Healing The Gender Divide

I’m inspired to bring men and women together with the intention to reconcile whatever stands in the way of us loving and accepting each other more fully.

The non-dualists might argue “there is no divide” and there never was, so there’s nothing to “heal.” While I can appreciate that view, it can ignore people’s personal experience in life, which is that most folks see and experience many divides that keep us separate. I want to meet folks where they are, while holding a bigger view as well.

So, I’m going to assume that at least some of us agree there is a divide between the genders and it goes way back. Let’s also assume that that divide is born out of the masculine feminine (anima/animus) split within each of us.

If you agree, keep reading.

I’m inspired to co-host an event called Healing the Divide, a gender healing event where we work toward healing some of the real (not perceived) wounds between men and women.

This idea was born out of four key experiences: 1) My ongoing reconciliation of my inner masculine and feminine, 2) A truth telling workshop I led with Christiane Pelmas, 3)  After profound experiences of truth sharing between men and women during my annual Men’s Leadership Training which David Cates helped co-facilitate, and 4) Reading apologies and other attempts to heal the rift between the genders and the nearly 300 comments on my Why Men Objectify Women blog post.

But why bother doing a workshop where we come together and attempt to heal the disconnection between us and within us? Two main reasons for me.

*It’s not personal, it’s collective. There is tremendous charge, pain, juice and aliveness between the sexes. There always has been. We have the opportunity to raise the vibration of collective love everywhere by attempting to mend the schism.

*It is personal, so personal (I’m guessing for all of us).  Consider why it might be personal for you and where the spark is. How have you personal been hurt by a man, many men, a woman, many women in your life? Have you been hurt by people or systems? Organizations or individuals?

Here’s why it’s personal for me…

I have had “charge” with men and women on and off my entire life. I have gone to dug very deep to heal my wounds with the masculine. It has been a real hero’s journey with my own father and many men in positions of power.

Looking back, I guess I needed to heal the hurt, confused masculine in me first and get that part of myself solid. Learning to be vulnerable around men continued to help me be vulnerable around women.

Finally, after years of being with other men intimately and studying the masculine intensely, I feel pretty healthy and integrated with my inner masculine. I can accept and embody him much more now. And, as my son grows, he shows me more areas where I am still hurting (Thank you son for showing me where I remain afraid and closed).

And women?

My real, raw feelings about women go way back.

I have had a lot of pain in relationship to women prior to meeting my wife.

I was hurt by a few key women, and I in turn hurt a lot of women through my behavior.

My first experience with women was of course with my Mother. It was very complicated and naturally set the template for a very conflicted relationship to women and the feminine inside of me. I felt both abandoned by her and engulfed by her. This would play out in every intimate relationship I had with women.

On top of that and innocently enough, and par for the course for his generation, my very masculine Father taught me to stuff my feelings and hide anything that appeared to be weak. Thus like most boys, I grew up around the unwritten boy code and so I learned to hide anything soft, weak, vulnerable, or feminine-like. And like most boys, I developed a sophisticated arsenal to guard and squash the feminine inside of me which would make my relations with girls and women challenging. This level of conditioning was a huge loss because that sensitive, emotional part of me is a huge asset and strength of mine now.

My early template also set up a dynamic where I would unconsciously look to women to meet the insatiable needs of the hurt boy living inside of me. It set me up to look to women for comfort, but then when they got close, I would  feel engulfed by them and push them away.

So when I finally started dating, it was very awkward. When it came to women I was pretty lost and confused in my teens and twenties with zero guidance. I also had zero guidance sexually. The guidance I did take was from fellow adolescent boys who were pretty checked out and told me things like, “if you ignore women, you’ll get them to like you.” It worked. I attracted a certain kind of insecure woman who wanted the conquest of an unavailable guy.

But of course I was not happy, nor were the women I dated.

I was conflicted inside, because internally I had distanced myself from my feminine side and I was a respectful young man who had no interest in hurting or taking advantage of women. But I got more attention when I put on my aloof, outward Mr. Cool-mask. Underneath this game, was a lot of neediness, shame, and fear.

Again, I had no idea how to get my needs and wants met and had no one to show me. And, I never asked for help.

So, I remained locked up through my 20’s and kept repeating the same relational patterns with women. Date them, feel unmet, make them wrong, and move on.

It took hunger, meeting my wife, grad school, three years of therapy (with a woman therapist), years of meditation, and some amazing men to help me see my blocks around “the feminine.” It’s no surprise that the massive block was a rejection of my own inner feminine that was running the show. I had disowned her and dismissed her. Time to bring her back.

Now that I was finally moving toward a mature adult relationship at 31, I had to tighten up my boundaries with other women. I cut off all ties with old women friends (each who I was using to get love and approval from) and kept a distance from new ones because I didn’t trust myself around women.

I now continue to grow, heal, and integrate my feminine as I deepen my relationship with the women in my life. And, rather than apologize to you for any wrongs I have done via a mass broadcast like the Dear Women video, I think it’s more important that I know what I’ve done and understand the cost to you first. Then, perhaps I can apologize.

Enter “Healing the Divide.”

