Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Art of Manliness - The Menaissance: The Death of the Metrosexual and the Rise of the Retrosexual

Hmmmm . . . thoughts? I think there is some good stuff here - men need to redefine themselves within the context of the postmodern world. We are not going to be happy with the John Wayne role, or the Grey Flannel Suit role - both of which were beginning to break down for our fathers.

But in order to redefine our societal roles, we need to grow up as individuals. Being a slacker, video game playing, beer guzzling, skirt chasing man is not manliness - it's being an overgrown kid. Each of those three behaviors (and so many others) can be redefined in healthier, more mature ways.

Game playing is a form of escape and relaxation, but we can do that in healthier ways, and not make it a lifestyle. Beer drinking is one way some men socialize, but it need not be over beers, it could be thoughtful conversation over coffee, or a pick-up game of basketball, or a workout at the gym. And chasing women is biological, but rather than seeking variety, we do much better to seek depth with a single women, one with whom we can grow and express our more tender emotions.

When women express their displeasure with us, I suspect these are some of the things they wish we would change - and it goes so much deeper than just these three thoughts. We have some real work to do.

The Menaissance: The Death of the Metrosexual and the Rise of the Retrosexual

by Brett on March 29, 2010

Back in February I gave an Ignite Talk in Tulsa called “The Menaissance: The Death of the Metrosexual and the Rise of the Retrosexual.” If you’re not familiar with Ignite Talks, here’s the jist of the concept from the Ignite Tulsa website:

A dozen or so speakers present on a variety of topics, but they only get 5 minutes and 20 slides. Oh, and their required 20 slides automatically advance every 15 seconds.

I decided to talk about manliness. I discuss the lame stereotypes of manliness that have taken hold in our culture, but then switch gears and talk about some of the signs that indicate a “Menaissance” is taking place in which men are holding themselves to a higher standard.

It was tough to cram all I wanted to say into five minutes. Consequently, I ended up rushing a bit which you notice in the video. But overall, it was a fun experience, and it stretched me a bit personally. And I thought you all might enjoy it as well.

So, without further ado…

This is a related post from a while back (March of 2008) in which Brett calls for a Menaissance.

It’s Time For a “Menaissance”

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 27, 2008


Men are no longer needed. For the past 40 years, the role of men in Western society has diminished immensely. Before men were seen as providers and protectors. It seems the only thing men are good for is providing sperm for species propagation. But even that’s been taken away from them. Knowing their irrelevancy, many men are reporting feeling lost, depressed, and undervalued.

Solve one problem, create another

Men’s irrelevancy is due in a large part to the feminist movement. I think society owes a great deal to feminism. I don’t think any of us would want to live in a world where the only aspiration a woman has is becoming a wife and a mother. Thanks to feminism, women have more choices and men and women are seen as equals. I like feminism so much, I married a feminist and I unequivocally believe in the equality of the sexes.

In the midst of solving one problem, however, we’ve created another. While the feminist movement focused on the role of women in society, little discussion was given to what men’s role in this new world would be. As a result, we’re left with men who are confused and lost about their purpose as a man.

A survey featured this week in the Telegraph UK sheds some light on how men feel about their role today:

  • 52% said they had to live according to women’s rules
  • 58% said they would prefer to be the main breadwinner, with 34% preferring their wife to be a full-time mother/homemaker, and 24% preferring their wife to work part-time.
  • only 33% felt they could speak freely what they thought
  • 67% felt it safer to conceal their opinion
  • more than half thought society was turning them into “waxed and coifed metrosexuals”

The Call for a Menaissance

One of the reasons I started The Art of Manliness was because I noticed this sense of disorientation in myself and in my peers. It seems as though as women became more successful men were content to fade in the background and become slackers. The only idea of manliness I saw in popular culture was the crude caricature of it found in Maxim Magazine or on Spike TV.

In response to this vacuum of true manliness, the Telegraph article reports that some American scholars are calling for a “menaissance”- a return to embracing instead of shunning real manliness.

The fact that men and women are equal doesn’t have to mean they are exactly the same. True manliness sees women as equals in every way, but at the same time recognizes and appreciates our differences. Traditional manliness was characterized by ideas of honor, strength, virtue, sacrifice, responsibility, leadership, and integrity. Women rightly argue that their sex embraces these same values. But is it possible that these values and characteristics might manifest themselves differently in each sex?

This is what I think is at the heart of the menaissance-exploring how the way men live out these values gives them a unique identity as men.

I hope the Art of Manliness can play a role in bringing back manliness and ringing in the menaissance. I started the blog with the hopes of discovering what manliness means today. I still don’t have all the answers, but I am enjoying delving into the questions. And I hope you all come along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Andrew Olendzki - Evolving Beyond Delusion

Some good wisdom and, as always, we need not be Buddhist to learn from Buddhist psychology. All of us get caught up in delusion sometimes, falling prey to our anger, our jealousy, our greed. But we can grow beyond these petty feelings simply by being mindful and aware. In every moment of every day we have the choice of how we respond. Will we be open, compassionate, and gentle, or will we be closed off, harsh, and mean?

Always, it is our choice.

Evolving Beyond Delusion

Andrew Olendzki

The human species is evolving, and at a very rapid rate now that the evolution is cultural rather than biological. Physical changes may still occur; but at such a glacial pace we are unlikely to notice anything. Changes in the human mind, however, are dramatic and can be seen all around us.

The twin forces of greed and hatred—the primal urge to want more of what pleases us and to want what displeases us to go away—have been useful adaptive tools throughout our primitive past, but are rapidly becoming obsolete. Now that our communities are global rather than tribal, our tools are powerful rather than rudimentary, and our weapons are capable of massive destruction, we find ourselves in the position of needing to evolve beyond the old paradigms if we are to adapt to the new environment shaped increasingly by our own activities.

The deeply-rooted instincts of desire have helped us get to where we are, as they continue to help all animals survive in the wild. Greed is necessary to chase down and devour one’s prey, and hatred is essential to the “fight or flight” reflex that helps keep a creature alive in moments of danger. But humans no longer live in small family units in a vast and unfriendly wilderness. Huddled together as we now are, shoulder to shoulder on a shrinking planet, our own animal instincts have become our most dangerous predator.

For whatever reason it happened, the sudden bulging of the forebrain in homo sapiens (which took place not very long ago) gave us humans an unprecedented capability: sustained conscious awareness of what we are doing and how it effects those around us. The Buddhists call this capacity mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajàna). It has allowed us to commence the process of evolving beyond the third deeply-rooted instinct, delusion, by beginning to develop wisdom.

What is more essentially human than the capacity for wisdom? Wisdom allows us to see beyond appearances into the hidden nature of things; it enables us to perceive what is counter-intuitive; it helps us know what is essential. Wisdom gives us an ability to understand that our greatest happiness and most profound well-being lies beyond the quenching of immediate thirsts or the suppression of unpleasant truths. In particular, wisdom reveals the limitations of our in-born desires of greed and hatred, as it erodes the delusion that holds us in their grip.

The Buddhist tradition can be tremendously helpful to us in the process of trying to evolve to the next level of humanity. The Buddha himself can be viewed as demonstrating what this new species “homo sophiens” (wise humans) might look like. For forty-five years, between the awakening of his mind and the passing away of his body, the Buddha lived with body and mind purified of all states rooted in greed, hatred and delusion. These three fires had “gone out,” had “been extinguished,” or had “been released from their fuel,” and this is what the word nirvana refers to. It describes not a transcendent realm, but a transformed—we might even say evolved—human being.

The goal of becoming a better person is within the grasp of all of us, at every moment. The tool for emerging from the primitive yoke of conditioned responses to the tangible freedom of the conscious life lies just behind our brow. We need only invoke the power of mindful awareness in any action of body, speech or mind to elevate that action from the unconscious reflex of a trained creature to the awakened choice of a human being who is guided to a higher life by wisdom.

We do not have to accomplish this in as dramatic a way as the Buddha did. We may not “complete” the work in this lifetime and root out the very mechanism by which our minds and bodies manifest their hereditary toxins. Yet to whatever extent we can notice them as they arise, understand them for what they are, and gently abandon our grasp of them—if for only this moment—we are gaining ground in the grand scheme of things. And even a modest moment of emancipation from the unwholesome roots of greed, hatred and delusion is a moment without suffering.

Despite the sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe an objective study of history will show that the human species is indeed evolving towards a wiser, kinder and more noble future. The Buddha and his teachings have had a lot to do with raising the sights of humanity, and we may well be in a position today where these teachings can contribute to a new awakening of human potential.

There is something beautiful in us, eager to unfold. Organic, like a plant, it need only be cleared of choking weeds, watered by kindness and generosity, and turned to the bright, nurturing rays of wisdom. Mindfulness is the way we can care for this hope; let’s claim our freedom and see what we might become.

Monday, March 29, 2010

NYT Book Review - The Male Brain, by Louann Brizendine

This book is getting a lot of attention. I guess any time a woman offers to explain the male brain, people are going to line up to hear what she has to say. At least this book acknowledges that much of what Brizendine offers up in terms of brain difference is done so to drive sales - as most know, the differences within gender is greater than the differences between genders. Oh well.

Which is not to say there are no differences - there are, and they are what makes us who we are. But the media falsely will point to this book as evidence of the "vast differences" between men and women.

THE MALE BRAIN, By Louann Brizendine
271 pp. Broadway Books. $24.99

A Mind of His Own

Published: March 25, 2010

Many scientists are cautious to a fault when it comes to telling us what they’re unsure of, playing down any novel finding that hasn’t been verified by another scientist. Not so Louann Brizendine. She is a neuro­psychiatrist (the prefix makes any title sound smarter) who has put her professional training behind a breezy, incautious account of how the brain, urged on by hormones, makes men and women act completely differently. You’d never know from reading Brizendine that beneath the sea she blithely sails are depths that researchers have only just begun to chart.

Brizendine nods to the fact that the brains of men and women are mostly alike. But her emphasis is entirely on the “profound differences” between them. This is clearly the best-seller strategy, neatly bisected into two books. “The Female Brain,” published in 2006, drove reviewers in publications like Nature mad but lit up the talk show circuit and the Amazon rankings. “The Male Brain” is positioned for a similar second round. Would Brizendine have gotten this kind of pop for a single book called “The Male and Female Brain: Mostly One and the Same”? Not a chance.

Each chapter of “The Male Brain” covers patients at various stages of the life cycle. At every step — the Dennis the Menace child, the oversexed teenager, the middle-aged man who falls for a younger woman — Brizendine gives a theory for how her patient’s behavior is caused by his male brain patterns, egged on by hormones like testosterone (nicknamed “Zeus”) and vasopressin (“the White Knight”). The publicity materials claim that Brizendine “overturns the stereotypes about men and boys.” In fact, Brizendine chooses patients who typify a familiar stereotype and then explains their actions as the inevitable-seeming work of Zeus and his henchmen.

Take David, who at age 3 turns a blow dryer on his friend’s stream of pee as it hits the toilet. Brizendine traces the causes of this mischief-making back to the first day of his life: “David was only 24 hours old, and without encouragement or instruction from anyone, he stared at the rotating triangles and squares on the mobile and seemed to find them fascinating.” The image comes from one much-discussed lab experiment. Other scientists have tried and failed to replicate the finding that day-old boy babies look at objects while newborn girls look at faces. But neither Brizendine’s text nor her cursory endnotes give any hint of this uncertainty. The idea, however sketchy, seems to be that boys are hard-wired to break the rules because from birth they are less interested in human emotions than in objects, and so don’t respond to parental disapproval the way girls do.

In her introduction, Brizendine promises to answer questions about how much “gendered behavior is innate and how much is learned.” But she throws nurture overboard in favor of nature every chance she gets. “The Male Brain” is filled with sentences like “Boys are programmed to move” and, about the older man drawn to the younger woman, “He was being biologically bewitched to bond with her.” With all those powerful hormones, does personal psychology or experience stand a chance?

Yet Brizendine’s description of how men and boys act isn’t in itself off base. While there is a far wider spectrum of behavior than she ever acknowledges — apparently her patients include no timid boys or unassuming men — many boys do act more turbocharged than many girls. If you try to wish away gender differences by giving your son a doll to play with, you may find, as Brizendine did, that he’s using it as a sword. The toy preferences of preschoolers are one of the greatest sex differences that psychologists have found, and Brizendine is on far safer ground when she turns to them. The problem is that she never tells you so. There’s no way to know from her heedless tour which sex differences are well established and which are not, which research is in its infancy and which solid and mature.

Brizendine has been here before. Her first book got particular attention for the claim that women speak faster than men (250 versus 125 words per minute) and use more words throughout the day, an average of 20,000 compared with 7,000. This was a conversation starter that lined up perfectly with stereotype — Chatty Cathy, quantified! Except that it turned out there were no studies backing up the words-per-minute claim, which Brizendine later removed from the paperback edition. Her claim that women use more words than men fell apart, too, when a paper published in Science found that the average man and woman use the same number of words (about 16,000 during the course of a day). But Brizendine has stuck with that claim, which she says was based on her own “observation,” and on a paper that referred to the vocabularies of 20-month-old girls, whose author disavows the leap Brizendine makes.

In “The Male Brain,” Brizendine devotes a chapter to a “classic complaint: Men accuse women of being too emotional, and women accuse men of not being emotional enough.” She rides to the rescue with the confident assertion that “we now know that the emotional processing in the male and female brain is different.” We do? Brizendine introduces two “emotional systems that work simultaneously: the mirror-neuron system, or MNS, and the temporal-parietal junction system, or TPJ.” Men use the TPJ more, she claims, and it turns them into problem solvers rather than emotional empathizers. When her client Danielle wailed, “You don’t understand!” at her husband, Neil, his brain “would entirely miss the desperate tone of her voice, since his TPJ would be busy working out the solution, and his MNS would no longer be activating.” Danielle, for her part, could not appreciate Neil’s analytic response because “she was trapped in her female brain circuit loops.”

What’s the evidence for all this? Brizendine cites a single 2008 brain-scan study, of 14 women and 12 men, which found a gender difference in part of a lab experiment that tried to simulate empathy. The paper itself declares that “functional neuro­imaging data on gender differences in empathy remain scarce.” When I asked a couple of scientists to weigh in, one said he wouldn’t base any substantive conclusion on this paper, since initial findings of sex differences in the brain often don’t amount to much. The other pointed out that if men and women really processed emotions differently, you’d expect to see far greater variation in fMRI data.

Yet one of Brizendine’s more believable claims is that when she weaves theories like the one about TPJ for her patients, they smile with recognition. Maybe this is because the science will one day catch up with Brizendine’s ideas. Or maybe as a species we’re predisposed to be preoccupied by difference, as the Harvard psychologist Elizabeth Spelke argues. Or maybe we are still in recovery from that brief time in the 1970s when boys really were expected to play with dolls and some New Age man somewhere hung his house with crystals.

But isn’t it time to acknowledge that any rigid insistence that men and women are exactly the same has long since given way to common sense? Brizendine’s trick, after all, is to give a scientific veneer to “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” Which dates to 1992. At this point, it’s hardly daring to say that there are momentous innate sex differences in the brain. It’s just dubious.

Emily Bazelon is a senior editor at Slate and the Truman Capote law and media fellow at Yale Law School.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shrink Rap Radio #165 - Irritable Male Syndrome

This is an old episode of Shrink Rap Radio that focuses on how and why males get and stay irritable. I am not a huge fan of Diamond's work - he is a traditional Freudian in many ways. However, in other ways, he is one of the few psychologists looking at male development and identity issues.

Shrink Rap Radio #165 - Irritable Male Syndrome

photo of Dr. Jed Diamond


Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a licensed psychotherapist for over 43 years and is the author of seven books including the international best-selling Male Menopause and Surviving Male Menopause that has thus far been translated into 32 foreign languages and the recently released The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the Four Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, which is also developing a world-wide readership. Click here to go to his online community.

Jed is Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men’s health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network. He is also a member of the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male and serves as a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Men’s Health.

He has also written numerous booklets, e-booklets, audio, and video programs. He has taught classes at U.C. Berkeley, U.C.L.A., J.F.K. University, Esalen Institute, The Omega Institute, and other centers of education throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

His PhD dissertation, Gender and Depression, broke new ground in creating a better evaluation system for diagnosing and treating depression in men and women.

He lives with his wife, Carlin, on Shimmins Ridge, above Bloody Run Creek, in Northern California. They are proud parents of five grown children and eleven grandchildren.

A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Thoughts Toward a Developmental Model of Masculine Identity, Part Three (Attachment Models)

[This the third part of an on-going effort to build a developmental model of mature masculine identity. Part one here, part two here.]

In the first two installments of what is becoming a seemingly endless exploration of ideas that might contribute to an integral model of masculine identity development, I looked primarily at existing models of development for racial identity and, to a lesser extent, gender identity. After doing so, I thought I might be ready to develop and propose my own model. Not so much.

One idea I want to examine is the difference between individualist and collectivist identity constructs and how that might impact development. Western culture is largely individualist, while most of the rest of the world is more collectivist in how they define identity and the self. I'll get to that soon, I hope.

For today, however, I want to present some ideas on attachment theory and how that impacts identity development.

* * * * *

While talking with a client this morning, I mentioned that is she wanted to understand her husband better, she might want to look at his mother and how the two related. Driving home, I thought about this more. One thing that I had discussed with my girlfriend, Jami, is that attachment style might have a serious impact on identity development.

In psychology, the old canard is that Freud blamed the mother for all of the dysfunctions of her children (Sommerfeld, 2006). In "Mother-Blaming and the Rise of the Expert" (Aidenbaum, 2006), the author looks at the ways in which mothers took the blame for masculine "failures" in the wider domestic issues facing America during the Cold War.

In a sense this is true. And while the second and third generation of Freudian scholars continued looking at the mother-child dyad, in what came to be known as attachment theory (Bowlby, 1988). However, unlike Freud, Bowlby, Ainsworth (1978), and other attachment theorists do not BLAME the mother, even though they look at that primary adult-child bond (typically the mother is the primary caretaker) as an essential component of how the child is developing and how s/he will relate to others as an adult.

What they tend to focus on is how the child responds to the parent in the bonding dyad. The mother (or other caretaker) is who s/he is, and in general does the best s/he can with the experience and upbringing that formed their unique self. Children are adaptable, so however the parent behaves, the child will respond as best s/he can to seek love, attention, and mirroring, a major part of the neo-Freudian self psychology school.

* * * * *

Here is a brief definition of attachment (2004):

Attachment theory centers on the notion that emotionally responsive care, including love and nurturance from a primary caregiver, is essential for healthy and normal development. John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory, used the term “attachment” to describe the emotional connection that develops between an infant and a primary caregiver through patterns of interaction that evolve over time. According to attachment theory, during the first year of life, infants develop special ties to their primary caregivers (i.e., attachment figures). Every infant invariably becomes attached unless no single caregiver is continuously present to care for the child (e.g., as in some institutions and orphanages). The particular nature or quality of the attachment relationship will vary, depending on the history of interaction patterns within the dyad. In particular, the consistency and appropriateness of the caregiver's response to the infant during times when the infant feels stressed or threatened, defines the pattern of interactions that develop during the first year. When the caregiver is consistently sensitive and responsive, a secure attachment typically ensues, whereas insensitive or inappropriate responding usually leads to an insecure attachment relationship.

