Initiating the masculine of today’s men can happen in two ways. One is through making amends on what their addiction to power have caused. The other is through the willingness to surrender to the feminine. Join archetypal psychotherapist Gillian Pothier as she explains why men need to stop asking what it means to be a man.
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Initiating the Masculine with Gillian Pothier
Checking on your goals and your desires: Is your desire just to get through the last 31 days of this year to start anew or do you want to start anew right now? I’m very excited to be here with my good friend Gillian Pothier. Just excited to see where the show goes around the concept of initiating the masculine. Gillian is one of those people I met and instantly felt that je ne sais quoi, that feeling of connection and intimacy and long-knowing. It’s just been a pleasure getting to know her and I’m really thrilled to have her on her first podcast here on Tuff Love. Welcome, Gilian.
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.
We’ve had lots of conversations and I’m really excited to see where this improvisational conversation goes. Gillian believes that inside the heart of all men is both wolf and king. She proudly stands in the massive advocacy, the wholeness and the potency of men in the masculine psyche. She works unconventionally with the archetype of king to initiate and return men to their true nature. Gillian is trained as an archetypical psychotherapist and chooses to remain unlicensed. She has used her additional experience with the multitude of mythological somatic neurological modalities. In her practice, the King Maker Sessions , Gillian creates a diverse array of practices and principles to catalyze psycho-activating initiatory encounters for men. There is a lot in there to discuss. The title, Initiating the Masculine, I believe you came up with that, maybe you could just give a synopsis of what that means.
Initiation, the word itself, means either to begin something new or to be admitted into a secret, perhaps over ancient times like a secret club or niche. It’s often via ritual. To my mind, initiation has these components. It has a ritual or it has some experiential often somatic aspect and that has a before and after state. There’s a state of consciousness of who we were, who our identity was before the initiation and then who we become after the initiation. We experience this throughout our lives and I think, quite frankly, very differently as men and women. Our culture, and when I say that I mean specifically to the West and specifically American culture, is radically lacking in initiatory encounters for people, particularly men. We end up having this watery sense of selfhood that doesn’t have these potent demarcations of, “I went through this experience, this is who I was prior to this experience and this is who I am claiming myself to be now.”
That experience, those threshold states allow for tremendous activation of possibility, of a new sense of identity, of an opportunity to begin again. I use a strange term to describe this. I look at this as an archetypal technology, a way that we can bring something that’s been part of our human selfhood for as long as our race has been alive; this idea of before and after states of identity that are articulated through initiation. We’re lacking in our organic development as individuals, that this process of individuation sometimes needs to be administered. We have to create consciously, through ritual, through consensus and through permission and agreement and negotiation an experience of creating an initiation.
There’s a lot of writing about this as well I’ve seen. In tribes, there’s often initiation of boyhood into manhood. For me, as a Jewish person, a person who grew up Jewish and identify as Jewish, I have my Bar Mitzvah. The interesting part of the Bar Mitzvah was it wasn’t real for me. It wasn’t an initiation to manhood. It was an initiation into the social hierarchy of Long Island Jews, which was basically monetary-based, status-based, socially-based and really skewed for a thirteen-year old kid who wanted to go to the Western Wall to have his Bar Mitzvah, instead have to have a party for the grandparents. The point is that I totally agree in this world, for men and masculine, there is a lack of initiation of what it means to go from a boy to a man.
I used the example of the Bar Mitzvah and the Bat Mitzvah as examples, and granted it’s in the lineage of Judaism, but it’s an existing construct that we have in our culture. I think that the value that those particular initiations or rites of passage that you mentioned have that can be overlooked, is that when a young boy or a young woman is initiated, they’re returning to a community that acknowledges their initiation. That they’re not part of an ecosystem that recognizes, even if it is skewed to use your interpretation, something has occurred. Whereas I find the part where I’m improvising and feeling my way through is when I co-create an initiatory experience with a man, with a client, he then returns to his world and there’s no necessarily reflection of, “This is who this man is now.” That there’s been a shift in his identity that he has generated, that he has invested in to create a new state of being or to begin again. That’s a little bit of the shadow aspect or the unresolved piece of, “How can I create these initiatory encounters and work with an ecosystem in this man’s life?” Not necessarily even directly so that there’s an acknowledgment and a support of this new state of selfhood, this new claiming of beginning again or a deepening into.
Let’s just be blunt, it’s tough to be masculine in today’s world. Just in the last week, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, two really big cultural icons have gotten the screw spit to them. I’m not saying they’re not guilty. In fact, I bet they are. The point is that there’s a lot of the masculine that’s feeling shrunk, and a lot of the people I talk to is like, “I don’t know if I can even flirt with a woman anymore. I don’t even know if I can be masculine and not end up losing my job or put on social media.” There is an intense fear that I’m feeling rising in the masculine. Your work and this concept of every man is a wolf and a king, how does that translate into a pragmatic result for men today and women who love them who want to see a man step deeper into his manhood?
I think ultimately, you’ve just described something really profoundly important. The reflection that we’re getting around men through the lens of our culture and our media right now is so radically distorted. Even the expression of toxic masculinity, we hear this all the time as a way of denoting the state of the masculine. That article that came out in the New York Times, the totality of the masculine libido, it used words like pathologizing and the grotesquery of the male sexuality. These are words that we use typically, historically to describe monsters. I understand that article, that essay, had more living into the questions but I’m just highlighting the vocabulary, the vernacular that’s describing this state of affairs of the masculine. Men are interjecting these experiences and these reflections around, “Who am I? What does it mean to be a man?” Historically, particularly in our culture, men are not living into the question of, “What does it mean to be a man? What is the nature of a man? What is the nature of being masculine?” We are seeing now this internalized shaming of the potency, the true potency of masculine nature. The benevolence, the goodness and the healing function of true masculine nature, perhaps even especially masculine sexuality. That masculine sexuality is inherently, the sexuality itself is good, when a conscious man is in conscious relationship to his sexuality that has the most profound healing function on the feminine that exists on this planet. All of that is being so distorted by behaviors of men who are radically uninitiated and who are addicted to power. I do think that power addiction for the masculine is perhaps the greatest shadow in the masculine psychology right now and particularly in American culture.
Let’s use the example of Matt Lauer. $10 million a year, top of his game, Today’s Show, loved by millions, the whole enchilada. I just saw him on Thanksgiving Day looking good, and five days later he is a shamed man. He is a persecuted man. Again, I’m thinking he probably did it. I’m not trying to say he didn’t do it. You’re saying the challenge for him or an issue for him is the power and also his lack of initiation. For someone like him or someone of that stature, what would be a recommendation? How would you recommend initiating him so he can have more balance in his life?
I believe that men are initiated in two ways. This is my own personal belief. One is through pain, psychic pain. Included in that is a profound willingness to make amends for harm that has been caused by or through power addiction. The other way I believe that men are initiated is through feminine devotion, through the surrender of a woman that they love. That’s more complicated because there’s definitely a chicken and an egg complex in that. We just look to the idea of pain as being an initiatory experience for men. What’s complicated about this and particularly in the cases of deeply insulated men and deeply powerful men like Matt Lauer, and there have been many clinical studies to show this. Most recently, I have read one about in 2013. Essentially what happens literally biochemically, literally at the neuroplasticity of the brain, so I’m not talking about the more esoteric psyche, I’m talking about the brain itself, is that as power increases, as we deepen into an experience of being powerful, the capacity for empathy decreases. There is inverse relationship between power and empathy, meaning compassion. That is a profound highly problematic circumstance for men who, again my personal belief, have a greater susceptibility to power addiction based on evolutionary nature, based on the fact that they love to compete, they love to win. There’s a little bit more of an intrigue and a hunger for power in the masculine psyche, my personal belief. Knowing that and knowing that as there is a possibility for greater power, that as that occurs so potentially, there’s a diminishment of compassion.
The good news around that is that’s teachable, that’s coachable, that’s repairable. So much of the work that I do with men, I would say the number one defining attribute of men that I work with is power addiction. The way that gets moved through is by men becoming more present to a compassionate witnessing of the truth of harm that they may have caused unconsciously. There’s no bad or good here. I do it through the lens of like, “Let’s look at the state of your kingdom.” Men are very passionate. It’s very important to men of integrity to have a legacy. When I look at the beginnings of what is being left behind in the wake of these men, it’s a great potential for not just corrective behavior but a wanting to be benevolent, a wanting to create an influence or an orbit of that, which is good.
That’s the first time I’ve actually heard that scientific. It actually doesn’t make sense because I’ve known many men in power who are totally benevolent and compassion. I understand that biological response to it adds some facts to the theory of what’s happening and I can see that. There are times where I get a little fool of myself, it happens. I’ve been in some powerful positions and I had focus on myself and hasn’t had the same level of compassion, empathy and awareness around other people around me. You’re saying, men given the point of power: CEOs, people of that stature, they feel this power and it’s good. It’s like, “All my life, it’s good.” Then they also notice with some awareness or some mirroring that there’s a piece missing. You would come in and you said through feminine devotion, awaken this other part. How do you do that specifically?
