Where Our Identity Comes From
Establishing an identity is a complicated process. It has to do with who is available for us to identify with, our ability patterns, intelligence, and our personality. And I think you can probably come up with other factors.
Given my dissatisfaction and lack of interest in many things which are supposed to interest and enthrall boys meant I sought other things. I chose to explore science, looked at the world as my family traveled, and sought to experience the world in general. That is hardly a comprehensive list because opportunities were always presenting themselves. For me I think personality was central. I wanted to seek out possibilities and unique opportunities.
My Father and I
Naturally my father played a role. I was closer to him than my brother was. Even as a surgeon he liked to get his hands dirty in the yard. He never got entirely away from his early years in rural Mississippi. We went deep sea fishing off Montauk on Long Island, he taught me to shoot which I liked as a hobby but not when it involved killing animals and he took me to ball games which I endured until the day when we went to a Yankee double header. The first game was 26 innings. Enough was enough. He was handy around the house and built furniture. Those things interested me.
Doing a Good Job
One thing that was particularly important to me was doing a good job. Power was not of interest. Getting things done especially in new ventures was of considerable interest. Too often though I saw men of power who lacked vision. When I took the job in the inner city Baltimore I was stunned.
The heads of the psychiatry department were utterly lacking in vision and the psychologists were no better. The latter group invited me to join them and in the first meeting they spent the entire time talking about how they could try to seem more important to the psychiatrists. I never went back. There was substantive work to be done. And even worse there were no women in the central halls of power. Oh yes, there was a nursing department but what I saw out in the programs on the street was their frustration as they did battle with the men in power. At basic levels there were women nurses and social workers who contributed to diversity of viewpoints. But at the top levels there were men only.
Because of the import of the job I had to face a closed male system. And it was inevitable that I would come to view the men as struggling with their image of themselves and the threat involved by the women struggling for recognition and a say in a new enterprise. As it turned out this was just at the cusp of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and their meaning and substance utterly engaged me.
What kept emerging over time was seeing in men a central problem in their discomfort with masculinity. They often seemed to feel they did not measure up but when you stepped back it was essential to wonder why there had to be a universal code of masculinity.
But it seemed that fear was a core element and that also surfaces in discussions of patriarchy. It seems likely that progress in our various intersexual relationships may require clearly facing the issue of fear. And honestly I think this will be a monumental task. Men have financial interests in league with the matter of power which is an impediment to change. But at base I think the most important issue and the one which will relate to a turning point is the matter of fear.
What issues do you feel will be crucial? Please let me hear from you at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt
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Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt