Dr. Steve Rissman, ND
Time to Emerge
The question at this time of year centers on the word, emerge. Having burrowed down for the long winter’s rest to find comfort, we now inquire about emergence upward into the vernal phase of the cycle. Halfway from Winter Solstice to Vernal Equinox, we, along with the waking groundhog, ask, “Is it time?”
Men’s Failure to Leave Home
Not only is there emanation out of winter’s den, but from childhood and ego-formation as well. Unfortunately, in current society, too many men, especially young men have never really let go of the safety of home. Some have not left the basement of their childhood home, but most commonly, they’ve never “cut the cord” or detached from mom and/or dad. In indigenous cultures, the separation from mother and boyhood, with subsequent emergence into manhood, was facilitated by elder men, so there wasn’t much choice in the matter. Having so few true leaders, who fit the archetype of “king” to mentor young men, they lack a guided wandering in search of purpose, passion and clear intention. Thus, we have generations of men lost to addiction, entertainment, depression and even suicide. In the young generation, we see “basement boys” who overuse video games, over-indulge in porn, don’t have much motivation for work and are content to live in the home of their parents.
This is not to say that living at home is always bad. Sometimes it makes sense to live at home with parents, but I suggest that the separation process still needs to happen, no matter where one lives. When it doesn’t, there seems to be a stuck-ness in adolescent ego. Bill Plotkin, in his book, “Nature and the Human Soul” called it patho-adolescence.
Signs of Problematic Lack of Emergence
What are the signs of a young man’s failure to emerge?
- Isolation- spending an inordinate amount of time alone or in the virtual world.
- Lack of direction- unclear about plans and how to make makes for moving toward something.
- Avoidance behavior- choosing not to engage with situations that require commitments to something beyond immediate self.
- Inability to take on rigorous challenges- life’s difficulties can be great teachers, but require discipline to enduring pain. Who ever teaches young men how to endure discomfort?
- Anger and irritability- these are normal signs of dilemmas that are challenging to endure. Over the top anger expressions such as fighting and violence are signs that intervention may be needed.
- Stuck in adolescent behavior
- Old friends- longtime friends are great, but as we evolve, new parts of ourselves need new acquaintances.
- Excess need for stimulation- too much caffeine, screen time, phone time to avoid being alone with self.
- Need for affirmation of ego- considerable focus on appearance, image and recognition.
Solutions for Successful Emergence to Manhood
I’m fond of the saying, “Ships are safe at harbor, but that’s not where they were built to be”. There is a need to leave boyhood in order to find the treasure of who we are, what inspires us, and what our gift to this world may be.
Given that many adult men have never taken their own journey, many young men don’t have they relationships with older men that they can rely on to guide them in the direction of emerging to manhood. How can we encourage successful emergence?
- Cut the cord, especially from mom.
- Connect with men. Be open to who they may be, the ones we are unsure of may be our best mentors.
- Plan a journey- nothing helps us grow like the challenges of something new.
- Start in a direction- an old mentor, Sandy Sanborn once gave me the advice to take a step in any direction, that would lead to the next step, and so on. And it has.
- Clean up, clean out- detoxify, clean out the body, clean the room, get rid of what is no longer necessary and prepare for the journey ahead.
- Get out into nature- nothing, NOTHING, informs us of our insignificance and magnificence better than the natural world. Get out into nature- wisely, and respectfully.
- Make/keep a commitment- do something, anything, every day, even if, especially if, it’s difficult. It may be your path to expertise.
Use The Teaching of Elders
Many young men don’t have the benefit of wise men to mentor them. But they have access to their teachings. The solutions I’ve suggested here didn’t originate with me, they were passed through a great lineage of many men, for whom I am grateful. “You don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start, to be great.” It very well may be time to emerge to our highest selves.
Dr. Steve Rissman is a full-time associate professor in the Department of Health Professions at Metropolitan State University of Denver, teaching in the Integrative Health Care program. He teaches Clinical Pathophysiology, Men’s Health, Men Across Cultures, Men and Anger, and several other classes. Dr. Rissman has studied, taught and worked in the field of men’s health for over twenty years and has lead the way in lighting the path for young men embarking on the journey to better know themselves. In a new facet of his professional life, Dr. Rissman is the primary investigator in a research project looking at qualities of great men- men who know their purpose in life and hold a larger vision for what is possible.
In his practice on his farm, north of Denver, Dr Rissman works with men/boys confounded by behaviors related to anger/rage, anxiety, and depression in their lives.
Having grown up on a farm and spending a great deal of time in the outdoors, Dr. Rissman has a deeply rooted curiosity for the laws of nature, particularly the science of disease process. Consequently, he has an extraordinary ability to illicit the story of one’s unique dis-ease process and to perceive what needs to be cured in each individual man/boy, using psychotherapy, botanical medicines, therapeutic nutrition, homeopathic medicines, and other insightful methods intended to help lead men through the abyss of dis-ease toward a rich, purposeful life.