Posted On November 11, 2009 by Print This Post

Wayne Wednesday: Wounded Men

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Wayne Wednesday.  This month Wayne Levine educates us on wounded men.  Romance novels are often filled with troubled men.  As readers, we watch these men learn to deal with their emotional issues over the course of a book.  But how did they become wounded in the first place?  We asked Wayne his opinion.

 Can you give some examples of life experiences that create “wounded men?”

Wayne-SpeakingCropWe talk quite a bit in our men’s groups about the “father wound,” a pain shared by most men, on some level. Essentially, it’s the wound inflicted upon our masculine souls when we don’t receive the love and validation we need from our fathers.

That wound is inflicted by our fathers by his not being emotionally present, dying young (my wound), being physically abusive, being a drug addict or alcoholic, terrorizing mom, leaving the family, demeaning us as kids, and the list goes on.

Our fathers must anoint us as men. They are the embodiment of masculinity. Only they can offer us boys the love that validates us as men, that lets us know we’re worthy, capable, and loved. It’s this validation that allows us to march into manhood with confidence, knowing we have the tools necessary to be successful men. Our dads are our role models. We become men in their image.

Without that validation, men struggle on their journey into manhood, lacking the confidence and feeling ill-equipped to succeed at work, at home, and as fathers themselves.

At the same time, our fathers’ wounds become our wounds. That’s the shadow side of legacy. Whatever issues remained unresolved for them, become challenges for us to overcome.

Though others may mentor us and play the father role, most of us will still yearn for the validation and love of our fathers. This fact is the source of great frustration for many good and loving women. It’s difficult for our women to understand—especially since we don’t understand it ourselves most of the time—that no matter what kind of bastard he might have been, we still want his approval. And isn’t that a trait shared by women, as well?

Do women have any place in helping men heal or is this strictly a man-to-man process?Nuts cover

Yes, but they’d be wise to lower their expectations. Women can support us, be gentle with our sometimes fragile egos, and make us leave the house each morning feeling as if we’re more special than we know we really are.

But women cannot fill the void left by the father wound, though many have tried, and many men have sought women out in hopes of receiving that healing. Men need the fathering they didn’t receive. This can only come from other men. And it comes in all forms—golfing, help with the car, men’s groups, having a beer, road trips, etc. We need time with the men so we can feel more comfortable as men. We refer to it as, finding our place among the men.

What are the steps to the healing process?

We first have to acknowledge that something hurts and that we need help. This usually happens only after many failed attempts to make the pain go away, in any number of unsuccessful ways—addictions, like women (porn, serial monogamy, hookers), substances, extreme physical challenges, etc.

We need to feel the pain—anger and grief—and have a place to express it ways that won’t hurt others. That’s where the men come in. Through counseling, groups and retreats, men get the opportunities to explore the terrifying territory of their quashed emotions.

Then we have to continue to develop those trusting relationships with men because this process of discovering how we really feel, and developing a more positive narrative for our lives, takes time, continued support and ongoing kicks in the ass.

Why are some women so attracted to this type of man?

Women are nurturers. They like to mother, to fix, to be of value to loved ones. It’s absolutely natural for them to be attracted to wounded men. The men are crying out for that love, and the women heed the call. Unfortunately, women can never heal the father wound. As mentioned, it’s a job for other men.

But what happens is that women try and try and get more and more frustrated. The man grows dependent upon her to make him feel better, and then becomes resentful when she fails. He blames her, she blames him. We’ve all seen that scenario play out all too often. Despite your best efforts, in the end you will only be reflecting back to him what he already knows, feels and believes about himself. And now you’re a part of that toxic narrative.

Women need to step away from that role. Stop trying to fix and heal him. It’s not your job. You’re not qualified, despite being beautiful, loving, and desperate for a wonderful relationship with a healthy, grown-up man.

How does a man define/view “wounded men?”

When men come to this work, they usually have never heard of the term. They don’t think of themselves as wounded, and certainly have no idea their problems are so tied to their relationships with their fathers.

Men generally think of themselves as “fucked up.” That’s about as specific as many men are when they first reach out for help. As they talk and get clearer, they’ll admit to being lonely, angry, feeling incapable of living up to expectations as man of the house, afraid of failing in the workplace. As men get older, they recognize that the wound is about becoming like their fathers—in ways they’d rather not, worried that they’ll never have a healthy relationship, or terrified that they’ll live their entire lives without finding joy or peace of mind.

***

Thanks, Wayne for yet another thought provoking post.  You’re on a roll!  Wayne will be here today to answer questions, so fire away.

Be sure to join us on Friday when Sue Viders and Becky Martinez will be here to discuss the plotting wheel.

