INTEGRATION #2 Younger Self vs Adult Identity
If you remember last week’s message about Locus of Control, you know I think it’s a first step along the integration journey.
Hopefully, many of you have gone online and taken the free assessment I linked and now have a better idea of how to improve your locus scores.
This week, I want to bring your attention to the reconciliation between your Younger Self and your Adult Identity.
I’m not a “trauma is everything” type as I don’t think that’s useful.
I don’t mean any disrespect to the traumatized out there, and I count myself among them, it’s just that it can become shrouded in avoidance, like a dark and humid basement a child dare not go into (I have one of those).
It can become an excuse too.
As in “why do you drink?” Answer: “I have trauma, man!” You stopped drinking and started again, why? “I have trauma, man…”
Now the brain is thinking “how else it can leverage this to avoid taking responsibility and continue to live according to my whims?”
That’s not for you.
However, I will tell you that you are run by your nervous system and conscious awareness is along for the ride.
Furthermore, your nervous system is trained by experiences.
In fact, there is nothing new to the brain, it compares everything in front of it to what it has seen before.
Been to a lake as a kid and now you stand before the ocean, the brain says, “I have seen big water before.”
Drive into the Rockies for the first time, the brain says, “I’ve seen hills.”
Not only that, if you feel something today, you have likely felt it before.
The brain takes your databank of prior experiences and comes up with instant hypotheses about the circumstances you are in which you then disprove or confirm using the social reality before you.
So, let me repeat: if you feel something today, you have likely felt it before.
This also means that if you want to feel differently, you must do new things to provide your brain with new concepts to use going forward.
This facet of integration becomes necessary because of the way the brain adapts during aging.
Studies show us that even a one-year-old child knows if someone is treating them or others unfairly. Children have a keen survival sense, and know how they are being fucked over (if at all) by the people around them as they grow.
When a child encounters situations they find unfair or where they feel powerless, or where they are of “two minds,” their rudimentary operating system will step in “to deny, repress, or distort, inner and/or outer reality to lessen anxiety and depression.” (Vaillant, 1998)
Conforming with caregiver imperatives helps two-fold: to keep you alive and to become socialized (if you are reading this, the first imperative was successful: a cause to celebrate! while the latter is a work in progress).
This operating system is installed in a child mainly through language, often under a “threat and reward” (carrot and stick, if you will) style of parenting.
This full nervous system OS is also known the the ego… and is continuously updated throughout childhood.
Only a man’s prefrontal cortex doesn’t come online fully until he’s aged twenty-five or thirty.
At which point, absent parental feedback, he becomes totally responsible for his own neuroplasticity.
He needs to do his own operating system updates.
Failing this, parts of his existence will still be run by his Younger Self.
You can imagine (and might already suspect or know) how this turns out.
He encounters some situation and responds emotionally out of context, leaving himself and those around him dissatisfied and uncertain.
Some men build a defensive wall of denial in order to manage shameful feelings that are often decades old in origin.
And, the bitch is these things in a man’s life don’t tend to get better on their own. They tend to get worse.
In fact, if you consider the human life cycle and peg life expectancy at eighty-two years, the low point average in happiness is age forty-seven.
I know from working with hundreds of men that this has much to do with failing to update our operating system by integrating the Younger Self with a strong and powerful Adult Identity.
When you do the work, in some ways you in effect become your own father.
It’s up to you now and forever. Parents often regress to “old children” as they near the end of life. You become their parent.
This is part of that process.
Understanding your past frees you to create a compelling future.
That’s part of what it means to Integrate. You reparent yourself.
It requires courage… but is the best work you will ever do.
Nothing I have done on the personal development front has been more rewarding. Despite looking like I had it together, I suffered..
After carrying a secret “piece of shit” shame for fifty years, I did the work using plenty of curiousity and acceptance, and was finally free.
I want that for you too.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” said Joseph Campbell.
Stay powerful, true and free…
INTEGRATION: LOCUS OF CONTROL
Let’s talk about Integration.
No one bothers to explain this one outside relationships. I see many who are fond of focusing on attachment as the cause of their troubles, and there is some truth to ideas such as codependence and fusion.
In fact, codependence is quite normal.
Couples who have been together a long time finish each other’s sentences, and when together their heart rates and blood pressure synchronize. They also report being happier and tend to live longer.
In the strictest terms, fusion refers to a baby who, having been grown and connected to its mother by womb and umbilical cord, arrives not knowing that she or he is, in fact a separate being until the second half of the first year of life.
Still, children experience families physically.
A child will attune to caregiver nervous system activation for survival.
This same mechanism broadly later gives you the capacity for empathy, compassion, and the mirror neurons that allows you to sense what others might be feeling or thinking by watching them carefully.
Clearly, remaining monogamous to mother is not good for men. The boy must leave the mother to become a man.
Furthermore, moms are supposed to be more anxious than dads. It’s an adaptation that helps her keep you alive. Kind of important.
Dad is there to counter this necessary negative emotion with leadership and reassurance. If dad is absent, or checked out, or too busy, mom’s influence will prevail.
Until a man confronts and transcends his early life influences to emerge as a separate entity capable of standing fully on his own, he will, in many ways, remain set back emotionally.
He will tend towards failing to control his own destiny.
I believe locus of control is essential to personal integration.
Locus of control speaks to where you place responsibility for what happens to you in life.
Is life happening to you or for you?
Is everything up to fate or luck?
