Men’s health suffers from anxiety associated with deeply felt needs to control the world. Boys, much more than girls, are taught to seek
power over things and relationships. Many men sense that control is a male privilege and feel that control should be within their reach.
In reality most men have little effective control over the world or their relationships: other men control many aspects of their lives and as a result there is a persistent orientation toward anxious competition and too often doubts about self-worth. Beneath this social level there is the existential vulnerability of living creatures which no one, even the most powerful Alpha Males, can escape.
Those who deny vulnerability often seek to dominate others and the natural world in order to escape the anxiety. The best we can do as humans is to increase our odds of health and happiness; we do not control outcomes. Men’s understanding of strength must be repositioned to mean living well with the acceptance of vulnerability. Men who learn to accept vulnerability and are relieved of the desperate need to control will be much less likely to resort to violence in their relationships with others. And they will have happier lives.
Charles Knight is founder of the Project on Defense Alternatives, where he works to change national security policy, Charles Knight is former publisher of Working Papers magazine and more recently editor of the blog OBRM: Other and Beyond Real Men.