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A Frightened Child Hiding Inside a “Macho”

Posted October. 11, 2006 06:49,   


“The Seven Male Complexes” is written not by men but by women. The authors state in the introduction, “We will start the difficult job of reassessing men’s lives through the female perspective,” and their attempt is significant in that men are no longer the enemy but companions. For the men, they may come to understand themselves as reflected in women’s eyes and reflect on their attitudes as males living in Korean society.

In this book, the authors meticulously analyze complexes pertaining to the male role based on questions and answers. The male complexes introduced in this book reflect the gap in the self that outwardly attempts to protect the “strong and competent male” that traditional males strive for but which inwardly, secretly pursues the opposite.

This gap is well reflected in the duplicitous behavior where a man with an “Ondal (fable of a prince that gained fame with the help of his wife) Complex” would announce, “I won’t live with my wife’s family if I had three sacks of barley,” but inwardly wishes, “Wouldn’t it be nice if my wife or her family is well off financially…”.

According to the psychologist Carl Rogers, a gap forms between the ideal and real self by denying the reality experienced by the self in the process of attempting to match the expectations of others, and more stress is experienced when the gap is greater. In other words, Korean men who live double lives are bound to face stress.

How should Korean men who are essentially “scared children hiding under the mask of heroes” face the challenges of the nuclearization of traditional families, unstable job markets, and expectations of the rapidly changing job market? The authors form a tentative conclusion by stating, “Men need the courage to cry more than lonely men who grasp at empty conceptions of power, to talk about their pain and sadness, to listen to others, and to be loved by their families.”

While in agreement, a point that should have been considered is a warmer perspective on how Korean men aided in the development of households and the society. The authors look at men through a negative perspective such as “the lonely father” or the figure who cannot change with the times and hold on to “masculinity” or the “empty conceptions of power,” but they cannot deny that their efforts for their family and their striving for success were the key to the development of the modern Korean society.

As the psychologists Miller and Rolnick saw polar emotions as essential to change, change will not be needed when satisfied with the present situation. Instead of negatively viewing the gap between the exaggerated exterior and shrinking self-image manifested in male complexes, perhaps a more positive light should be shed by viewing it as the pains necessary to adjust to changing times and the intent inside for change.

“The Seven Male Complexes” is a significant attempt to emphasize the importance of change in order to create a society in which men and women can live as equal companions.