Or do you create much of your own?
My own locus of control shifted considerably when I was in college studying behavioural sciences.
Growing up I had four sisters and four brothers, smack in the middle a family of eleven. But there was significant violence and passive aggressiveness and not enough love to go around.
God bless them all.
I felt powerless to do anything about the daily injustices prevalent in our household. In fact, the violence and pressure left my nervous system in the “fight” mode of freeze, fight, flight for many years… well after the old man tossed me out of the house at age fifteen.
He said there was room for only one rooster under a roof and since it was his house, I had to go. The rooster is now my totem animal.
I’m not proud of it but out on my own I fell in with a tough crowd of older drug dealers and assorted miscreants.
I spent almost two decades as a gangster thug during which, at one time or another, I was shot, stabbed, run over, hit with baseball bats.
I did time for shooting people and various other crimes against society.
I was an emotionally unregulated and disintegrated mess.
Something had to give.
Only now I had a wife and son to look after.
I got off the dope and the streets and took drug rehab… and then talked my way into college without even having a high school education.
Later, I graduated “with honours,” first in class, winning the Academic Council Award each academic year in the process.
In my first semester of studies, instead of the usual “Gulag Archipelago” type stuff I read when I was a crook, I picked up “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.
That’s when my locus of control changed.
I was walking between classes and thinking about things, trying to match what I was learning and my experiences to form a coherent and functional “model of the world” when it struck me (like epiphanies do).
“Happiness is a decision,” I said out loud.
I was free of victimhood there and then. If you come to my house today and ask my children what is happiness, they will tell you it’s a decision
Thereafter, my locus of control became more internal than external.
I realized my fate was in my hands and whatever powerlessness I had grown up to accept was all in my head (and heart).
I could choose to live a different life.
So, I did, and here we are.
Most of my pals from those days are dead and gone, many of them tragically.
Also, one hundred and eighty thousand people died around the world yesterday.
Not me. Not you.
About ten years ago after watching a clip online with a man exhorting other men on a beach to either memorize Invictus or get in the water and carry one of their comrades, out of curiousity I looked the poem up.
I have recited it out loud every morning since.
I recommend taking in a little Invictus every morning, like a vitamin.
Where are you on the Locus of Control scale?
Go to this link and take the free assessment. It’s the same one I use with my clients. (you can also get a PDF for under ten bucks)
Follow the advice and begin to integrate your locus control to a more internal orientation… and watch your life change.
Stay tuned, as we’ll cover more facets of male integration.
Stay powerful, true and free…
I don’t drink or smoke, or involve myself in any of my old shenanigans, so it’s an opportunity to plan both the final quarter of 2023 and lay down the basics of 2024.
Labour Day weekend used to mean the working man’s holiday and end of summer. I make it a solemn time to reassess my life.
I happen to have a birthday in early December so I use that to mark my final edit for next year’s goals. By settling things before the end of year, I can enjoy Christmas knowing future plans are in place.
This is the Quadrant Shield I use to tell the truth about my life.
You may have an address on a street somewhere, but the universal address of your existence is that body of yours. Physiology first.
Above all I do my best to live up to my values. I have taken the time to discover why they are important to me.
Most of our happiness also comes from a sense of harmony with others. We are relational animals: Team Human.
Nature has made it so that men produce more than they consume.
The Expendable Male (6 mins)
August 10th is Prison Justice Day.
Back when I was a guest of the state all those decades ago (not a period that I am particularly proud of, but it is what it is…) we would grub for every food advantage, often finishing each other’s meals.
An extra dessert was bargained for like contraband.
But on the 10th day of August, we pushed back our trays and refused to eat the ‘Jug-up’ that was usually a highlight to the dreary days despite being food of consistently low quality.
So no food for me today. Coffee is fine, water is plenty.
The ratio of male to female prisoners is 10 to 1. It’s testosterone.
Like they say in French, “nous avons tous les défauts de nos qualités,” which translates as “we all have the faults of our qualities.”
Women can be both gifted and burdened with higher empathy and negative emotion. It helps them spot sickness in those around them (especially children) and danger in their environment.
This blessing is often overwhelming (that’s where you come in to help her balance things – see Team Human below).
There’s a meme that floats around the internet listing predominant male roles such as roofer, logger, veteran, plumber, mechanic, carpenter, coal miner, firefighter, iron worker, truck driver, oil rig worker, police officer, cement mason, power lineman, crane operator, highway worker, garbage collector, construction worker from 80% male (truck drivers) all the way to 97% male (plumbers).
I’m still waiting for the day a couple of gals will show up in spring and clean out my septic tank. I won’t hold my breath (while I hold my nose – just kidding, I don’t really do that… despite the stink).
Cops are something like 85% male. War deaths are 85% male. If there is a work place fatality in North America, 90+% of the time that tragedy will involve the loss of a man’s life.
She is the burdened female precious creator of life.
He is the expendable male powerful defender of life.
With overlap, they are Team Human.
Sometimes, in context, our gifts bite us in the ass.
True for men too as much as for women.
More boys die in childbirth and are born with problems. Preemie girls are almost twice as likely to survive as do boys. A plethora of conditions affect boys more than girls including attention deficit, Asperger’s, dyslexia, etc..
Even more so than it is with girls, a boy’s relationship with his mother as primary caregiver is especially critical to his development.
In Canada, child psychologist and professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and psychology at The University of Montreal, holds the Canada Research Chair in Child Development and won the 2017 Stockholm Prize in Criminology for his work studying delinquents.
