What is the Monster Within Man?
As we discussed in How Society Dishonors Men, it’s no secret that the majority of crimes are committed by men. According to FBI statistics from 2011, males constituted 98.9% of those arrested for forcible rape, 87.9% of those arrested for robbery, and 85% of those arrested for burglary.
The most genocidal figures in history were men. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot. It’s clear that men are more likely to be violent and aggressive; to seek power and dominance over others. And so this reality that men are capable of great harm and evil is thrown under the umbrella term called toxic masculinity.
It’s not unrealistic to suppose that there’s something inside everyone, but especially men, that constitutes the negative things that we consider unacceptable to society. Hatred, anger, cruelty, violence, a desire for absolute control. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described this something as “the shadow” or “the monster.”
And so society has come along, pointed at this monster within men and said that it’s dangerous. It’s the birthplace of toxic masculinity and therefore is a threat. So we need to remove it completely. It serves no purpose and is a threat to people around us.
The problem with removing the monster.
The problem is that removing this theoretical monster means to strip a man of what makes him dangerous. You might think this is a good thing at first, but think longer. A man who is harmless can’t defend himself or others. A man who’s harmless isn’t likely to jump to action in a dangerous situation. And a man who’s harmless isn’t often considered attractive to women (at least not the ones I’ve spoken to). There’s a strange notion that to be harmless is to be virtuous, but that’s not true.
Men nowadays often struggle to reconcile the messages they hear: That women don’t want a “nice guy,” but at the same time, aggressiveness is bad. It’s like being told: Having the monster within you is bad, but not having it is also bad.
The problem with this dichotomy is that it misses the point on both counts. It’s not that women don’t want a guy who’s kind. It’s that women don’t want a guy who uses kindness as a bargaining chip for sexual favors. And it’s not that women don’t at all want a guy who’s strong and dangerous, just mysterious. They want him to have it completely under control. They don’t want him taking out his anger on them.
The solution is to discipline the monster.
Sometimes to be dangerous is to be virtuous. Sometimes you need to leap to action and defend others, and if the monster is gone, if you’re harmless, then you can’t. Maybe, instead of removing every semblance of aggression from men, the solution is to learn to control it.
“A sword doesn’t need to be unsheathed for you to know it’s dangerous.” – Unknown
As someone with a natural tendency towards anger, I spent most of my early teen years learning to control it. When I unleashed myself on others it was ugly, and didn’t usually work in my favor. But I never wanted to get rid of the ability. I wanted to have it under control.
Don’t cast away aggression as a vice, but as a tool to be handled with the utmost care and control. Discipline and chain the monster within under your own control and you accomplish a major step in being a good and strong person. You have power, but can control it. And that goes a long way in helping earn self respect. That’s more important, more impressive, and more virtuous than being harmless.
As clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson says, “Being able to be cruel, and then not being cruel, is better than not being able to be cruel.”