After the attachment is formed, the infant shows a preference for the attachment figure. This is particularly evident during times of stress or emotional upset. When scared or distressed, the infant actively seeks comfort and reassurance from the caregiver and is not easily comforted by other individuals. The presence of the attachment figure is reassuring and enables more competent exploration of the environment. Mary Ainsworth, Bowlby's collaborator, noted that in a secure attachment relationship, the attachment figure provides both a “safe haven” during times of need and a “secure base” from which to explore.

Bowlby viewed the attachment system as a biobehavioral system that organizes behavior. The set goal of this system is to maintain proper access and proximity to the caregiver during times of need to ensure the protection and survival of the young. The attachment system operates in interaction and in collaboration with other behavioral systems (e.g., fear, exploration, sociability).

Attachment relationships are believed to play an important role throughout the life cycle. Although the specific behavioral markers of attachment change, their function remains the same. During times of need, infants, older children, and adults alike all seek comfort and support from significant others who are seen as more capable of coping with these situations. As individuals mature, new attachments are typically formed, but the early attachment relationships remain important because they are thought to exert an effect on subsequent behavior and close relationships.

During the attachment process, Internal mental representations are created during the formation of a relationship. Mental representations relate not only to the self, but also to the attachment figure. As we age and enter into other intimate relationships, these internal representations help shape the ways we relate to others and how we behave.

Research has show that most people (roughly 65%, based on Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation Protocol) are securely attached.
Secure infants use their caregivers as a “secure base” for exploration. These infants rely on occasional visual, verbal, or physical contact with their mothers as a basis for their own initiated exploration of the environment. When their mothers leave the room, secure infants may or may not cry. On reunion, these infants either greet their mothers positively or, if upset, go to them for comfort and then shortly after return to activities associated with exploration. (Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology, 2004)
Three forms of insecure attachment have also been identified: anxious-avoidant, anxious-resistant (now known as ambivalent), and disorganized. Here are some brief definitions:

Infants who show patterns of insecure attachment of the avoidant type exhibit little or no reference to their mothers while exploring the room and show no overt signs of distress on their mothers' departure (although some studies have shown that these infants do show physiological markers of stress during separation). Most important, on reunion, these infants actively ignore and avoid their caregivers (e.g., by looking away).

Insecure—resistant (or ambivalent) infants are preoccupied with their mothers' presence, often unable to leave their sides even in light of curious attempts to explore their new environment. When their mothers leave the room, these infants become extremely distressed, and on reunion, the infants refuse to settle and to resume exploration, clinging to their mothers and at the same time expressing anger and dissatisfaction.

A fourth category of attachment classification was added in 1986 by Main and Solomon because studies showed that there are infants whose behavior does not correspond with any of the three existing classifications. During the Strange Situation, these infants showed sequences of unusual behavior with no clear purpose or orientation (e.g., freezing, falling prone). They seemed to lack an organized strategy for coping with the stress of the situation and looked “confused”; thus, they were classified as having disorganized/disoriented attachment to their caregivers. Disorganized classification is given in addition to one of the other classifications. In normative middle-class populations in North America, approximately 14% of infants are judged to be disorganized. The rate is somewhat higher (24%) in low-socioeconomic status samples.
These patterns are the ones that pertain to children in their primary relationships. As adults, these patterns are known as attachment styles, which suggests more fluid patterns of behaviors. Importantly, however, these styles do shape how we relate to others in intimacy.

One of the key issues in attachment is how the child learns emotional regulation. This definition also comes from the Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology (2004).

Emotional regulation refers to an individual's ability to manage and cope successfully with various levels of emotional arousal, including negative emotions, in response to external events and internal stimulation (e.g., anxiety, excitement). Current views suggest that the attachment system itself provides a basic mechanism for emotional regulation. Studies show that during the years when the attachment relationship is formed, children who develop secure attachment ties to their caregivers express a variety of emotions freely, whereas children who form insecure—avoidant attachment ties tend to inhibit emotions. Overall, studies following children from infancy to early childhood have found that secure children are spontaneous in their expression of a variety of emotions, read the emotional cues of others better, and generally tend to be more emotionally positive. Insecure children, particularly those with an avoidant classification, tend to exhibit minimal emotional expressiveness overall, and particularly restrain the expression of negative emotions. Also, these children tend to misperceive others' emotional displays, and to exhibit inappropriate affect considering the emotional climate of the circumstances (e.g., show anger when expressing positive emotions would be more appropriate).
The ability to self-regulate is crucial to healthy relationships with others. As the definition points out, securely attached children are capable of freely expressing emotions, which is one of key traits in healthy intimate relationships. Those who cannot self-regulate either withdraw or need others to regulate their emotions for them - both styles are very unhealthy and damage intimacy.

This is when begin to see how this material relates to identity development - many theorists are now proposing a self model and an others model in identity development, as noted by
Diehl, Enick, Bourbeau, & Labouvie-Vief (1998):

Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) suggested that if an individual's image of his or her own person and the image of others are dichotomized as being positive or negative, then four prototypes of adult attachment can be distinguished: secure (positive self–positive others), dismissing (positive self–negative others), preoccupied (negative self–positive others), and fearful attachment (negative self–negative others). Conceptually, this four-category model unfolds Bowlby's (1973) general internal working model into a model of the self, indicating the degree to which individuals have internalized a sense of self-worth, and a model of others, indicating the degree to which others are expected to be available and supportive (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991 ; Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994b).
Other variations of adult attachment have also been identified - and Wikipedia actually has one of the best summaries.
Secure attachment:

Securely attached people tend to agree with the following statements: "It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don't worry about being alone or having others not accept me." This style of attachment usually results from a history of warm and responsive interactions with relationship partners. Securely attached people tend to have positive views of themselves and their partners. They also tend to have positive views of their relationships. Often they report greater satisfaction and adjustment in their relationships than people with other attachment styles. Securely attached people feel comfortable both with intimacy and with independence. Many seek to balance intimacy and independence in their relationships.

Insecure attachment:

Anxious-preoccupied attachment

People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to agree with the following statements: "I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don't value me as much as I value them." People with this style of attachment seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from their partners. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent on their partners—a condition colloquially termed clinginess. Compared to securely attached people, people who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to have less positive views about themselves. They often doubt their worth as a partner and blame themselves for their partners' lack of responsiveness. People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry, and impulsiveness in their relationships.