Recounting his days studying aggressive boys in the Montreal school system during a podcast last year, he said his early research surprised even him.
If a mother has problems like depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol addiction, her male child has a greater propensity to aggression and later juvenile delinquency.
If she has only a female child, the aggression only shows up when that little girl grows up and has male children of her own.
Tremblay had good success intervening with mothers, having a positive effect on her children.
Studies have been done on men and women playing a contrived game where profits could be shared at a player’s discretion. The twist is researchers added the ability to electric shock each other.
Brain imaging revealed that male subjects who observed the selfish players being zapped registered pleasure in their brains while empathy areas were not activated.
Not so the women, who showed empathy for both the good guys and the bad guys in the game.
At Rooster Acres, my Missus can clean and gut culled animals but leaves the killing to me.
Because of testosterone, men have less ability to hold off competitive, aggressive and vengeful impulses.
Workplace shootings are almost always male, school shooters are male.
Accidents are number four on the list of things that kill men, occurring at twice the rate of females.
We also kill ourselves at four times the rate. The annual Darwin awards are typically going to be male “winners” … as losers.
And more of us end up inside.
Add in attachment theory John Bowlby’s finding from many years ago about male children being separated from their mothers under the age of four and having a higher likelihood of becoming antisocial later on.
A more recent study from Nevada said teens in trouble with the law whose mothers stood by them tended to grow up fine. Those with no mom standing in their corner had a higher rate of antisocial personality disorder as adults. One of our men is a “juvee” guard and confirmed this recently.
The famed Grant Gluek study tracking almost 800 Boston men since the late 1930s found men with warm maternal relations made more money as adults. Those without… had a four fold increase in dementia.
My old man said his parents both broke his heart. He died of dementia.
So while there are some bad ass muthas that should probably stay inside forevermore, most guys inside are not antisocial or psychopathic.
We are people makers and typically the men I did time with were males with fucked up backgrounds coping the best they could. Many were addicted as well as immature (I was both).
Dealing with many men on the fringes of society for four decades, I’d say a lot of them just take a long time to grow up. The more prosocial values they are exposed to as they age, the better they do.
Look at the Titanic deaths: women, 434; children, 112; men, 1680 died for a survival rate of less than 20%.
If my Missus had to choose between me dying and either of my children, I’d be out of there. That’s how it ought to be.
We are the expendable males. And just as no woman has a choice over her burden as a woman, neither do men get to question nature’s wisdom.
It’s women and children first.
This is my personal view of things:
For all its advantages—like a 95% reduction in starvation deaths in my lifetime, or how it lifted 6 out of 7 billion people beyond the dollar per day existence of 200 years ago by 2017—capitalism subsumes relationships, families, cultures, govts, professions, ecosystems, and anything else in its path.
This has especially weakened the male population worldwide. We did this to ourselves.
It is men who teach men how to be men.
So today I’ll skip food. No “Jug-up” for me. I’m not asking you to do the same, just to recognize and appreciate male expendability.
And if you feel up to skipping dessert, more power to you.
I send you blessings of power and love…
true and free,
Reach me if you want to talk.
I sometimes agree to work with a man…
Often I hear from men who are struggling in an area of their lives, and they tell of these challenges as undeserved, unpredictable and mysterious.
They may describe everyday life in terms of their own innocence, or with a semblance of stalwart courage in the face of what seems like “the unfairness of it all.”
It could be a problem with a relationship, and that’s fairly common. More typically it involves the difficulty of adhering to good daily habits, or of gloomy thoughts undermining their good intentions.
One man it’s a purposeful life, another his lack of exercise, still another is eating shit food and reaches for candy and desserts. Another speaks of the futility of it all, or of finding little or no reward for their hard work.
None of them make the connection.If you read me you know that I discovered some years ago that ALL addiction is an addiction to fear.
All addictions have an effect on heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and by engaging in drug, alcohol, food, porn, gambling and yes, even vape addiction, we compulsively take “another hit” to boost the fear state.
This allows us to “narrow focus” and momentarily relieve stress.
How? Well despite the physiological fear state created by any addictive behaviour mentioned, all of them allow you to take many thoughts and turn them into fewer or different thoughts… and this is where temporary relief is found.
This is what fear is supposed to do: when in danger, it narrows focus so you can attend to things important to staying alive in the circumstances.
Only there’s a problem: repeatedly relying on any of these things to change your thinking creates a nervous system which seeks more and more fear to achieve the same temporary relief.
Soon the odd hit of the vape pen is replaced with more numerous hits on the pipe. That’s basic habituation.
And since you believe you are not or only mildly addicted, you can spread your risk around too.
Instead of opting for MORE vaping, at higher doses, you can use porn, food, gambling, or your miserable existence with its accompanying regret and loss of faith in the future instead.
While not your preferred addiction, they’ll do in a pinch.
That way you can tell yourself “See! I’m not vaping as much!”
Or, “at least I’m not smoking cannabis” or drinking alcohol or shooting heroin…
How we lie to ourselves…
And some men cannot see that their fear seeking is what lies at the root of their negative affect, because they have inadvertently trained their body to crave fear, to want to be in a physiologically aroused state and it’s what is normal to them.
Some men go and pick fights with a partner or coworker. Others allow themselves to be drawn into fight with feminists on the internet. Been there, done that… last week in fact.
I have clients who went offline for months during the last presidential election.
