We are all familiar with the current social climate challenging the status quo for men. This is actually fueling the Men’s Movement as men are claiming, reclaiming, and redefining positive male identity. I see this is an opportunity for men to find greater internal personal power, to more positively effect change in the world, and to achieve higher levels of relationship fulfillment. This can best occur through balancing Logos and Eros.
In a broad generality, I see two types of men doing men’s work, and their growth occurs in respective directions: 1) “Feminized” men, who are compassionate, loving, emotional, intuitive, concerned about relationship, etc… Their growth includes finding more personal power, boundaries, and discernment (Logos). 2) Traditional or “macho” men, who have been strongly influenced by and live according to the historic conditioning of what it is to be a man…reasonable, in control, strong, invulnerable, etc… Their growth includes deeper connection with others and more internal fulfillment in life (Eros).
In some circles of the Men’s Movement there is a lot of discussion about the importance of Logos, or Rationality, as a guiding principle for men. Logos has traditionally been the primary way that men have approached the world. In men’s new efforts to find and reclaim positive identity and power, Logos is reasserting itself, and this is an important part of the process.
However, Logos is only part of what men are, and without the balance of Eros, Love and Compassion, there is the risk of imbalance. This imbalance has been a large part of many personal problems, social issues, and lack of fulfillment that many men have historically and currently experience.
Eros And The Anima
In discussing Eros and Anima, there is the risk of being seen as advocating outdated, traditional and normative standards. However, what follows is not an attempt to characterize or force each gender into a limited box. Much to the contrary, I am advocating moving from the traditional, which has separated Logos for men and Eros for women, and progressing into whole and fully functioning, for all people.
Regardless of your thoughts on gender norms, either through biology and/or culture, Logos and Eros are generally prescribed for each gender. But as will be seen, they are features of all people, male and female. How we integrate those features, or not, is what is at issue. If the language of gender norms is objectionable, just consider these ideas for yourself or each individual, as opposed to gender.
Also, keep in mind that this is a discussion of some of the dynamics that are occurring in the Men’s Movement, addressing some of the deeper psychological implications. One of the purposes of this article is for men to consider these ideas and apply them to how they are defining, and not defining, themselves as men. This is particularly important during this time of substantial challenges to both the traditional and modern man.
Carl Jung, the genius Swiss Psychiatrist had a lot to say regarding the deeper psychology of Logos and Eros: Jung indicated that Logos, rationality or objective interest, is the masculine principle from which most men primarily operate. Eros, or relationship, is the feminine principle from which most women primarily operate.
In Jung’s theory, each gender also has the opposite-gendered element: For men, this is called the Anima, which represents the feminine/Eros. For women, this is called the Animus, which represents the masculine/Logos. The work of Individuation, or becoming whole, for men includes making the unconscious Anima, conscious (and likewise for women with the Animus). Becoming whole for men involves integrating Eros/relationship in a full way, i.e., learning deep relationship, is a huge part of men becoming whole.
While Jung viewed the Anima (and other “archetypes) as in-born – “nature”, he also appreciated the role of culture – “nurture”. Here’s my take on it:
The way most men are conditioned often involves a lot of shaming of anything that may appear weak, vulnerable or emotional (Eros). Such shaming is one powerful source that fuels Jung’s gender split (syzygy) in the psyche. In other words, as men, these aspects of ourselves that are not supported and allowed to flourish, “go underground” and energize the Anima (or Animus for women, who have other conditioning).
So, the Anima and Eros, which is unconscious for traditionally conditioned men often includes important elements of relationship, which remain undeveloped. It is like parts of himself get left behind and stop developing, interfering with his full functioning. For example, without strong connection to his emotions and vulnerability, a man’s capacity for getting his deeper emotional needs met, and his capacity for empathy, are lacking. This not only leaves him unable to respond on a deep level to his intimate partners, but leaves his deepest wants and desires unfulfilled.
The Whole Man: Inner Personal Power & Fulfillment
My work with all men includes healing personal psychological/emotional wounds from childhood, and later in life. I also work helping men reclaim lost aspects of self, from that wounding and from cultural conditioning.
For the man that is feminized and Eros dominant, this includes reclaiming Logos. For example, applying more reason and discernment. This can include what is known as Cognitive Therapy, helping him reduce thoughts that interfere with good emotional functioning and increasing more positive and self-affirming and assertive thoughts. If he is overly self-sacrificing and cannot stand up for himself, there is even more emphasis on him standing square in his wants and desires, e.g., by setting boundaries. Through these and other support, he can then stand for his wants and desires, and stand for what he believes. Obviously, this results in greater fulfillment.