Dismissive-avoidant attachment

People with a dismissive style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with these statements: "I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me." People with this attachment style desire a high level of independence. The desire for independence often appears as an attempt to avoid attachment altogether. They view themselves as self-sufficient and invulnerable to feelings associated with being closely attached to others. They often deny needing close relationships. Some may even view close relationships as relatively unimportant. Not surprisingly, they seek less intimacy with relationship partners, whom they often view less positively than they view themselves. Investigators commonly note the defensive character of this attachment style. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment tend to suppress and hide their feelings, and they tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the sources of rejection (i.e., their relationship partners).

Fearful-avoidant attachment

People with a fearful style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with the following statements: "I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others." People with this attachment style have mixed feelings about close relationships. On the one hand, they desire to have emotionally close relationships. On the other hand, they tend to feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness. These mixed feelings are combined with negative views about themselves and their partners. They commonly view themselves as unworthy of responsiveness from their partners, and they don't trust the intentions of their partners. Similarly to the dismissive-avoidant attachment style, people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style seek less intimacy from partners and frequently suppress and hide their feelings.

Attachment and Masculine Identity

Part of theory I am trying to generate suggests (at this point in the process - but this all continues to evolve as I read more source) is that a man's attachment style helps shape his masculine identity. Most men (apparently 65%) will not suffer from significant attachment issues, and will pass through normal developmental stages (yet to be named) as masculine identity development.

But more than 1/3 of us did not have the advantage of a secure attachment to our mothers or other primary caretaker. These men will pass through the various stages in different ways, or maybe not at all. The type of insecure attachment will determine how and where a man gets stuck in his development - and how to repair that damage.

However, and this is a bit of putting the cart before the horse, Dan Siegel (2007) is teaching us that mindfulness practice provides a form on intrapersonal attunement that can help to heal the failed interpersonal attunement in the attachment period. By paying attention to tour own inner states, we can learn to self-regulate our emotions, can reframe our internal mental representations based on our intrapersonal relationship to our self concept.

But all of this also rewires the brain and makes these changes personal. So even if we did not benefit from the most healthy attachment relationship to our mothers (or other person), we can heal that damage as part of our growth toward a mature and balanced masculine identity.

More to come.

Aidenbaum, A.M. (2006). Mother-Blaming and the Rise of the Expert. Journal of History; University of Michigan; Fall, 2006.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: Assessed in the strange situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Attachment. (2004). In Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Retrieved from

Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226–244.

Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation. New York: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. New York: Basic Books.

Diehl, M., Elnick, A., Bourbeau, L., & Labouvie-Vief, G. (1998). Adult attachment styles: Their relations to family context and personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1656-1669. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1656.

Griffin, D., & Bartholomew, K. (1994b). Models of self and other.Fundamental dimensions underlying measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 430–445.

Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1986). Discovery of a new, insecure-disorganized/disoriented attachment pattern. In M. Yogman & T.B. Brazelton (Eds.), Affective development in infancy (pp.95–124). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Siegel, D. (2007) The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Sommerfeld, D. P. (2006). The origins of mother blaming: Historical perspectives on childhood and motherhood. Infant Mental Health Journal; 10(1):14 - 24. DOI: 10.1002/1097-0355(198921)10:1

Wikipedia. (2010). Attachment in adults.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why Fathers Matter: How Single-Parenthood Affects Animal Brain Development

Cool podcast from Neuroscene.

Recent research seems to indicate that animals raised without fathers exhibit significant reductions in neuronal growth during the immediate post-natal period. And this reduced brain development translates into adverse behavioral issues later on in life – especially among male offspring. Is it possible that human children might experience similar brain effects by being raised in a fatherless environment?

In this podcast, we speak with Dr. Anna Katharina Braun, director of the Institute of Biology at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany, who conducted this study. Dr. Braun recently presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here in Chicago.

Be sure to join us for a fascinating look at the critical role of the father in the brain development of post-natal children.

Direct download: NeuroScene_Podcast_Anna_Katharina_Braun_120809.mp3

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Q&A With Dr. Louann Brizendine, Author of 'The Male Brain'

I'm not sure I buy into this idea that the male brain is simply a female brain "marinated in testosterone" - sounds like a not so subtle form of sexism. I have no doubt that there are neurological differences in the brains, but I tend to believe that some of the greatest differences between men and women are a result of socialization and attachment styles.

By age one, female children make more eye contact than male children. Is this inborn? Or is this a result of female children being raised from day one with more interpersonal emphasis, while male children tend to be allowed to self-soothe?

I'm hesitant to place too much value in these discussion since we know that various within gender expressions is greater than variation between sexes.

Dr. Louann Brizendine Discusses Differences in Male, Female Brains

March 24, 2010

This morning, Dr. Louann Brizendine appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss her research into male hormones and to talk about her new book, "The Male Brain."

Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of the book
Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of the book, "The Male Brain," says research suggests that men with certain genes may be more prone to infidelity.(Getty Images)

Brizendine is the author of the best-selling book, The Female Brain.

In her new book, she uses the latest scientific research to unlock the secrets of the male brain, revealing an often shocking gulf between the sexes.

Here is an interview with Brizendine:

Q: You describe the male brain as a female brain "marinated in testosterone" during gestation. Can you elaborate?

A: We all start out from conception until 8 weeks of fetal life with female-type brain circuits and then the tiny testicles begin to squirt out huge amounts of testosterone that marinate the brain turning it into a male brain. (The combination of male genes on the Y chromosome and testosterone is what makes a male a male.) However, grown-up men still have many of the original brain circuits that started out as female. Males learn and are taught to suppress their emotional expression. So when they grow up they are often too embarrassed to express very much emotion and it's easy for them to hide their feelings because their brain circuits have learned how to hold a stoic poker face.

Q: What other effects does this high level of testosterone have on men?

A: In his teen years, when a boy's testosterone skyrockets, he starts to see the world as an angrier place. He literally reads "neutral" faces as angry. Seeing the angry face increases his own anger and can trigger his aggression circuits. It's a knee jerk reaction that often surprises him. Testosterone can also help to fuel something called autocatalytic anger. This is when a man's anger feeds on itself and grows. A word to the wise: Do not add fuel to this fire. Whatever you have to say can wait until the testosterone surge subsides.

Q: What is the biggest difference between the female and the male brain, what are the biggest similarities?

