Men’s human rights activism by default

A few years ago I had occasion to consult a local psychologist. During our first meeting, he flagged his main therapeutic strategy for, what it seems, all problems of a psychological nature and for every patient. His mainstay one cure for all ills was, and still is (to my knowledge), meditation.

During our increasingly frank exchange of views about meditation, he happened to mention that it has helped him to assist another male client to “stop beating his wife”, to paraphrase the conversation.

I went away from this first session and thought for some time about this and the simple connection that this professional had adopted and the underlying assumed belief system.

I then went back to Paul Elam’s presentation called “A Psychology Of Hate” and printed out a copy to take with me for our next session.

At the beginning of this encounter, I notified him that I required him to either read this, or allow me to read it to him then and there and to hear his response. I explained that I needed to have some impression of his response to it in order to engage with him with the necessary confidence for a theraupetic relationship to develop. Or, alternatively, to choose to not continue with therapy, as the case may be.

He asked me to read it out.

He started to smile during my words and when I finished, he said simply; “this would not survive scientific scrutiny”, or words to that effect. I was a bit stunned and did not expect such a blunt rebuttal. I simply asked him if he would be receptive to some information that I could forward to him by email and to my surprise he said yes.

So I went home and did a quick bit of research for some information that would unequivocally qualify as “scientific” in the mind of any ideologue.

The first document I dug out of my files was the now famous, (or I hope that it is famous!), report by Murray Straus titled Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment.

I most likely read this first on the AVFM website. I sent a copy of this off to the psychologist. He replied courteously that he would take it with him on his summer break and read it then. He thanked me kindly for bothering to forward it to him.

Several weeks went by and I began to assume that I would not hear anymore from him, when I received a response. To my lasting astonishment, his email reply was most positive; to the extent that he admitted he had tears in his eyes while reading it and that he had already adjusted his treatment policy towards at least one male client. He thanked me profusely and I have no reason to doubt his complete sincerity in this regard. I was quite stunned to be honest.

After a bit of thought and acceptance, that which started as a diametrically opposite set of trenchantly held viewpoints had resolved into the beginning of a mutually shared position. Or to put it another way, the first step in such a resolution had happened.

This in turn had quite a positive effect on me and I felt a certain sense of pride that I was able to articulate my position regarding gender and the current zeitgeist, and present some compelling scientific evidence to support it. This in itself had a therapeutic effect on me; just being truly heard. One of my early life problems with my oppressive father, was not being heard. Or more to the point; never being heard.

Throughout my exchange with this psychologist we both conducted ourselves well; something we both can be proud of. I did choose not to continue consulting this fellow in a professional capacity, but I do bump into him socially on odd occasions. We remain on good terms which is gratifying.

I have a long history of being reactive in similar situations. Not always the diplomat. So it was a constructive exercise all round.

Activism by default?

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