Wayne’s Bio:

Wayne M. Levine, M.A. is the director of the West Coast Men’s Center in Agoura Hills, CA, where he coaches and mentors men, and facilitates men’s groups. He also created the BetterMen Retreats for men, and for fathers and sons. In addition, Wayne is the founder of BetterMen.org, a life coaching and mentoring resource for men.

Wayne’s interest in men’s issues began in the early ‘90s with his participation in men’s work activities. His experiences with men’s groups, as a participant, leader and program developer, taught Wayne to “father” men and to support them in making difficult and important changes in their lives.

He earned his Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University/Los Angeles. Wayne also received his BA in journalism and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California.

Wayne’s been married to his first and only wife, Ria, for over 25 years and is the proud daddy of Emma, Austin and the family’s menagerie of animals.  Wayne strives to be a better man, husband and father each day in Oak Park, CA.

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24 Responses to “Wayne Wednesday: Wounded Men”

  1. Hi Wayne –

    We’re delighted, as always, to have you here!

    I’m wondering how as writers we can put this information together in order to help us with creating character motivation, in addition to a somewhat realistic healing process. I think many romance readers would like to believe the love of a good woman can heal a wounded man, yet you say that’s absolutely not the case. In fiction, would you envision a male character involved in the healing process? And if so, could that be any man–friend, father figure, brother, etc.?

    Thanks so much!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 11, 2009, 2:31 am
    • I think it can be any man who opens up, reveals, and is willing to ask hard questions. Emotionally, you can’t take a man someplace that you’re not willing to go yourself. So the healer has to have done his work. He’s touched his own sorrow, released a good part of his anger. He doesn’t fear what’s inside of himself, so he has no fear of the other man’s pain.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | November 11, 2009, 1:17 pm
  2. Hi, Wayne. When you talk about boys receiving love and validation from their fathers, how does that happen? Is it simply spending time together? Talking? Also, can you give us a short example of how a father might talk to his son to give him the love and validation he needs?

    Fascinating post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 11, 2009, 7:55 am
    • Many dads tend to be critical of their sons. They project their own shortcomings, grow concerned about their sons’ imagined futures, and then relentlessly try to prevent the boys from repeating their “old man’s” mistakes. I know, I’ve done it. So, the first step is to be conscious of the criticisms. This is all part of a process of not making it about you, but making it about the kid. When we get out of the way, we may notice that his poor performance in baseball may not require a pep talk about being able to do better, but possibly a talk about what he’d rather be doing…maybe art or music.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | November 11, 2009, 1:22 pm
  3. Very interesting article, Wayne. I experience this firsthand with my husband who lost his father when he was young (and his relationship with a damaged mother doesn’t help him any.) My husband suffers from anxiety and/or panic attacks in regards to his health. He HAS to work out everyday, he eats ONLY healthy food, and is addicted to WEBMD. He also obsessively checks his blood pressure. On the outside he’s tough, capable, and successful. But on the inside, he’s often a wreck and fears having a heart attack. He’d make for an interesting character in a book and, ironically, in this day of too much information and “hurry-up” living, I believe there are plenty of men like him out there who live behind a facade of confidence.

    Thanks for the additional insight.

    Posted by Liz Talley | November 11, 2009, 9:19 am
    • As best you can, encourage him to connect with other men. It can be part of his spiritual journey to let go of the fears and to find joy and peace of mind. Have him visit my site. Maybe he’ll decide to call. He needs some strong, masculine support and input. And yes, there are plenty like him out there.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | November 11, 2009, 1:26 pm
  4. Hi Wayne,

    It’s good to see you here on Veteran’s Day. Loved this post!

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | November 11, 2009, 9:36 am
  5. Morning Wayne..

    Fascinating article. I just read a book by Stephanie Bond that I think uses that concept very well…a father who is never there for his son, doesn’t support his life and work choices etc….and the journey the hero makes to overcome that and bond with his father finally at the end….pretty good read! Thanks for the insight, it made me re-think the book and made it an even better read!

    carrie

    Posted by carrie | November 11, 2009, 9:45 am
  6. But what happens to the man whose father is present and supportive? I think my husband falls into this category and still he and his brother have self-confidence issues. This has always made me wonder.

    Posted by Deb | November 11, 2009, 9:53 am
    • There are the critical dads, and then there are the weak dads. A dad can be present and supportive. But what happens when a son grows up seeing his father constantly relinquishing his power to mom? What about the boys who learn to tiptoe around mom, just as dad did, because dad was always afraid of mom’s emotionality? What about the boys who grew up seeing a marriage void of love and intimacy? These are just some (and there are so many others) of the ways boys grow up without learning the skills necessary to feel confident in the world or relationships. It’s easy to see how these types of situations can wound a young man and cause resentment and anger toward dad.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | November 11, 2009, 1:34 pm
  7. Is there no “mother wound” for men? Talking about men’s wounds ONLY in terms of their fathers seems a little lop-sided.