A: The male and female brain are mostly alike. We are the same species after all. But the differences that do exist are big. The testosterone marination during fetal life makes the area-for-sexual-pursuit in the male hypothalamus grow to be 2.5 times larger than the female and then in the teen boy brain he has 200 to 250% more testosterone than teen girls, which will last his entire life.

Q: Why are there so many problems in communicating between the sexes?

A: Males and females have many different needs and objectives, especially when it comes to mating, sex and child rearing. We tend to approach topics and solve problems using different parts of our brains and that's why we sometimes can't see eye to eye. The key to better communication is understanding how the other person's brain works and how he or she views the world. When a man and woman have that understanding of each other, it is possible to bridge the communication gap.

On the Mating Brain and the Hormone of Monogamy: He either operates as a stay-at-home dad or as a playboy-depending on his vasopressin receptor gene. There is no sure-fire answer for what makes men monogamous (or not), but research on male voles has provided clues. Scientists have found that the prairie vole is monogamous and takes equal responsibility for his offspring. But his cousin, the montane vole, is promiscuous and specializes in one-night stands. The difference between these cousins occurs in the brain. When prairie voles mate, the repeated release of vasopressin during sex causes a change in the male's brain, helping him memorize his partner's smell, touch, and appearance-and leading him to reject all others. The montane male vole's brain also releases vasopressin during sex, but his brain receptors respond differently and do not produce a preference for one female. In humans, the men with a longer vassopressin gene get married and stay married longer according to a study in Sweden--and the men with the shorter gene are more likely to remain promiscuous bachelors. The genes resulting in mono-gamous brain receptors for vasopressin get passed down from father to son. So if you want the best chance of choosing a monogamous male, take a good look at the behavior of his biological father.

On Emotional Intimacy: If you've ever said, "He obviously doesn't care how I feel," this lesson is for you. When faced with an emotionally charged issue, a man's brain switches into analytic mode. His focus is on solving the problem-there's no time for empathy and sympathy for his suffering female partner. After a fight, men often appear to women to be expressionless and shutting down. In fact, the opposite may be true: he's just using a different brain system to try to improve the situation.

Q: Which are the most surprising insights into men you gained?

A: The daddy brain is formed from smelling the pheromones of his pregnant partner. And, that little boys in the classroom learn better when they're allowed to move around, squirm and fidget.

Visit Dr. Louann Brizendine on her Web site at, or click HERE.
Here is an excerpt from the The Male Brain:

Introduction: What Makes A Man

You could say that my whole career prepared me to write my first book, The Female Brain. As a medical student I had been shocked to discover that major scientific research frequently excluded women because it was believed that their menstrual cycles would ruin the data. That meant that large areas of science and medicine used the male as the "default" model for understanding human biology and behavior, and only in the past few years has that really begun to change. My early discovery of this basic inequity led me to base my career at Harvard and the University of California–San Francisco (UCSF) around understanding how hormones affect the female and male brains differently and to found the Women's Mood and Hormone clinic. Ultimately that work led me to write The Female Brain, which addressed the brain structures and hormonal biology that create a uniquely female reality at every stage of life.

The distinct brain structures and hormonal biology in the male similarly produce a uniquely male reality at every stage of life. Yet as I considered writing The Male Brain, nearly everyone I consulted made the same joke: "That will be a short book! Maybe more of a pamphlet." I realized that the idea that the male is the "default model" human being still deeply pervades our culture. The male is considered simple; the female complex.

Yet my clinical work and the research in many fields, from neuroscience to evolutionary biology, show a different picture. Simplifying the entire male brain to just the "brain below the belt" is a good set up for jokes, but it hardly represents the totality of a man's brain. There are also the "seek and pursue" baby boy brain, the "must move or I will die" toddler brain; the sleep-deprived, deeply bored, danger-seeking teen brain; the passionately bonded mating brain; the besotted daddy brain, the obsessed-with-hierarchy aggressive brain and the fix-it-fast emotional brain. In reality, the male brain is a lean mean problem-solving machine.

The vast new body of brain science together with the work I've done with my male patients has convinced me that through every phase of life, the unique brain structures and hormones of boys and men create a "male reality" that is fundamentally different from the female one, and all too frequently oversimplified and misunderstood.

Male and female brains are different from the moment of conception. It seems obvious to say that all the cells in a man's brain and body are male. Yet this means that there are deep differences, at the level of every cell, between the male and female brain. A male cell has a Y chromosome and the female does not. That small, but significant difference begins to play out early in the brain as genes set the stage for later amplification by hormones. By eight weeks after conception the tiny male testicles begin to produce enough testosterone to marinate the brain and fundamentally alter its structure.

Over the course of a man's life, the brain will be formed and re-formed according to a blueprint drafted both by genes and male sex hormones. And this male brain biology produces his distinctly male behaviors.

The Male Brain draws on my twenty-five years of clinical experience as a neuropsychiatrist. It presents research findings from the spectacular advances over the past decade in our understanding of developmental neuroendocrinology, genetics, and molecular neuroscience. It offers samplings from neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, child development, brain imaging, and psychoneuroendocrinology. It explores primatology, animal studies, and observation of infants, children, and teens, seeking insights into how particular behaviors are programmed into the male brain by a combination of nature and nurture.

During this time, advances in genetics, electrophysiology and noninvasive brain-mapping technology have ignited a revolution in neuroscientific research and theory. Powerful new scientific tools, such as genetic and chemical tracers, positron-emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), now allow us to see inside the working human brain while it's solving problems, producing words, retrieving memories, making decisions, noticing facial expression, falling in love, listening to babies cry, and feeling anger, sadness or fear. As a result, scientists have recorded a catalog of genetic, structural, chemical, hormonal and processing brain differences between women and men.

In the female brain, the hormones estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin predispose brain circuits toward female-typical behaviors. In the male brain, it's testosterone, vasopressin and a hormone called MIS (mullerian inhibiting substance) that have some of the earliest and most enduring effects. The behavioral influences of male and female hormones on the brain are major. We have learned that men use different brain circuits to process spatial information and solve emotional problems. Their brain circuits and nervous system are wired to their muscles differently—especially in the face. The female and male brains hear, see, intuit, and gauge what others are feeling in their own special ways. Overall, the brain circuits in male and female brains are very similar, but men and women can arrive at and accomplish the same goals and tasks using different circuits.

