop showed me how in touch I was with all of these seven archetypes, some more than others in different circumstances, most notably how the archetypes supported each other in different situations in life.

With this new view and a load of curiosity, I did the 4-day training again and explored all seven archetypes and my relation to them. I could see the availability of my masculinity and femininity through these archetypes and feel who I was, in essence. It brought me a vision of how I wanted to be and how I wanted men to be in leadership and relationship.

The mission

That training kickstarted my mission. It gave me the first vision of the possibility of a marriage between the masculine and the feminine, in ourselves (men, women, and all other genders) and humanity. I believe that if those two powers in the world will genuinely meet, the world will change completely. My mission is to contribute to that significant change.

I am still on my path to being a man myself. This will probably be a never-ending quest, a beautiful quest, I may add! On that path, I work mainly (but not exclusively) with men, and with my work and experience, I contribute to a change in leadership, safer and deeper relationships, and a better world.

Would you like a taste?

Recently I started a fortnightly men's group on Tuesday night, which filled up relatively quickly with committed and curious men. I will create a new group soon (on the other Tuesday). I will also facilitate the first retreat in June. Next to that, I do face-to-face body-oriented therapy. If you are interested in either form, let me know, and we'll talk.

I am curious. What does being a man mean for you? I would love your perspective on this.

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