It’s fear seeking.
And until you call it out, you will be run by it, possibly forevermore.
Let’s get a few basics understood: You are run by your nervous system and conscious awareness is along for the ride.
If you feel something today, you have felt it before. The brain is predictive, not reactive.
It works on hypothesis.
It takes in information from your environment through the senses (eight of them) and adds that to the body internal state (hungry? get a good night’s sleep? allergies? hydrated? etc.).
This interoception creates affect (comfort/discomfort, aroused/relaxed) which is sent up through the brain stem to the periaqueductal gray and the brain.
There the brain uses your databank of prior experiences and formed concepts to come up with a prediction, which is then confirmed or denied by the social reality before you.
The nervous system is trained by experience. Humans are 50% internal and 50% relational beings. Most men who are fear seekers learned to be this way a long time ago.
So… men who work with me intensively for a few months inevitably get to the bottom of all this. My track record on this one is unparalleled, mostly thanks to the motivated men whom I have worked with and who helped me discover these deeper processes.
Those who don’t work with me sometimes resolve their addiction by taking the Taming Shame course and joining the 10M Men’s Boards, or from reading my book (SIPPING FEAR PISSING CONFIDENCE) and making the necessary changes. I salute you muthas,… for your courage, your intelligence and your resolve.
It’s no substitute for the real thing… but pretty good. Because the odds are against you. Let me explain. Your integrated nervous system acts as your O/S and receives regular updates when you are a kid which slow as you age. It’s also known as your ego.
The ego denies, distorts and represses inner and/or outer reality to lessen anxiety and depression.
This operating system works well, until it doesn’t. We should recognize that the ego gives less fucks about your long-term plans or identity and is wired directly to your order lower nervous system.
After all, the ego is about preventing anxiety and depression, both conditions of the future felt in the body (I call anxiety a temporary loss of faith in the future, for example, and we have already established that feelings start with interoception).
In fact, most of your thoughts emanate from your body and it’s easy to see how the ego filters for less anxiety or depression and is fine with more addiction. It’s doing its job.
Of course, addictions kill people. The physical ramifications alone make them deadly. And it’s not just food, or drugs and booze.
I have worked with young men who have lost half a million gambling and become suicide risks. The shame of porn can be a contributing factor.
But addictions also kill the spirit, and the spirit speaks for the soul. How so? Addictions kill confidence. Sheer displacement (edging out one thing for another) does that. You can’t have it both ways.
And confidence is your juice. Life is painful without confidence, so it deserves defending.
What if every craving you feel is really your spirit making you uncomfortable… so that you will manifest your most powerful life?
If your idea of spirit is of a ghost blowing smoke up your ass that may be the problem. For the truth is that when necessary the spirit will drag you painfully through the mire to get your attention.
And you will either make your suffering pay by becoming something more… or succumb to your discomfort and reach for temporary relief. This is where the normally wise ego becomes your enemy.
This will largely determine what kind of man you will be. And how your life will turn out since your life satisfaction is directly related to how much uncertainty and variety you can tolerate.
So, you must use your malaise as a signal and decide one of these: to retreat… or push through resistance to a new you.
And leave the scape goat vape goat bullshit behind.
They are for lesser men.
true and free
Or click here:
There are two new videos added to the Taming Shame course.
Hundreds of men have taken this course and those who get through it say it’s one of the best they’ve taken. Here’s an example…
The first added video deals with the brain’s 70,000 thoughts per day and how most of these emanate from “interoception,” that is, messaging the brain receives from the body.
I explain how lower order nervous system fight, flight and freeze functions are responsible for much of what we think.
Afterall, the brain exists to support the body and 80% of neurons (in the hundreds of millions) from all over the body signal towards the brain.
You can name that part of your functioning; I call it the wolf. It’s a dog.
The wolf gives zero fucks about your dreams and aspirations.
Feed-Fuck-Kill-Run-Hide is what it does.
Useful at times, to be sure….
… but you don’t want it running you full-time.
The graphic up top gives you the full picture.
How do you know the difference?
Well, I’m big on claiming an identity and this shield tells you why:
So, the idea is this: If you have a thought that runs counter to a rule you have set for yourself, that’s the wolf. It’s the dog in you.
ex. Not eating after 9PM and think, “I could eat a small bowl of Cheerios.”
ex. Not drinking and think, “I could have one beer.”
That’s the wolf and your dog needs an instant repudiation.
Don’t let the dog (or wolf) run you.
Make sure you are living up to the identity you claim for yourself.
The second video refers to the Younger Self process.
At times, you may be emotionally triggered by circumstances and don’t respond appropriately because of “unfinished business” in the backrooms of your psyche.
Everyone has versions of this so don’t think it’s just you.
The Taming Shame course shows you how to defeat shame while updating your operating system more in line with your adult identity.
We’ll cover the process in a future ATM News… and you can access the Taming Shame course and see for yourself at this link:
Being able to tell the difference between your higher order thinking and your lower order thoughts is a life changer.
All progress begins with truth.
It is only by being rigorously honest with the facts of your life that you will find and maintain forward progress.
It is critical that we as men stop lying to ourselves.
And that you claim the identity of your destiny.
So… I encourage you to begin listening to the moans, growls, whining and barks coming from the dog in you.
If you are in danger then by all means, use the wolf to get out of trouble.
But the rest of the time, cage that motherfucker…
… and go live intentionally.
Let me know how it goes.