We also know that men have two and a half times the brain space devoted to sexual drive in their hypothalamus. Sexual thoughts flicker in the background of a man's visual cortex all day and night, making him always at the ready for seizing sexual opportunity. Women don't always realize that the penis has a mind of its own—for neurological reasons. And mating is as important to men as it is to women. Once a man's love and lust circuits are in sync, he falls just as head over heels in love as a woman – perhaps even more so. When a baby is on the way, the male brain changes in specific and dramatic ways to form the daddy brain.

Men also have larger brain centers for muscular action and aggression. His brain circuits for mate protection and territorial defense are hormonally primed for action starting at puberty. Pecking order and hierarchy matter more deeply to men than most women realize. Men also have larger processors in the core of the most primitive area of the brain, which registers fear and triggers protective aggression – the amygdala. This is why some men will fight to the death defending their loved ones. What's more, when faced with a loved one's emotional distress, his brain area for problem solving and fixing the situation will immediately spark.

Read more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revolutionary Man - The Elixir of Radical Personal and Spiritual Development

Another good article from Jayson Gaddis at the Revolutionary Man blog. I am a huge fan of relationship as a spiritual practice - we only go so far on our own, then we need to be in an intimate relationship that can push our hidden buttons to continue growing.

The Elixir of Radical Personal and Spiritual Development

Tue, Mar 16, 2010

Photo by Josh Levin

Photo by Josh Levin

In my humble opinion radical personal development has one powerful process and its core.

Knowing and living this one gem can be the difference between the relentless self-improvement project and experiencing true joy, abundance, and fulfillment, especially for men who are habitually geared toward “improving” and “being better.”

So, what is this process?


That’s right. Love in every form. From self-love, to loving others, and even loving things.

“Loving” is the process by which we transform, evolve and open to greater and greater aspects of ourselves. Typically the process of loving happens within the context of relationships, a major pain and pleasure experience for most men.

If you are a normal man, you have struggled in the realm of relationships. Perhaps you have had your heart broken, been betrayed, or maybe you have experienced great pain in losing a loved one.

Love shows up in our “relationship” to family, friends, pets, co-workers, race, politics, money, the environment, and of course, our relationship to ourselves. And, like most men, you might attempt to tackle your relationship problems with more doing, acheiving, trying harder, and more problem solving. But if you desire more fulfilling relationships, try setting aside your current masculine approach and lean into loving as your “way.”

If amazing relationships are your destination, loving (adjective and verb) is the path to get there.

Pour genuine love into just about any kind of relationship and you will get results you were not getting before. Learn how to open your heart in your relationships and your relationships will evolve and deepen. Give some love to yourself and you will find over time that your personal blocks, issues, and challenges transform. Love your demons, your fear, and the parts of yourself you don’t like and something powerful begins to occur. Love is what transforms your judgments of others (which are disowned judgments of yourself) into acceptance.

I’m here to purport that love is the greatest medicine in personal and spiritual development.

As Carl Jung says,

“Love is the dynamism that most infallibly

brings the unconscious to the light.”

Try it on that you are either opening to love or contracting away from love. Anything else is an ego-building project. More status, money, fame, power, are all just another ego trip.

Love is who you are at the most fundamental level. It is the main food you survived on during infancy and childhood, and the teaching you likely delivered to your parents during that precious time.

This concept is something I thought I understood for years. I remember when I was 21 listening to the Samples song about loving myself. It made sense. In that moment I realized I kinda loved myself. Looking back, I had no idea about what that really meant or what was possible with love. I had layers upon layers of self-protection that were unconscious to me and I was pretty unhappy.

If I am honest with myself, I spend most of my time in subtle levels of contraction. However, slowly over time that is shifting. Parenting, my men’s group, my marriage, and my life keep pointing me toward greater love. As any of you parents know, a new baby in your life can crack the dam open pretty wide. It continues to crack, some days it bursts open and my love comes ripping out like a mountain torrent. Other days my love is just a trickle, and some moments, my love is well hidden far behind the dam, which, in those moments seems impenetrable.

Loving is changing how I work with people and the view I take on the personal development path. I know there is an endless well of depth and profundity to me experiencing love. I’m suggesting the same for you.

So, I’m here to challenge you to join me in opening to greater and greater love in the context of your relationships and your life. Why not? What do you have to loose? Think about a world where you and others exuded love most waking hours?

To me opening one’s heart is the hardest practice of all. Much harder than climbing big peaks, going to med school (so I’ve been told), being lost in the wilderness, or even starting a business. A man’s relationship to his work, his family, his partner, his guy friends, and his environment can all be enhanced with serious and frequent doses of love.

Since, loving might just be the hardest practice, here are some basic tips to love more and more.

First, get honest and think of your relationship to love. How much do you feel love? Do you know what it feels like? What is more of an edge for you– giving or receiving love? Big picture in life and with your intimate partner or lover. For many men receiving love is a much steeper path. Receiving love is largely a feminine process and most guys are simply not in touch with the feminine aspect of themselves. I struggle with both but my greater challenge is in receiving love.

Here are some signs that you could use some help receiving love:

  • You always have to be “on top” during sex.
  • You are great and helping others and being there for friends, but you never ask for, or need, help.
  • You blow off compliments and affirmations with a compliment back, without first taking a breath and letting what the person said sink in and impact you.
  • You like to be in control and be the leader.
  • You have a hard time relaxing and doing nothing.

Signs that you are challenged by giving love:

  • You resist giving a genuine compliment to a co-worker, lover, or friend.
  • You hoard things in your life such as money.
  • You are territorial
  • You say things to yourself like “I am not going to drop the “L bomb” on her until I really feel it.
  • You withhold your love for the “right relationship.”
  • You judge, hate, blame, shame, and make fun of others.
  • You believe that gays are bad, criminals should be locked up forever or killed, and you think anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is going to hell.
  • You see giving your love as someone potentially taking something from you.

Now, on to the practices.

I am practicing most of these daily. I suggest that you choose the ones that fit you and your life.

Warning: Only do these if you want to experience more love in your life. If you prefer contraction, being shut down, or have a stronger allegiance to your fear, please skip these practices and see if you can genuinely love where you are at instead of judging yourself. Seriously.

Go read his suggestions for practicing greater love.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Slate - Omega Males and the Women Who Hate Them

This is an interesting article pointed out to me by a FB friend - a woman. The article makes some good points about the inability of masculine role ideals to adapt to the changing cultural landscape.

However, it also makes some stereotypical assumptions about men who have opted out of traditional masculinity. I'm willing to grant that the four types Grose identifies probably exist. There are others of us who have opted out of those stale gender roles and are not these "losers," nor are we alpha males.

