Lately, I have been having dreams of my high school years. Many of these years involve specific memories of my failures on the gridiron. Missed tackles. Blown assignments. Not giving enough effort. The inevitable fear that I always played with. Being screamed at by coaches and taking this to mean that I was worthless and not worthy of the team. As I have reflected upon these dreams, I have wondered, what is the meaning of this?
Psychologist and cultural commentator Jordan Peterson once said that “dreams are hard to interpret, but they never lie.” I take that as sound, logical insight. I believe that my dreams are speaking something true about my soul that is unresolved. Truth be told, I would say that most of my coaches were high school boys in adult bodies, and really unable to lead me into a deeper sense of maturity.
Often times, my coaches and teammates would say that sports teach us “the game of life.” I think that is true. The situations that come up during games replay themselves out throughout our work, family, and general lives. To use a term coined by the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung, sports bring out archetypal situations that we will encounter over and over again throughout our lives. As I have stopped and reflected on the meaning of my recent dreams, it seems to me that something damaging happened to me that my soul is trying to heal from.
The Need for Adventure, a Battle to Fight, and a Beauty to Rescue
Since I began my recovery journey, I have been introduced to the subject of male initiation and the uniqueness of the masculine soul. People both inside and outside my home 12-step group have referred me to a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.
Eldredge sets the framework of his book by describing how our culture perceives and forms men. He argues that “the way a man’s life unfolds nowadays tends to drive his heart into remote regions of the soul. Endless hours at a computer screen; selling shoes at the mall; meetings, memos, phone calls. The business world—where the majority of American men live and die—requires a man to be efficient and punctual.” But if this is the status quo, what on earth is wrong with it?
In short, Eldredge argues that every man needs to know that he is powerful. That he is courageous. That he is capable. That he is willing to take risks. That he is attractive to women. As he puts it, “deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
I can speak from my heart that my masculine soul has been damaged by my relationship with my father or, really, a lack thereof. My life has been a desperate attempt to find a man who is proud of me. It’s a hole that I’ve realized is so deep that no man can really fill it. Related to this, I struggle with confidence, which has been a source of conflict for me in my dating life. My pornography usage in some way has been an escape from addressing this reality.
But this realization has led me to turn to my heavenly Father, which in turn has led me to the blessings of many different relationships with male mentors who help reveal aspects of Him.
Towards Healing: Finding and Accepting Good Mentors
While in inpatient rehab, I once asked the question to a group of men, “How many of you do you think would be here if you have a good relationship with your father?” Most of them looked at me for a second and then put their heads down. I think all of them knew that there are many causes of addiction, but that I was touching on the heart of the matter.
A father gives us more than just life, but a direction in life. Fathers help bring us into dangerous and new situations, while at the same time providing us a boundary to know when enough is enough. Without this important relationship, it can be easy to see why some men are led to engage in dangerous or self-destructive behaviors to compensate in some way for this wound.
The father wound runs rampant and deep. But even if we aren’t deeply affected in this way, each new turn in life provides situations that baffle even the most ambitious and capable men. Though we often don’t recognize it (or deny it), we are meant to have guides to show us how to be good men. In a world obsessed with left-brained, analytical thinking and science, we overlook the symbolic undertones that pattern a man’s journey towards integration and real strength.
Many of my previous posts have included mentions of men that I’ve met inside and outside the program who have helped me become a more integrated person. This is a profound life lesson that I’ve gleaned from the recovery process. I can absolutely say that my life has been blessed a thousand times over by my mentors. And the best news? I know that there will be many more to come!
One of my prayers is that we build a society that recognizes this profound and life-long need for father figures. One time I asked one of my mentors (who is in his 50s) this question: “Do you ever stop having the need for a father?” He paused, caught a little bit off guard by my deep question, and then responded, “No, no you don’t.” And that’s not exactly a bad thing.
How has your recovery journey helped heal your masculine soul? What mentors have helped you in your recovery journey and in life in general? If you’re married, how has the love of your spouse propelled you in your recovery journey?
Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.