I’m always interested in your victories, big or small.
Respond any time to this email with questions or comments.
True and free…
want to talk? I offer free discovery calls and sometimes work with people.
CHRISTOPHER K WALLACE
Advisor to Men ™
Coming this fall: The Man Course…
I say fuck modern convention and I seek prayer… and act to pray, for prayer expresses a calling from the spirit.
And it is the spirit which speaks for the soul.
In grade three, our teacher was a nun who wore a full habit and had the most beautiful face I’d ever seen on a woman. She was strikingly good looking, likely provoking in me the first stirrings of love outside what I would have felt for my mother.
By then we had moved up from Halifax, Nova Scotia, when my dad was transferred to headquarters to continue his work as a writer with the Navy. I was born in Ottawa but at eight months, we had been shipped east, following dad as his career proceeded. They’d bought their first house in Ottawa before I was born, renting it out while they were gone those five years.
Before returning to Ottawa, my father dreamt that anyone who could speak the two official languages – English and French – would have a distinct advantage in Canadian society. Therefore, those children who were already attending English school in Halifax were transferred to French school in September when we arrived in Ottawa. My sister, our eldest, , and my two older brothers, were switched to St Thomas D’Aquin French grade school to resume their educations.
On the other hand, I myself hadn’t quite got to school yet in Halifax. In fact, I skipped Kindergarten because my birthday fell halfway through the year in December. The powers that be thinking it was better to start me fresh in the new language after we made the move. Disappointing as that was, I was so excited about being finally allowed to attend school that I even got ma to teach me rudimentary reading in my fourth and fifth years. It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to being in school every day like my brothers, instead of languishing alone at home without them.
You can imagine what a cruel trick it was for this little boy, in all the excitement of being on the cusp of joining the ranks of students like his siblings, to find that once finally allowed into grade one at St Thomas D’Aquin, I couldn’t understand a word spoken by either my classmates or my teacher. The reading I had worked so hard to master at ma’s knee was now useless. The kids in my class had all made friends the year before when I was still in Halifax; coming as they did from families where French was spoken daily; whereas, I didn’t know one word. I finally got to go to school only to find that all of my expectations were shattered, every last one of them.
I would spend most of my time there being either scolded or pitied by the nuns, fed peanut butter and jam sandwiches in their lunchroom when I forgot mine, or browbeaten for not speaking French and following directions. I registered very little of what was going on for that whole first year, unless, of course, someone broke down and actually spoke in English on my behalf, which all of them could do anytime they wanted, but rarely ever did.
I’d often try to answer questions posed to me by attempting mimicry when teacher would stand over me, pressuring me to answer something I could only poorly decipher from body language. Since teacher’s words were gibberish to my untrained ears, I’d speak gibberish in return. The other kids would erupt in laughter, infuriating the teacher. This would earn me time spent alone in the darkness of the clothing closet at the back of class, staring in the darkness at the wall, with a little light seeping in under the door from the classroom’s bright fluorescents, smelling the musty boots and coats drying there from being soaked with snow, listening to the kids and teacher carry on in an alien tongue I could not seem to comprehend no matter how hard I tried.
In the second year of my school career, a new Catholic French school had been built down the street from my parent’s home. No more school bus to take me away in the morning. Instead, I could reach it by simply walking 200 meters and come home for lunch every day at noon. About halfway through that second year, all of a sudden one day, I realized I got what they were saying. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was quite miraculous at the time, marveling as I did at the divide between ignorance one hour and comprehension the next. This made me listen even more intently, for now I knew what they were saying. From then on, I could pretty well discern what was going on, whereas before I’d been so hampered, relying mostly on observation to get through my days. In the morning of that momentous day, I knew nothing; by afternoon, I was one of them.
It still left me at a deficit contrasted with all the other kids, most of whom were from families that spoke French at home, having done so since birth. This was also the time when Quebec nationalism was simmering to an eventual boil, leaving some teachers with a clear prejudice towards the English. The nuns were pretty good, they served God, less so the nation; however, the lay-teachers at my Catholic school could be bigoted. And some of my classmates brought their parents’ prejudices to school with them. There was cultural snobbery around the French language at a time of great change in Canadian society.
What that meant was that I couldn’t bond as readily with the natural hierarchy of achievers in my class. My language weakness and delayed school start meant that I would have to choose friends from amongst the lower tier of students. Even then, none of this was lost on me. Predictably, I gravitated towards the sickly, the poor, the slow learners, the dysfunctional and the polio cripples from the start. They were the first tribe to accept me.
In grade three, I had settled into a steady rhythm of attendance and play. I had two older brothers, one a grade ahead, another a grade beyond that, and a big sister three grades up. I’d managed to find a few kids to hang out with, often bringing one home from school to my parent’s home at lunch- time, where ma would generously feed us both.
That year, Sister reigned over us with all the prudishness a 1960s nun could muster, an iron-fisted discipline laying quietly in ambush under her façade of benevolent kindness and a beauty that bespoke purity. Oh, those nuns, long used to being educators, were a tricky force to reckon with.
Even our Principal, Mother Superior, an older version of my teacher in looks, with a handsome if not more beatified countenance, could inflict harm with a smile on her face. One day you’d receive a warm hand caressing your cheek as she smiled and looked intently into your eyes, uttering words of love and acceptance. That signature gesture of hers left you open for her next move.