We are individuated men - secure in our masculinity - who have rejected dominance as a valid part of manhood, and who are also able to express compassion and emotions, able to be soft without being mushy. We are whole.

Omega Males and the Women Who Hate Them

They're unemployed, romantically challenged, and they're everywhere.

Ben Stiller in Greenberg. Click image to expand.

In the Noah Baumbach movie Greenberg, out in limited release this Friday, the eponymous main character is having trouble being a man. The 41-year-old Greenberg, played by Ben Stiller, tells his 25-year-old love interest that when he was a kid he dreamed of being an astronaut. Now he can't even drive, much less pilot a shuttle. He sabotaged his career as a musician, so he's trying the old-fashioned, manly pursuit of carpentry. He pretends not to care about his new line of work—he tells his friends he's doing "nothing for a while"—yet Greenberg is seriously wounded when an ex-girlfriend tells him she doesn't remember the bed he built for her. All she recalls are his anxiety attacks.

Greenberg is pretty much the fictional representation of the masculinity crisis that Susan Faludi outlined in her 1999 book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Men like Greenberg, Faludi argued, were led to believe as boys that they were "going to be the master of the universe and all that was in it," that they'd be astronauts conquering the final space frontier or, at the very least, that they would master a lifelong stable job and a healthy family. But by the '90s, Greenberg types found themselves "masters of nothing." The latest recession is only making it more so, as job security becomes a fantasy for many, and marriage rates plummet.

And yet men are still tragically unable to retool. The image of the American woman has gone through several upheavals since the 1950s, but the masculine ideal seems fixed in cultural aspic: Think slick ad executive Don Draper in Mad Men and the WWII heroes in the Tom Hanks-produced HBO series The Pacific. So his confused, paralyzed counterpart is cropping up in ever-more variations on TV and in movies: the omega male.

In the social hierarchy of a wolf pack in captivity, the omega ranks below the alpha and beta wolves. In human terms, if an executive or a warrior is an alpha male and a nice-guy middle manager like The Office's Jim Halpert is a beta male, then Greenberg and his brethren are omega males. While the alpha male wants to dominate and the beta male just wants to get by, the omega male has either opted out or, if he used to try, given up. Greenberg says of his somewhat stunted best friend, "We call each other 'man,' but it's a joke. It's like imitating other people." The omega male is not experiencing the tired trope of the midlife crisis. A midlife crisis implies agency, a man who has the job and the family and chooses to reject it. The omega male doesn't have the power to reject anything—he's the one who has been brushed off. He's generally unemployed, and his romantic relationships are in shambles—he's either single or, if he's married, not happy about it. "I'm doing nothing and I'm tied to no one," Greenberg boasts.

As a seemingly educated guy who travels in culturally elite circles, Greenberg is just one variety of omega male. Here's a taxonomy of the different types you might find skulking across the small and large screens.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

The Liberal Arts Layabout: Since he's hanging out with successful artist types, Greenberg falls into this category, along with other Noah Baumbach characters (Jack Black in Margot at the Wedding, Chris Eigeman in Kicking and Screaming) and every role that Jason Schwartzman has ever played. They are usually failed artists of some sort, often surrounded by more successful friends and relatives. The bitter ones—Greenberg, Chris Eigeman—hide their inability to live up to the demands of the world with cynicism verging on cruelty. For example, after yelling, unprovoked, at his young lover Florence, Greenberg tells her that it's partially her fault and that she should "take some responsibility for trying to see me." The sweeter ones—Jason Schwartzman in Bored to Death—retreat to an elaborate fantasy world. In Bored to Death, Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames, a writer whose career has stalled. He decides to become an amateur private eye after reading too many pulp novels and is mostly incompetent at his new fake job.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

The Mimbo: Unlike the liberal arts layabout, the mimbo revels in not participating in mainstream masculine culture. This character is very good-looking (hence the contraction—male bimbo) but doesn't necessarily use his looks for personal gain. Mimbos of TV and film include Cougar Town's Brian Van Holt, who plays the lead character's hapless, underemployed golf-pro ex-husband, and Dax Shepard's vain "male model" in When in Rome. Though Shepard's character is obsessed with his own "shredded" physique, he can't make it translate into gainful employment or public adulation: The photos in his modeling book were all done on spec, and when he takes his shirt off in a cafe, everyone hectors him to put it back on. Despite his lack of steady employment or fulfilling relationships, Van Holt's Cougar Town character, Bobby Cobb, is so secure in his alternative masculinity that in a recent episode he was not even embarrassed when he was beaten up and robbed by a woman.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Beer Guy: As Kerry Howley pointed out in an XX Factor post from earlier this year, beer guy appeared in many of the sexist ads that ran during the Super Bowl. There are two variations on this type: original beer guy and sad beer guy. Original beer guy is a mimbo gone to seed. He's a happy couch potato, crashing a book club with his buddies from the softball league just to score some Bud Light. He is unbothered by his inability to live up to the masculine ideal—unlike sad beer guy, who is hyperaware of the fact that he is falling short. The middle-aged dudes on Men of a Certain Age—an unemployed actor, a man whose marriage fell apart because of his gambling addiction, and an unhappy car salesman—are sad beer guys. So are the miserable-looking men in the infamous Dodge Charger Super Bowl ad who appeared to be crushed by the responsibilities of their days, which didn't just include working long hours but also dealing with the demands of their wives. As a New Jersey Star-Ledger review of Men of a Certain Age says of Ray Romano's character in that show, "Joe is a man who misses his wife, cares about his kids, depends on his friends but also feels like he should be doing better with all of them, if he could only figure out how."

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

The Game Boy:
The Apatovian stoners and the passive lads of Grandma's Boy (whom Reihan Salam termed beta males in this Slate article from 2006) are exemplary game boys. These men live in a perpetually adolescent zone, ignoring adult responsibilities unless they are forced to consider them. If they're employed, it's playing video games (Grandma's Boy) or creating a redundant Web site listing movie nude scenes (as in the Apatow flick Knocked Up). The newest entry in the game-boy posse is the star of She's Out of My League, Apatow crony Jay Baruchel. In that movie, Baruchel plays a nebbishy TSA airport screener who somehow nabs a blond, hot event-planner with a law degree. Though Baruchel may get the girl at the end of the film, as EW reviewer Owen Gleiberman writes, "He's a socially inept underachiever who works in airport security, and she's a high-end event planner who oozes poise and would never be drawn to such a gawky, shambling loser." Sounds like the writers are stuck in the same game-boy male dream-world that their characters inhabit.