Achieving health is an emotional challenge. In order to face up to our health, our physical obligations, we have to face up to our weaknesses, our fragility. As men, we hate to do this, because we are taught that to be a man is not to be fragile or weak. We learn to associate power with the very shallow notion of invulnerability.
All pathologies, masculine or otherwise, are forms of self-denial. They are ways of avoiding being completely honest with ourselves about our conditions, about the reality of who we are. Whether we have fostered a self-idea of modesty and self-effacement, or whether we have cultivated a dominant self-projection, both of these strategies are really just ways in which we compensate for our deeply held insecurities, and the terror of our own vulnerabilities in the face of death. They are ways in which we avoid an intimacy with the body, with our emotional condition.
Lasting health requires just that intimacy I am talking about. I say this, not as someone who has achieved that level of self-honesty and atonement with my physicality, but as someone who has tried every strategy to avoid it, and who has sabotaged my own health consistently, even when my intentions to be healthier have been sincere.
The extent to which we will build a lasting health, can be measured by the extent to which we are willing to be completely honest and frank with ourselves about who we are and who we are not.
It pains me to say it, but as men, we are very reluctant to do this. In many ways, you could characterise the whole culture of masculinity as we know it, as a tendency towards denial.
I am not just talking about classic patriarchal behaviour either. Much of the modern sensitive new age guy bullshit is just a form of passive aggression, another way of denying the ugliness of our egoic tendencies, and putting a mask on our insecurities. In short, it is just another form of bravado. I put myself in this category of denial.
Health starts with the ability to face up to yourself, and that means being prepared to look at the ways in which you sabotage self-development, seek to have power over others (passively or actively), and it means stripping yourself of the mechanism of denial and insincerity that keeps you from fully accepting who and what you are right now.
As men, all of us are born narcissists. It might be easier for the aggressive jock to face up to this, than it is for those of us who congratulate ourselves on our sensitivities. But the good news is, once we uncover and become very honest with ourselves about these mechanisms of denial, change is not simply possible, it is inevitable.