Part of knowing and understanding your experience is witnessing your truth expressed directly to me. This helps me not only receive you, but it also helps me forgive myself for pain I have caused women.

The beauty here is that I don’t need the exact woman who I hurt to express her truth to me. Just like she doesn’t need the exact man to listen to her. Sure, that might be ideal, but it’s not necessary. However, an available, present, witness is necessary and makes the healing process more potent. And yes, I don’t need anybody present to go deep inside of me to heal these hurts. But in my experience, it can accelerate the process with other live human beings.

What about you?

I think it’s clear that I am merely a speck of sand in the Sahara of people who have unresolved issues with the opposite gender, however big or small. I believe we all have something to learn and something to heal in relationship to the opposite sex.

I know that if I want to change the world “out there” with the man/woman split, I have to do that same work inside of myself.

So, I’m inspired to continue to heal the divide between us. I’m inspired to keep healing any split within myself.

When men and women lay down their arms and meet in a sacred space to speak truth and receive each other’s truth with deep respect and commitment to greater love, magic can, and does, happen. I have seen it many specific times in personal and professional settings.

Here’s the question for you:

Do you want to open to more love? Both in yourself and with the opposite sex weather or not you are gay or straight? Do you want to see each other without the gunk in the middle, and allow ourselves to be seen with all of our hurt and joy? Do you want to move closer toward each other? Are you a “yes” to working to heal this divide in you?

Lastly, I want my son and daughter to have many models outside their own parents where men and women treat each other with mutual love and respect no matter the context or challenge. I also don’t want them to feel intimidated by words like “divine feminine” or sacred masculine. I don’t want them to think they have to be a God or Goddess or anything than they already are. I want real people, human beings in their midst.

If you feel inspired to share your heart here, please do.



  • Jason Estock

    Reply Reply June 24, 2012

    “I’m going to assume that most of us agree there is a divide between the genders and it goes way back”

    Is this worth questioning at least? If there is another way to look at the issue? I tend to think of men and women as having the same needs (both need intimacy/connection), while having developed different strategies for meeting these needs, based on life experience. We can generalize and say that many men have similar experiences growing up as a man (with a male body, how their particular culture/parents treat men/boys, opportunities available), and women likewise have their own experience.

    For me, it is a matter of wanting to develop my own autonomy and sense of self. I can examine my own behavior/feelings for barriers to intimacy, and if I’m willing, drop habits that are no longer needed (with some fear probably) and work on being more capable/comfortable in intimate relationship.

    Sure men and women are often hurt by eachother in intimate relationship, but I don’t personally view this as a gender divide, rather as intimacy/attachment wounds between humans.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply June 24, 2012

      Jason, that would be awesome if it were that simple. Our rift goes way back. To ignore it, is to perpetuate the schism.

      Yes, attachment wounds for sure and that’s an awesome place to start. Once resourced there, we have room for the larger conversation between men and women.

  • Jason Estock

    Reply Reply June 24, 2012

    I see the practice of “truth telling” (as in your workshop) and things like red pill, as good practice for being willing to be intimate and self-revelatory. Speaking certain things to the opposite gender could be triggering for some (based on our past associations/experiences with someone of that gender), and I think being able to do this in a safe setting with a skilled facilitator/receiver could potentially be good practice/learning/experience. Having a positive outcome could allow us to question/challenge assumptions that sharing ourselves will go badly (which we may have learned).

  • Jason Estock

    Reply Reply June 25, 2012

    On your fb page, Shawn P. said “I’m sure there’s immense disconnect and appropriate sadness… and at the same time, I’m sure there’s pockets of intense connection, of vibrant life and progress that would make the angels sing. ” and I wonder if “the rift” is just how some choose to view and frame the issue based on their own life experience/self sense/worldview. I’m wanting to understand better what you are saying. Are you willing to say how you know “our rift goes way back”? And how do you know it exists today?

    I’m willing to say, sure, plenty of men have been hurt by women, and women by men. Each individual will have their own wounds around this depending on their own personal experience. Men have also been hurt by other men and women by other women. I’m appreciating your passion to help men and women learn to better relate and communicate with each other.

    • Sleeping Realities

      Reply Reply September 12, 2012

      Jason Estock,
      I understand what you’re saying, and I agree that reality probably doesn’t have a nice neat division between the genders, as if all women were feeling at war with all men and vice-versa. I wish all people had your perspective! The way I understand what Jayson Gaddis is saying is that the “rift” is a philosophical one–it’s one created in our own minds, individually and collectively, not necessarily that it exists in reality. (In existentialism, this would be kind of like the difference between meaning and facticity, right?) If a certain group of people believe a rift exists between the two genders, then for them it does, and they may find great meaning in working on an inner healing. This kind of function may be the message that will allow them to perceive the truth that is Unity.

      I would ask YOU how you know (or, rather, why you believe) that both men and women have the same needs. Which kinds of needs are you talking about? Because, clearly, physical needs are different. I mean, for example, while everyone needs to eat, the amount and quality of food is slightly different for men and women, in general. Why would emotional needs not be slightly different for men and women as well? Just a thought. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I always like to explore.

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