A Thought Adventure

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

4. The Male Inferiority Complex I


Webster’s Dictionary defines inferiority complex as “an acute sense of personal inferiority resulting either in timidity or through overcompensation in exaggerated aggressiveness.” (Complex = “a group of repressed desires and memories that exerts a dominating influence upon the personality.”) Other definitions add the “wholly or partly unconscious” character of this feeling of inferiority and give “spectacular achievement or extreme anti-social behavior” as examples of compensation for it. If extended to mean an acute sense of collective inferiority, all these definitions fit the complex I see entrenched in the entire male sex.

My definition
What I call the monumental male inferiority or mother complex is not the same as a man’s neurotic bond to his mother, although it may have that effect also in individual men. It is first and foremost a collective disorder buried deep in men‘s unconscious (somewhere at the bottom of the iceberg Freud used as a metaphor for the human mind, in which only the tip that's visible above the surface represents the conscious part). And it originates, I suggest, in the archaic belief that women create children on their own and must possess magical power. Research shows that in these cultures people believed--even after men’s role in procreation was recognized, which supposedly took a long time,--that this magic continues to cling to womanhood, thanks not least to a long-lived and universally practiced goddess cult.

At this cult’s annual Fertility Festival the youth chosen to mate with the Great Mother Goddess (incarnated in the High Priestess) is ritually killed after the act of impregnation. My take on this bloody custom of male sacrifice is that it awakens in men a fear so profound of woman, both as authority figure and as sexual being, that it engraves on them a debilitating sense of inferiority (in websterian terms “an acute sense of gender inferiority“).

To me the founding of patriarchy (which I place rather late in the annals of humankind) is men’s enraged response when the matriarchs refuse to meet their demand for power-sharing.  And since I consider this demand perfectly reasonable in a period of evolving consciousness, I largely ascribe the violent overthrow of the matriarchy and its goddess cult to a final explosion of the volcanic anger that this complex has whipped up in men. Thus, the misogynistic social order we all are heirs to is a perfect example of how that complex--“through overcompensation”--resulted in “exaggerated aggressiveness” towards women.

But why does this complex remain today long after people stopped believing in goddesses? 

Repressed memory of woman power
I see two major reasons. One is that men bury their complex in their collective unconscious and slam a fake sense of superiority on top. Instead of looking their feeling of inferiority in the eye (and getting a chance to shed it once they discover its roots in pure superstition), they choose to build a male-ruled society on their need to deny it. A society that invents a theory of female inferiority and denies women a voice in its affairs.

Says psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, ‘When the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn in opposite halves.”

The other reason is that women reinforce the complex. I think we’ve grossly underestimated the dynamics of the resentment against men that millennia of patriarchy accumulate in women. Far from disappearing, this emotion seeps into women's relations with men where it manifests as what I call reverse sexism’ or 'misandry' (Greek misos=hate, andros=man), i.e., attitudes and behaviors as full of contempt for men as sexism or misogyny is for women, and as common.

The existence of reverse sexism is a sign that something has gone as seriously wrong with women’s healthy instincts as with men’s. Misandry and misogyny generate each other; not only do they balance each other, we can't have one without the other. Nor can we get rid of one without getting rid of the other.

Now, because men can’t admit that behind their complex lies (for good reasons) a deep fear of womanhood, they also can’t admit that women possess power. But although this omission may fire them to beef up their own power, it may also inspire them to make a timid response because of the risk they run of being victims of female manipulation.

For a look at how this complex expresses itself, see next post.


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