©2003 by John R. Stowe
In our society, both men and women face challenges related to gender roles and expectations. Over the past twenty years, a great deal of attention has been focused on using flower essences and related therapies to address the issues of women, yet issues related to masculinity have received much less attention. I'd like to take this opportunity to share some of my own experience with using flower essences to help male clients deal with issues related to the healthy expression of their own masculinity. Since the late 1990s, I've been working with a set of research essences intended to promote a healthy expression of masculine archetypes and behaviors. The specific concerns vary from person to person; we have to approach each client as a unique individual. Yet, it is possible to observe some general patterns.
A significant amount of the male wounding I see has to do with confusion about what healthy masculinity actually entails. Most men in our society grew up with very few role models that really work for them. A good number struggle with conflicting expectations of what it means to be a man. Some grew up with fathers who were either overly harsh and demanding, or emotionally or physically absent.
Some men overcompensate for early wounding by exaggerating the traits they consider masculine, such as competitiveness, independence, and various "macho" behaviors (to be honest, very few of these men come in for flower essence consultations!). Others -- in response to a variety of factors -- go too far the other way and reject any strong display of masculine characteristics. Almost all the men I see are dealing in one form or another with the challenge of finding positive, authentic expressions of their own masculinity. Their responses are often creative and innovative.
While many flower essences can encourage clarity in this area, I'd like to consider four that I've found to be particularly useful. I've made these essences personally, and two of them -- Saw Palmetto and Red Buckeye -- are relatively new, so my understanding of their effects is still evolving.
In discussing these flower remedies and their healing with clients, I try to help them see that masculine energy is a strong, necessary aspect of human vitality. Like any other archetypal energy, it can be expressed in ways that are healthy or unhealthy, but will always find a way to express. The challenge facing the individual is to find ways to accept and consciously channel this energy as positively as possible. Masculine or yang energy is the force that makes change in the world, that helps to remove old limitations, and builds new structures. I encourage the client to find ways to move beyond the fear of "negative" emotions and to reclaim the full range of his own feelings. The process may take time, but the result is nearly always an increase in vitality.
Fetterbush (Leucothoe racemosa) flower essence acts as a general purpose male tonic. I use it to help men (and women) take action from a place of strong direction. Those who resonate with it most strongly are usually facing feelings of weakness, ineffectiveness, or lack of trust in their own personal power. The issue here is not usually a lack of vision, but rather a lack of belief that the individual himself can take action to bring that vision into manifestation.
This sort of challenge can come from a variety of personal histories. Several clients traced their lack of confidence back to feelings that their mothers had been overbearing or belittling -- issues that they were already dealing with in psychotherapy. Their challenge was to move beyond self-doubt and see themselves as mature, effective adults. Another client spoke of seeing so many negative manifestations of masculine energy -- warfare, violence, abuse, etc. -- that he went out of his way to avoid anything to do with it. His healing process involved his using Fetterbush and other flower essences while paying attention to positive expressions of male energy he saw around him: loving fathers, strong leaders, and so forth. In time, he started to define his own role based on those that resonated most strongly.
Fetterbush encourages a sense of grounding, a feeling of being supported by the Earth. It helps the individual to act with a sense of clarity, direction, and strong foundation. I've used it for individuals and also for groups who are embarking of a path of action with the intention of making positive changes in the world.
Blueberry (Vaccinium spp) is a member of the same Heath family as Fetterbush, and its effects are similar. I often use the two flower essences interchangeably, although Blueberry seems to be called for more frequently when the person's issues revolve around acceptance of his own masculine side. One pattern I see quite frequently occurs among men who have chosen the path of healers or spiritual seekers. Many, in a well-intentioned but misguided desire to live "spiritually" or "sensitively," try to deny or repress any strong feelings they've come to judge as negative -- anger, sexual desire, competitiveness, and so forth. In the process, they tend to shut off their own vitality and passion.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is well known as a strong male herbal. I use the flower essence to encourage male self-love -- an acceptance of self and the freedom to move beyond the widespread but negative examples of male energy around us. Masculine energy is more about individuation than its feminine counterpart, and most men have been encouraged to become highly competitive in order to succeed in the world. The old model is based on hierarchies of dominance and submission, and the majority of men have been taught to feel threatened or to need to prove themselves when they meet other men. The remedy helps them to break this old pattern, to develop a sense of mutual acceptance with other strong men and a deep understanding that many different types of strength, in all their uniqueness and individuality, are needed in the world at this time.
In personal terms, this remedy seems to help men move beyond feelings of over-competitiveness, or to get beyond the feeling that sensitivity equals weakness. It encourages these men to understand that allowing a degree of emotional vulnerability can actually make them stronger and healthier. The remedy has also helped several clients who were dealing with aspects of internalized homophobia.
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is another relatively new flower essence. I've used it to help individuals recover the masculine creative vitality they'd closed off in response to past trauma or emotional wounding. It seems to encourage the individual to move beyond the fear of being hurt again by men, or of perpetuating the negative behaviors that caused them to feel victimized in the past. It encourages these individuals to move into the world actively and positively. The essence has been an important component of combination remedies intended to help groups of men come together in alignment and cooperation.
Let me quickly mention two other flower essences that have also proved to be quite helpful with issues related to masculinity. Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) offers strong encouragement for men who have shut themselves off emotionally to find a way beyond old defenses and re-engage with the people around them. I've used Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), a remedy from the desert, to encourage healthy mentoring. It seems to promote the patience, strength, and self-confidence necessary to teach those same qualities to others.
In an era of rapidly changing expectations, flower essences are a powerful tool to help people reach their full potential as active, healthy individuals. At a time when the entire planet is threatened by outdated concepts of masculinity, catalyzing a new understanding of this universal archetype is of vital importance. By helping individuals to find positive new expressions of masculine energy, not only are we promoting alignment at a personal level, we're also planting seeds that could encourage the same alignment at a planetary level.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John R. Stowe creates EarthFriends Flower Essences and has worked to share their healing since 1984. For a description of his work and the books he has written, as well as to view his other articles that have appeared here, visit his Frequent Contributor Page.
ART CREDITS: This page was created by Donna Cunningham of Word of Mouth Web Design from royalty-free photos at Photos.com. Plant photos supplied by John R. Stowe.