On another day, as she roamed the playground looking for those who’d transgress the French only rule, or engage in boisterous behaviour, she’d move in with that same kindly look. Bringing herself closer, bending over slightly, her robed arm would rise as if to rub your rosy cheek. Only, instead of that warm touch, three inches from your face she’d mastered the short slap by sending a tremendous amount of kinetic energy through her hand and into your jaw. This would leave you stunned, completely undefended and reeling from your encounter. She would walk away scolding, muttering about how you had failed to measure up. It’s very possible that somehow she taught Bruce Lee this technique later.
My best friend was a French kid who’d been held back a year. Junior Lefebvre seemed to accept me for who I was. He was almost two years older and we were inseparable.
One day in class, out of boredom, we began to toss notes back and forth between each other’s seats. He’d send a swear word he knew; I’d try to match him by sending one back. He wrote, caca; I wrote back, pipi. He sent the same paper back with a drawing a picture of a full bladder and appendage. I added an inverted W to represent breasts. He again sent it back, this time adding a plus sign between them. I cleverly added in an equal sign after those two images and the word “bebe”, the French word for baby.
I’m not sure about Junior but at that stage, I had no idea what sex was, where babies came from, or much of anything else. When I got the last note, I competed accordingly and felt clever, as if I’d solved a puzzle, returning it through the air to Junior. Only, it was folded up paper, not the most aerodynamic of things, curling mid-air as it did, missing the target. Sure enough, the note landed on Ms goody-goody’s desk. Startled, she looked straight at me; I was caught looking back aghast.
Of all people, landing on Claire’s desk was a worst-case scenario. Not only did she lack a sense of humour, she was the smartest kid in the class, with little tolerance for tomfoolery of any kind. Sure enough, she opened that note, looked at it briefly, then stared right at me contemptuously through her horned-rims while I sat there with gaping jaw in disbelief at my misfortune, before heading immediately to the front of the class to ceremoniously place the errant note on Sister’s desk. The nun took one look at the scribbles on that folded page, and murmured something to Claire that could only have been a question as to its origins. I watched as Claire perfunctorily pointed straight at me, as if I was ten feet tall with nowhere to hide. Sister again said something to Claire and she returned to her seat. I looked down at my desk.
That was in the morning. Sister said nothing to me, but at lunch recess, she called me to the front of the class. I expected to hear about it then; surprisingly instead, she simply handed me a crisp white envelope and instructed me to give it to my mother when I went home for lunch.
That posed a real dilemma. I’d never been asked to have a hand in my own demise before. I felt a strong survival reaction come over me as I weighed the pros and cons of whether I shouldn’t or should turn the letter in to mom. Finally, I thought, I’d better, but with an explanation. I’d frame things carefully and things would work out fine.
Arriving home, I stopped at the top of the stairs, just at the entrance way of the kitchen. There was ma efficiently preparing meals for those of us that made it home everyday from the same tiny school. I had the letter behind my back and asked her, “Ma, what would you do if I got blamed for something I didn’t do?” It was my opening gambit.
It was feeble but the best I could come up with at the time. The amateurishness of my approach was compounded when she answered, “give me that envelope in your hand behind your back.” She had spotted it and in her hurry, had grown impatient with how I was clearly trying to put things in a favourable light. She seemed to be indicating that she felt my attempt at influence was somehow a sort of cousin to dishonesty, the whole approach backfiring just as surely as the paper toss had earlier in the day.
She tore open the letter and uttered the most dreaded words she could, “Wait until your father gets home”. Those words were powerful and final: life would now be put on hold until that threat resolved itself whichever way my fate determined. It was a sinking feeling, helplessly devoid of options or the benefit of sympathy from anyone. I was completely alone now.
I ate silently and returned to school. I finished the day there with no memory of Junior’s reaction, remembering only that Sister seemed to almost ignore me all afternoon. It was indeed as if I now existed in a vacuum, a kind of suspended animation filling in for reality.
At supper, all nine kids sat on benches around a two-foot by three-foot table in the kitchen. The youngest would have sat in the high chair in the corner. Later, that space was replaced by a stool occupied by my eldest sister, watching over us in ma’s absence while herself eating at the counter. My father would arrive mid-meal, often in crisp uniform, wearing shiny half-Wellingtons I’d polished for him that morning, taking up his place with ma in the dining room to discuss their respective days.
From my spot in the kitchen, I could glance to the left and see them. Often, they’d close the door and cut us off completely for a bit of privacy. That may have happened on this day. If it did, I would have known it was because the letter I brought home was being read just then.
I didn’t eat at my usual pace, rather, I picked at my food much more slowly, like a condemned man, knowing that going to the gallows on a full stomach was not going to make a difference. The gallows were the gallows, not a place for appetites.
Finally, towards the end of supper, Dad came in and ordered me downstairs. He moved quickly and decisively and simply said, “Christopher, to your room”. The time had finally come and my body buzzed in fear and frenetic movement. Leaving my spot on the right side of the bench where I sat, I managed to squeeze between my father and the other kids and head down into the darkness of the stairwell to my room. Behind me, I heard my father rattle the “ruler” off the top of the door frame that separated the kitchen from the hall way where it sat up high, perched there for ease of access but effectively to intimidate as well.
The ruler came about because of my older brother. He is the only lefty in the family and the most athletic, a natural leader, courageous and principled. He had always been meticulous about how he dissected things; from a very young age, he was frequently questioning my parents. He often stood up for all three of us older boys at some personal risk. This did not always go over well with ma, made worse while caring for a brood of nine. She’d complain to Dad who, having exhausted all the thinner pieces of wood in his scraps on previous corporal punishments, finally resorted to making a permanent model that would last the coming years.