It’s definitely a commingling of feminine devotion and a stoic willingness to bear pain. In some ways, that’s even the more important and primal key. Men that I work with, and this may sound irrelevant, right out of the gate, when I set an appointment with a man who is interested in working with me, and I do this very intentionally, I make the times really crazy. I’m not into angel numbers, I don’t really know about that. I’ll make times like 11:11 or 2:22. I just make up these times because what I’m looking for right out of the gate is willingness for a man to surrender to the feminine. The reason why I start with time, and this may sound a little bit random.
I’m totally skewed by it. I’ll be pissed off at 1:11.
The first thing I hear is “That’s ridiculous.” What I need to know in this moment is this, “Does this man want this enough? Is he willing to bear the discomfort and the pain and the frustration of some girl giving him some whack time that he has to show up at my office for me to vet him?” This is his experience that he’s having. I do this intentionally with time because if we look at time, chronology, Cronus, chronicle, chronic, it’s these experiences that occur through and across time. Cronus is the god of time. Cronus is Father Time. I’m intentionally bouncing this man out of patriarchal constructing of time. I have to know that he has the capacity to enter into a hinterland experience that is being controlled by the feminine. That’s the first. There’s an initiation even for him and there is some hoopla around that, “This is not good news. That’s going to throw off my 4:00 PM meeting downtown.” I’m like, “I so respect your capacity to compensate in your schedule to make up an eleven minute delta,” or whatever it may be. That’s the first way. From there, it just deepens into these ways that I have to test his capacity to surrender, psychologically this is. If a man isn’t willing to surrender to the feminine, there’s no capacity for him to cherish the feminine. What I mean by cherishing the feminine, I don’t just mean women, I mean women, animals, the planet. There’s a sequence of things that I do very intentionally to ensure that I’m going to be able to work with a man who has the capacity to cherish the feminine and to surrender first.
You can contact Gillian to find out what are those secret feminine fourteen steps for initiating the masculine.
Let’s shift gears for the moment. I’m going to bring our friend online, Iliana. Thank you so much for being on the show, really grateful.
Thanks for having me. I’m honored to be here.
How can we best serve you? How can we both add to your life?
Thank you. I don’t think I have anything pertinent to the masculine or something to the feminine, but maybe there could be some connection. I’m going to bring you my toughest love question for Tuff Love. It’s inspired by my current relationship but really it could be about anyone and it could happen to anyone. I want to make it a universal question because to me it’s the one unsolvable riddle about relationships and love. Hopefully, it will serve the other listeners. The current relationship I’m in, by all appearance is the perfect relationship. Maybe perfect is too absolute but great, awesome, amazing relationship. In the very beginning and throughout the two years that we’ve been together, he’s made it very clear to me that I’m not his ‘the one’ or his queen, his match. That’s fine with me because I’m not in a place to really accept that into my life at this time and neither is he. We’re having fun, we’re helping each other out and we’re just having a great time presently in the moment and indefinitely. It doesn’t have this time constriction on it. The other amazing thing about it that is pertinent is just like your relationship with Morgan, we talk about everything. No stone unturned. This specific thing I want to bring up, we’ve even talked about it but it’s been the one thing I haven’t got any satisfying answer.
This man, I really like and I feel is very rare and specific. All the qualities that he is and even down to physical, are energetic, chemistry and everything, I have this angst or possibly even a fear that I’ll never be able to find that again. I’m sure a lot of people think this about their current or past partners. When I’ve discussed it with him, we seem to always come to this, “You just got to have faith,” kind of answer but not answer. I wanted to see what your take on that is and how I can sweep this issue under the rug, “We’ll deal with it when it’s relevant,” but it still haunts me in the back of my mind. I’m like, “Whenever this relationship is done, even if that’s five or ten years from now or tomorrow, it’s like every guy after him is going to suck or is going to have to measure up to him.” I fear that I’m never going to be as satisfied.
Gillian, you have a first thought about that?
I do. Thank you for sharing, Iliana. When you shared this, I could feel the complexity of this relationship and your feelings around it. I have more of a question than an immediate response. You’re in this relationship for two years and it feels awesome in many ways. I heard you say that you really like him. I wasn’t sure, is this something that the two of you hold, this love affair? Do you use the word love to describe one another? I got confused when you said you really like him. That just resonated for me.
I feel like I love him and I’ve felt that pretty early on in the beginning. I’ve deepened my awareness in general but also about love and relationships over the past two years. Now, I feel more unsure about using that word love or the phrase ‘in love’ than before when I was a little bit more simple minded. I just feel like that’s a loaded word and I don’t know when it’s appropriate to use that or not.