    Posted by Elaine McCarthy | November 11, 2009, 4:57 pm
  8. Elaine, is there something you’d like to share? I’d be interested in hearing something substantive. We happen to be talking about the father wound. If we were discussing red wine, would you feel as compelled to implore us to discuss white wine, as well?

    Posted by Wayne Levine | November 11, 2009, 5:11 pm
    • Well, the title and the introduction paragraph only mentioned “Wounded Men,” not “Men With Father Wounds.” I am new to this website, so perhaps I have missed other discussions that included mothers, sisters, etc.

      Posted by Elaine McCarthy | November 12, 2009, 10:25 am
      • The wounds come from all places. But in my circle with the men, it is the father wound that runs deepest. There’s a lot of work to do around our relationships with our mothers, and how that relationship informs all future relationships with women. When men learn a few tools, it’s amazing how quickly behaviors can change, and thus their experiences. But as men, that connection with our fathers, and the importance of legacy, defines, in large part, the men we become. Thanks for coming back.

        Posted by Wayne Levine | November 12, 2009, 2:53 pm
  9. Interesting post! My husband’s father was an alcoholic, mentally ill, and a wife beater. No wonder my husband had a problem parenting our two sons, one of whom turned to drugs. He related better to our daughter. And now that he’s retired, he’s connecting more with men he can pal around with. And he’s much happier than at any other time in his life. I can see growth just in the past three years. Now I’m beginning to see what to do with my villain’s backstory in my current romantic suspense novel. Thanks for the information.

    Barb

    Posted by Barbara Rae Robinson | November 11, 2009, 5:40 pm
  10. Wayne,

    I have to admit, I’m fascinated with “wounded men” — I’ve been married to 3 of them. And, as you pointed out, it was not within my power to heal them; in fact, they all came to view me as “emasculating” because I tried so hard to help compensate for their personal disappointments. Is there no other choice for women than to turn their backs on such wounded men? Do the men themselves have no hope to just grow up and deal with things?

    In novels, it is the journey through difficulties to self-realization which makes the character compelling. In real life, I have found that men are singularly uninterested in self-realization. What do you suggest that we, as novelists focussed on the feminine market, can do to help bridge this unfortunate schism between women who compassionately wish to help their men in need, the men who cannot be helped (in your view) by women, and the desire by both parties ( I hope) to have adult, reciprocal, growth-oriented relationships?

    Posted by Diane | November 11, 2009, 11:14 pm
    • If I could solve that puzzle, I’d be a very wealthy and popular man, indeed! We can’t help those who don’t want to help themselves, men or women. I don’t think it’s necessary to turn your back on these wounded men. Just stop marrying them. 🙂 When one stops being a rescuer, the wounded either stop appearing, or they’re inspired to commit to self-realization. Perhaps the what you can do as a writer and develop characters who have the courage to change, and to be better men, fathers and husbands.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | November 12, 2009, 2:57 pm
  11. Very interesting article, Wayne, and perfect timing: a writer friend and I were discussing just this afternoon the differences between women’s fiction and romance. This is a generalization, but my claim was that in romance, if there’s going to be angst, it’s going to be more on the man’s side, while it’s more the reverse in women’s fiction. Again!! Generalization!! But that’s what I’ve been getting from a lot of my recent reading and none’s “better” than the other, but as someone who’s not very interested in healing someone other than myself (supporting’s a different matter), I think it explains why I feel more comfortable on the WF side of the fence.

    That said, the male lead in the WF book I’m working on did have his father wound in a disinterested father. Luckily, he has a lot of male friends and he’s sorted himself out, but I think, Wayne, I’m going to need to read your book for a more balanced view. (And for the excellent cover!)

    Posted by Gabrielle | November 12, 2009, 6:26 am
  12. I hope you enjoy the read. If you buy it from our site, I’ll sign it. What a bonus! If you think my squirrel is cute, check this out http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/09/09/minnesota.crasher.squirrel/index.html

    Posted by Wayne Levine | November 12, 2009, 3:00 pm
  13. Bookmarked, thanks 🙂

    Posted by Paul Raits | December 21, 2009, 10:40 am
  14. Nice post, I bookmarked for future read. Thanks

    Posted by Niki Fu | January 5, 2010, 11:23 am
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    Posted by Smitha2 | March 11, 2015, 6:16 pm

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