Made of pure Canadian maple, it was fashioned from a hockey stick handle he’d cut to size of no more than eighteen inches, the first few sanded down a bit to make a slightly rounder-edged handle. This proved unbreakable, and the rattling sound it made when it was removed from its regular spot was enough to cause a whole household of kids to freeze in their tracks in fear. In silence, we’d strain our ears for footsteps coming our way, or for voices indicating someone else was getting their due instead.
That day, arriving on my heels, my father told me to pull my pants down. I cried as I let them drop to my ankles for I’d never been commanded to do that before. I cried again when he told me to hang on to the bedpost. He may have told me I deserved it, or that I had it coming, but I don’t remember anything except for what he had to say to line me up for what I was about to receive.
He then began to use the ruler to spank me in full force. The first blow stung my flesh like hot water on a burn. The baby fat of my fleshy backside, ripe and cushioned, gave him ample target for which to aim. His first 27 hits came rapidly, and I withstood them, somewhat valiantly, him swinging that hardwood ruler from head-high down, before I finally dropped screaming to the floor in pain and fear. I begged him to stop, “No daddy, No!” All he did was say “Get up, get up!” and repeat the attack.
Once the strikes hit the mid-fourties in number, I began to fall to the floor almost after each one, the stinging forcing me to gyrate on the floor as if I was trying to shake the pain from my body, my wailing becoming louder and more pleading. “No daddy, no”, I’d say through my tears, screaming it at him myself after a time, my voice encouraged by the intensity of the pain I was experiencing. He’d only repeat the same command, “Get up!” and begin anew.
He’d try to get as many hits in as quickly as he could before I’d fall to the floor, writhing and attempting to escape, hiding his target by momentarily laying prone, facing him, screaming “Stop it daddy, Stop it”. Each time he’d return me to my position hanging on to that bedpost, my pants now off from kicking to get away, inexorably resuming my punishment, thinking all the while that with one more hit my tender flesh would be ripped open and I’d surely bleed all over and die. Having passed the extremity of my limits, I entered a mental state of sheer despair.
I gave up hope of it ever ending by way of showing him how much pain he was causing, instead, I tried to just exist in the reality at hand, each full hard blow sending me anew to the floor to gain myself a moment of respite, each time the blur of the room through my tears a dizzying scene of terror. I pleaded still but with much less force, trying to reason with him through my sobbing convulsions, “Please daddy, I won’t do it anymore”, hoping he’d stop, but it was all to no avail.
He never listened, the cold executioner in him having been awakened, there was no calling it off. It went on for 72 agonizing hits. More than half were individual strikes under full set-up, delivered with extra determination given my protestations, my lack of fortitude thereby making me contribute to the severity of my own punishment.
I know this figure because my brothers were listening, surreptitiously counting, informing me sometime after that I had set a new high number. Perversely, as if searching for a purposeful meaning to attach to the event, it was the empty present, the lump of coal at Christmas, the highly doubtful consolation: I had the family record.
In the end, I was left there crying, only to dress myself through my sobbing and resume my place at the supper table to try and finish my meal. Oh yes, there was no escaping not finishing dinner. Even though it held no taste through my tears, traumatically permitting myself only to swallow, rather, to choke the food down in fear. I later cried deep heaving sobs whilst sitting on the edge of my bed the whole of that evening, into darkness and beyond.
The next day I awoke, resiliently buoyed by if not the admiration then at least the respect of my older brothers for having endured, their reassurances weak but somehow a tether to daily existence; comforted somehow that my screams had reportedly been heard by all the occupants of the houses around us; and now the lamentable but undisputed record holder of our family’s violence.
Sister enquired after me in the school hallway as we took off our boots and jackets before class. She asked if my parents had spoken to me. I told her they had, reassuringly telling her not to worry, that I was cured of acting out. I’d received my punishment; she’d get no more trouble from me. I remember being alert, my voice tinged with a sort of wonder at my own survival as I spoke with her, wanting her to be fully convinced. It was behind me, though she had sent me to my travails at home, I was safe for now. I wanted this antagonist to like me, to cause me no further harm.
Then I lifted my shirt and readily pulled my pants down on one side to expose my flesh, as if offering her irrefutable proof that I’d been punished to her specifications. That whatever was in the letter she sent home with me, surely this would meet whatever demands she had made. From the middle of my back to just above my knees there was one continuous purple, red and bluish mass of damage: a kaleidoscope of swirling bruises and contusions that would take a month or more to heal. There were welts on the periphery of the striking area matching exactly the shape of the ruler, where an errant hit, likely because I had reflexively arched my back in avoidance, made my father miss the main target of my body. Where impact had hit upon already damaged skin, blood had leaked the way a scrape does, little droplets of red moisture showing here and there like macabre beads of sweat.
My pajamas had stuck to me the night before and lifting my shirt for Sister, my shirt tugged at my skin from the drying blood that continued to seep slowly from my broken skin. I watched her face. She did nothing less than recoil in disgust, her head snapping back briefly several inches or so. She quickly regained composure and with only the slightest of acknowledgement, she looked away and walked off.
I don’t remember her ever saying anything about it again, nor of her speaking with me one on one. The rest of the year passed quickly, or at least, I don’t have much memory of it. That she was always kind to me, in a sort of neutral way, is about as much as I recall. When I returned for grade four the following year, she was gone. I never saw or heard of her again.