What I was trying to get a felt sense based on what you were sharing is, what is the container of this relationship that the two of you are co-creating? What are the agreements around the container for this relationship both in the present moment and how you define it, how you define each other as partners? To get a deeper sense of how each of you hold the relationship that you’re creating together.
Presently, we are domestic partners and monogamous but open. Open in theory but not in action, just having that freedom there that we haven’t really taken advantage of because it’s not desired. We live together. We split all our costs financially, so we’re helping each other out. That’s a lot of how we came together. We’re just like, “I can’t pay rent.” “I can’t pay rent either.” “Let’s come together and get ourselves out of this hole.” Romantically, we’ve only been seeing each other for the past two years. He’s held me at a distance in terms of like he’s been very clear that I’m not his queen but he’s also not ready for that. I spent the first probably nine or ten months of our relationship also getting to that point where even though I think this guy is amazing, I know that’s not my place with him and I want to respect that. Also I’m very grateful that I’ve even gotten as close as I have. I should just be thankful and enjoy what is being offered. It’s not like I’m in a place in my life where I really could be going off and exploring other romances because I’m very focused on my work and career.
This relationship is meeting a lot of your needs. When you speak about not being his queen, and this may be my projection, Iliana, it’s like there’s this little feeling of, is there a sorrow around that for you?
Yeah, a lot. What’s more important to me than being for him is respecting that he has an idea of what that is for him, and when he’s in a position in life to actually be able to put energy into looking for that. I want to not be in the way of him getting that.
I hear that it’s important to you to be very honoring of your partner’s truth. At the same time, there is this sorrow for you. My experience in being with you in these moments right now or my felt sense is a quality of who you are that’s unmet.
I’m really sensing the sorrow before you said that. It was in your eyes and it was in the tears that are being held back. You asked for the tough love. One of the things I often say is good is the enemy of great. You’re stuck in a good position with a really good friend. I really appreciate the depth of his honesty to you. I think that is highly respectful of you. It was hard to hear but in the same time, I was so grateful that he was honest. He’s a really good friend. You said in the beginning something like, “I’m not ready for it.” That was the most pivotal thing of everything you said. Of course, you’re going to accept a good situation until you’re absolutely ready for great. The question is you can spend your entire life in good and be in level of gratification but there is an itch inside of you, I sense, that wants great, that needs great, that desires great, that will kick your ass somewhere down the line if you don’t go for great. That’s the part I really want you to listen to. If you don’t, you’ll end up bitter and resenting him and resenting yourself down the line, I suspect.
I agree that I could do better than this because the missing piece is the reciprocity of that love and adoration.
The missing piece is you being chosen.
In a sense, he chose me when he asked me out on a date two years ago. I gave him a little bit of a run for his money. I was like, “I’m busy, work schedule,” this and that, but we ended up going out and having a great time.
When you hear Rob speak to you potently in the way that he is and beautifully where he said the missing piece for you is not being chosen, what is it like for you when you hear those words? Is there a resonance in that? I’m watching you energetically, move right at the top of your head as Rob reflects in a way that’s quite penetrating.
Missing piece is not being chosen, I feel that. Maybe I’m longing for more of a sense of a man wanting me. I don’t have a lack of that. I have lots of men in my life that would kill to have one date with me, but it’s the one that I want that doesn’t quite hold that place for me that I desire to have for him. Also, I’m not going to push the issue; if that is not his truth, that’s not his truth. It is what it is. I need to reconcile with that not just intellectually, “There will be someone else out there.” Anyone can have that thought but how do I actually feel it’s going to be okay, like every guy after him won’t be me settling?
It’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about your insights. I would suspect these are the childhood wounds working themselves out in real time, not being chosen younger or not accepting love younger. People often say like, “I miss an ex-boyfriend who treated me like shit.” What is that about? I often say, “You don’t miss the boyfriend. You miss who you were.” The guy will come. The king will come to you, in Gillian’s language, you have to make yourself ready for it and say, “Yes, I deserve this. Everything else is secondary in my mind.”
It is my intention to continue cultivating myself and making myself into a queen. Maybe not his queen but some guy’s queen out there.
To use this lens of initiation for a moment, Iliana, what I’m seeing in you right now is opportunity. You’re making contact with your queen, with the aspect of you that is queen. That aspect of you that is queen is not being met, from what we’ve shared today.
I don’t know what to think about that aspect of me that is queen is not being met. What can I do about that?