For the Logos and traditional dominant man, reclaiming lost aspects of self includes reclaiming Eros. For example, accessing and processing more emotion by living more in his body and less in his head. Also, his relationship functioning is deepened by increasing his awareness of his impact on others, developing compassion, and learning to ask for more of what he wants and needs in his heart of hearts. This too results in greater fulfillment.
The lost aspects of self for the traditional man include:
1) Emotional Awareness and Facility – the ability to own and bring emotions into the world and maintain good emotional “hygiene.”
2) Vulnerability, not in the dictionary sense of “weakness,” but owning and bringing forward into the world what previously has been criticized as “weak,” e.g., emotions, lack of competence, needing assistance, etc… It is important for the man to acknowledge and affirm those previously shamed aspects of self. He is helped to see that a lot of those “weak” parts are actually normal and important for his fulfillment and empowerment.
Without emotions and vulnerability, we can’t have: 3) Deep Relatedness, which puts us squarely in Jung’s Anima function of relationship, Eros. I believe all humans want to be deeply met, seen, and loved. To share all aspects of themselves, Logos and Eros. In fact, there is a vital relationship between becoming who we really are and being seen and supported for being that way. (This is the relational counterpart to Individuation – becoming our authentic and whole self).
The final cornerstone of my work with all men is 4) Inner Personal Empowerment. This is different than the empowerment given us by virtue of our physical strength, any specific skill, or by any hierarchy. At the same time, Inner Personal Empowerment enhances all other strengths. Inner Personal Empowerment emerges from inner integrity (in a structural sense). In other words, all aspects of a man are included in their awareness and expression of self, including the three parts listed above, emotion, vulnerability, and deep relatedness, as well as Logos.
When a man is conscious of all of these aspects, of all of who he is, from head to toe, and has the courage and skill to bring these to the world he is empowered in the world. This includes at work, interactions with others, and in his close and intimate relationships where he can calmly and clearly ask for what he wants. He is able to work toward getting his deepest needs and wants met in a mature and interactive manner. He is considerate if his partner, including their strengths and vulnerabilities. He can be powerfully vulnerable, and thereby, be deeply fulfilled.
The Value Of Eros To The World
A Logos dominated man, lacking Eros and Compassion, is at risk of focusing on his own empowerment, including over others. He may be cold and can be selfish, disregarding of relationship and the vulnerability of self and others. Men and women alike may be objectified to serve his own security and ascendance. While he may be fair in the world at large, he is at risk of being unfulfilled because he may be out of touch with his emotions, vulnerability, and cannot maintain deep relatedness. If he considers it, he will sense something is missing, despite what may be great external success.
A man in balance with Eros and Logos has authentic Internal Personal Power and will genuinely support the power of others, including other men.
When men who are out of touch with Eros, particularly when they were shamed for “softness,” and they see vulnerability in others, they may feel irritated and demean, attack and shame them. This is one way that shadow projected Eros manifests. They may also simply ignore or give insufficient response to others. This is how male shame for Eros is passed on, unconsciously, by treating our boys in these ways. So, for the Logos dominated man, one way that Eros and integrating the Anima helps the world is to eliminate male shaming, as well as shaming and neglecting Eros in women.
On a larger social and political level, Logos without sufficient Eros can be disregarding of the plight of others, in favor of tribalistic and self-serving tendencies. Lacking deep relatedness and compassion, it is much easier to enter into a “Us vs. Them” and “Mine” mentality. Integrating Eros and the Anima is necessary for full spiritual development and the widest and most powerful expression of spiritual love and compassion, extending to everyone in the world. These men can rely on Logos, for discernment, to balance Eros.
Also on a larger scale, ecological destruction of “Mother Earth” does not occur from a position of Eros nor the Anima, but from Logos, practical concerns and outcomes, run amuck. Shadow Eros is at risk of becoming (terms I personally dislike) “toxic masculinity” or the negative side of “the patriarchy.” I like to balance such ideas with the positive things men and Logos have done for the world. For example, science, protection, courage, independence, progress, etc…
Excessive Eros can take its toll as well. For example, social programs with too much Eros often run amuck due to poor consideration of the complexities. This can include not holding individuals sufficiently accountable, including the recipients of the program and those who are responsible for delivering the programs. There is a balance between support, Eros, and individual accountability, Logos.
As men respond to the current crisis and opportunity for positive male identity, partial solutions will only leave men internally disempowered, less effective in the world and/or relationally unfulfilled. We can neither go back to too much Logos, nor forward into too much Eros, but have to balance and develop both.
Photo by Crown Agency on Unsplash