A day or so later, my big sister took me aside, a subversive voice of disapproval towards our parents over the episode. She told me that she would soon grow up and get a job, once she found her own place I could come and live with her where I’d be safe. It was the first value judgment I’d heard about the ordeal, a spark of light lit in my belly like a hot coal, left there to smolder and smoke under the burden of my shame. On the one hand I understood that I deserved my fate; on the other, my sister held it out as unfair. She gave me hope. At eight years old, these were confusing times.
That wasn’t the first or last episode of my father’s violence; but it was the time the record was established. In the end, for the sake of all my brothers and sisters, I was somehow grateful that record was mine alone.
C K Wallace 2014 all rights reserved
Men get confused about this issue. Some even get pissed off.
“What right do you have to tell me what a man is, they’ll say.
I get it.
I struggled with this for decades myself when I studied behavioural sciences in college and university decades ago…
Lucky for me, my old man once told me I wasn’t supposed to understand women, which made me study the literature even more over the last 35 years to arrive at the conclusions I present to you here.
Tell you what. Don’t let institutions of supposed higher learning do your defining because for the most part, they will fail you.
As I often say, you might lose your virginity attending college, you might not. But you will definitely lose your sense of humour.
Fuck’em if they can’t take a joke. 😉
I’m going to try to give you a working definition of what it means to be a man and I’m going to use the shield you see in front of you to do it.
Here’s some mythology to preface my remarks:
– Ancient Chinese tell of a chaotic world into which Pan Gu the Giant was born, who then pushes the heavens and earth apart to create order.
– Yin and Yang were born of chaos and reside at the center of the earth. They represent the intertwined nature of order and chaos.
– Yang is masculine action while Yin the feminine force of observation, the two expansive and contractive forces of nature.
– In the Yin and Yang symbol, order is white with a black dot, while Chaos is black with a white dot, each seeded with the other’s possibility. Order can become chaotic, and chaos can be ordered.
– The Greeks had a similar view of chaos as the natural state of the world in which the Gods were created to bring order. Chaos is first mentioned by the Greek Hesiod in “Theogony” some three thousand years ago.
The above gives us two Life Forces, Feminine Chaos and Masculine Order, both of which exist in us all. Though women will hold more chaos and men more order, at least, that’s the theory or the ideal.
I suggest that what is happening in our times is that in a great worldwide vacuum of male weakness, order is being supplanted by chaos.
Read the essay Men at Work to find out what brought us here:
Let’s contrast men and women’s lived experience.
She is the burdened female because she holds more negative emotion (which lets her see sickness in children and danger in the environment), menstruates, grows life inside her, and risks her own death in childbirth.
Think that counts as a burden? No male can ever know this.
She is precious because she has scant twenty good years of fertility while men can usually father children into old age. Men also use beauty to motivate themselves and her beauty is fleeting.
He has his own cross to bear as the expendable male. Nature usually makes more boys, 51 to 49%. More boys are born than females because more boys die in childbirth or are born with problems.
Most prisoners are male. More men commit suicide. Men die earlier.
All the riskiest jobs are predominantly male. Roofers, loggers, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, miners, firefighters, iron workers, truck drivers, cement masons, power lineman, crane operators, highway workers and garbage collectors are more than 80% male.
But it is as a powerful defender that the expendable male earns his keep.
Work place deaths? 95% male. War casualties? 85% male. More than 80% of cops are male. It is men who defend families, and who teach brothers to defend sisters from predatory males.
Of course, there is some overlap between men and women. Missus doesn’t trust me to get the garbage out on time so has put the garbage out for the last 17 years. Bless her heart. Both sexes are relatively adaptable.
Men and women have always banded together to take advantage of each other’s strengths and to shore up each other’s weaknesses. Together, they are Team Human.
With all that said, what defines a man is his ability to defend.
He is a powerful defender, or he is NOT a man.
I can hear the guffaws from here.
Let me give you an irrefutable argument as to why this is:
If you refuse to defend, someone else, one of the other MEN, has to step into the breech and defend for you.
Someone else has to risk their life to do your defending.
That’s OK if you are sick, injured, or a child.
And I’m not talking about conscientious objectors to something like the war in Vietnam. I’m talking about being under attack, culturally or otherwise.
It’s NOT OK if you are a grown male who refuses to be a man.
It is not manly to weakly abdicate your defender responsibility.
And leave it to some other brother to take up your slack.
To be a man you must defend life. Period.
This is how nature sets things up.
She creates life.
You defend life.
Together, we survive the suffering of our existence together.
One last thing. About 10% of people are dark triad types, meaning psychopathology, narcissism, Machiavellianism, or just plain cruel.
These personality disordered mother fuckers are most dangerous as males and often easily hide their disorder among us.
When men are weak and stop defending, who do you think rises to the fore and starts running things?
Exactly. Look around you.
Let that be your challenge my brothers.
I am calling upon you to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and other MEN in defense of meaning and freedom.
Join a men’s group near you or join me online in the 10MM men’s groups.
Just make sure you bring the defender ethos to your tribe.
Start by defending your body, the universal address of your existence.
Defend your spirit, which speaks for your soul.
Defend belonging, your family, friends, community and culture.
Defend your work, your business, your money.
And follow your masculine destiny as a man.
The world desperately needs powerful men.
true and free