I hear your internal argument with us. It’s really loud in my ears, which I’m happy about. That means we’re stirring stuff up. All I’m seeing is a beautiful, powerful woman not accepting that she deserves everything she wants. Self-esteem is built upon estimable acts. No magic pill you take. It’s a step-by-step practice. It’s going in to those parts where you feel you’re unworthy. This is a universal conversation in different levels. There are so many people not being chosen. People are accepting good instead of great. They’re compromising and they’re lying and they’re withholding, etc. The point is that this is just about you finding out what you truly want and not making excuses for the external not providing it. It’s about you deciding, “I want what I want and I deserve what I want. I’m going to have what I want. I’m going to be the queen I want.” Then you’ll magnetize the perfect man to match that. I have no doubt at that.
I feel like that’s still coming back to the old, “You just got to have faith. You just got to trust that it’s out there.”
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you’ve got to do the work. It’s not faith. Faith is sitting around praying to God, hoping it shows up, which it might work. In my world, it’s like, “Get off your ass. Do the work.” Morgan tells me stories about she would write list after list describing the man she wanted to magnetize, night after night, and read and meditate and view. She did the work. She looked at herself. She was tapping herself. Then all of a sudden, we popped up in each other’s lives. It’s not faith. It’s agency and self-worth and self-love, which will look different for every person.
A belief in your inherent worthiness, Iliana, to have that, to co-create that.
It’s not entirely satisfying of an answer.
It sucks. Not only unsatisfying, it sucks. It’s like, “What a horrible answer that I’m responsible for who I have in my life.” It does suck. Once I discovered self-responsibility, I was like, “I have no one to blame. I can’t blame my mom. I can’t blame my dad. I can’t blame my business partners. I’ve created every fucking situation in my life, and I continue to create every fucking situation in my life.” I’m like, “Okay,” I put my boots on. Lace them up. Make friends like Gillian, have conversations like this. It really sucks. I’m sorry but you deserve it. Sitting over here, I’m like, “You deserve it.”
Thank you. I’ll just keeping enjoying what I have for now and keep taking one day at a time because that’s all we have.
I’m really into language so it’s like, there was acquiescence. There was collapsing. You’re like, “No, I’m going to grab life by the fucking balls or hair or chest. I’m going to take it. I’m going to grab it to my hand, I’m going to eat it. I’m going to enjoy it and the blood is going to go down my face. I’m going to make a mess and then I’m going to appreciate that.” That’s how you’re going to magnetize your queen. Maybe you want to give the feminine side of that, Gillian. That was very masculine, sorry.
I think that’s very true that there is this claiming and it’s highly inconvenient and it causes ruptures. When the truth of who we are and what we want comes on line, it will rupture what is in its way over time. The fact that you’re bringing this forward, and I so honor your courage in this, it’s like you’re bringing this forward, you’re giving a name, you’re asking for a reflection on Tuff Love. There’s this part of you that’s ready to bare the truth of who you are and what you want.
I’ll try the listing. I’m really good with those. I’m good with lists and spreadsheets. I will make a list of my ideal man and work on that, invoke it and just put the energy into that.
Can I pop in with that because I love the list in the Excel chart, that’s rad. My deeper feeling or sense is to tune into how it is that you want to feel. How do you want to feel when you are claimed as queen, or when you have this dream relationship or whatever that it is for you? I don’t want to use your naming, you languaging or make that up for you. To be in the felt sense of that truth and start from there. We can create feeling state before our actual physical reality reflects it to us. Have a two-pronged approach. I love the list in Excel and being in that linear capacity, then also to be present with your feelings state and really living into the question of how is it that you want to feel.
Thank you so much for being on the show. I do really, truly think your question is universal. Thank you for presenting it for the rest of the world to hear it and gain from your courage of being on the show.
That’s it. It just flies, it’s amazing. How do people find you? How do people work with you? How do people find those mysterious fourteen steps that we didn’t talk about on the show?
I have a site, it’s KingMakerSessions.com. I’m on Facebook. I think that if this is resonant for someone, I fully trust their capacity to find me. I’m out there.
Thank you so much. It’s an absolute pleasure having you on the show and grateful for our friendship. I just really enjoyed the co-coaching with you. Congratulations on your first podcast.
Thank you, such a pleasure.
I’m so glad and grateful for everyone for being on the show with me. If you like it, visit Tuff Love on iTunes and Stitcher. Give us a little review. Give us a little five-star, four-star, three-star, two-star, whatever it is true for you. Jump on iTunes and give us a little loving. Grateful as always for the opportunity to be in front of you and do what I do. That’s it, go forth, be married, get some nooky, claim your queen, claim your king, your own internal or external. I’m so grateful. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you next week.