Patrick McCurry Counsellor Eastbourne Canary Wharf

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The importance of of the ‘wild man’ archetype

18 October 2020

Many men have lost their ‘wild man’. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about the part of men that symbolises passion, wildness, strength, aggression. It is often seen as men’s darker side, but while this energy can potentially be destructive it also contains many positives.

 It may seem strange to promote this idea when we see all the damage that violent or domineering men have caused in the world.

But when I’m talking about the importance of the wild man energy I’m not talking about toxic masculinity, in which men oppress or bully others, but rather a healthy connection to the internal life force that enables a man to hold boundaries, not be pushed around, give up being a people pleaser.

 In the book Iron John, Robert Bly tells the fairy story of the little boy who befriends the wild man. The wild man has been captured by the boy’s father, the king, and put in a cage.

The wild man asks the little boy to help free him, by stealing the key that is kept underneath the queen’s pillow. 

The quest for the key symbolises the fact that many men have to actively search in order to connect with their internal ‘wild man’. This may involve a psychological separation from the mother.

Women have their own journey in this area, which is explored in books such as Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

For men, contacting the wild man archetype is an important process because, without access to the wild man, a man can be passive and try too hard to please others, especially women.

The wild man does not represent dominance or patriarchy, but rather a healthy relationship with one’s natural life force. 

There are different ways men can connect with their wild man, or in Bly’s terms get back some of the key that is underneath mother’s pillow. These could include allowing themselves to dance with abandon, to connect with the wildness of nature, to get involved in competitive sport or martial arts.

Because many men who have repressed their wild man are afraid of other men, a great way of exploring their masculine energy is joining a men’s group. There are different groups in the UK, such as the Mankind Project (MKP), who offer some form of initiation and an opportunity to join a group.