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Masculinity and its Discontents

The Male Psyche and the Inherent Tensions of Maturing Manhood


  • Author: Michael J. Diamond

  • Publisher: Routledge

  • ISBN: 978-0367724047

  • 1st Edition

  • Publication date: June 25, 2021

  • Pages: 152

  • Copyright Year: 2021


Offering a uniquely psychoanalytic developmental perspective on male gender identity and the sense of maleness, this book provides an in-depth analysis of the development of masculinity in childhood and its continued evolution throughout a man’s life. Drawing on classical as well as on more contemporary psychoanalytic theories, this book explores early infancy and child development, preoedipal factors and the oedipal complex, the influence of parenting and the unconscious transmission of gendered factors by mothers and both biological and symbolic fathers, the male ego ideal, social, cultural, and biological influences, the role of inherent psychic bigenderality in the context of gender binaries, and inevitable gendered tensions and challenges.

This book’s uniquely original contribution resides in its characterization of the male developmental trajectory as grounded in conflict and tensions throughout the life cycle. Though often deeply rooted in the unconscious, a man’s multiply determined sense of masculinity can be usefully explored by deconstructing the mother, the feminine, and the other in the male psyche.

As the text illustrates via clinical vignettes, this book is of considerable clinical value to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and other mental health practitioners working with men who struggle with the intrinsic conflicts in their sense of maleness. In addition, this creative and original contribution will stimulate the thinking of scholars in such areas as gender theory, psychodynamic and sociocultural aspects of gender roles, and the changing social definition of masculinity.


Why I Wrote This Book

This book represents the culmination of many decades of my exploration of the realm of masculinity and the male psyche through my clinical work, writing, and interactions with and learning from many colleagues interested in gender-related issues, all of which have led to a number of previous publications. Though most of the ideas presented in this book are based on my long-term, extensive clinical and personal experience, along with those of other analysts writing in this area, nonetheless—as with so many psychoanalytic concepts and terms—many of these ideas are greatly impacted by cultural, geographical, and generational factors, as well as situated at the level of well-educated hunches.

As a psychoanalyst, I believe that, while the basic tensions inherent in navigating gender will remain a part of the human psyche, we can nonetheless observe radical and widespread changes in sociocultural notions of masculinity and femininity and in other facets of identity, including racial and ethnic constructions. Thus, the ways in which we view and experience masculinity are evolving among the younger generations, particularly millennials and those from Gen Z, and we can predict that these variations will expand upon many of the ideas discussed in this book.


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"A leading psychoanalytic clinician scholar in gender studies, Michael J. Diamond excitingly offers this comprehensive new work on maleness. With impressive skill and deeply compassionate knowledge, he creates a richly textured sense of men’s gendered internal aspirations and lived intentions as these inhabit their bodies and animate their peopled worlds. He draws on modern Freudian theory and other psychoanalytic approaches to reveal the complex developmental struggle that men must undergo to build their identities and roles. This is a must-read, must-teach book for all psychoanalytic psychotherapists and advanced readers curious about how a man becomes known to himself." Rosemary H. Balsam, F.R.C.Psych. (London), M.R.C.P. (Edinburgh), Yale Medical School, Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis; author of Women’s Bodies in Psychoanalysis (2012) and is a 2018 recipient of the Sigourney Award.
"By way of this book’s provocative title, Michael J. Diamond elegantly links the covert frailties of "masculinity" to the covert frailties of its encircling "civilization." Diamond more than delivers on the title’s promise. His notion of primordial vulnerability illuminates an actual bedrock, a human one, and offers a much-needed antidote to Freud’s restrictive notion that, for men, castration anxiety can always claim the last word. Employing a wide theoretical range, Diamond’s argument reaches back more than a century and, ever alert to his contemporary surround, he points us forward toward a time when we might all think more clearly and work more effectively on the actual sources of our shared discontents". Donald B. Moss, M.D., is the author of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man (2012) and Hating in the First Person Plural (2003). He is also Chair of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Program Committee.
"In this insightful book, Michael J. Diamond brings together decades of his impressive psychoanalytic scholarship on male identity formation pressured by cultural ideals of manhood. Diamond underscores the tenuous nature of masculinity, detailing the vulnerabilities inherent in male development within familial and societal contexts. Each chapter’s extended clinical material illustrates much clinical sensitivity and wisdom from a seasoned analyst. His approach is poignant and humble; this is an attuned guide for clinicians wanting to understand more deeply their work with men." Dianne Elise, Ph.D., is the author of Creativity and the Erotic Dimensions of the Analytic Field (2019).
"Michael J. Diamond’s steadfast devotion to capturing and narrating the lives of boys and men is unparalleled in psychoanalysis. His decades-long effort culminates in Masculinity and Its Discontents, in which he expands upon his long-held interest in fathers and sons, elaborates on boys’ relationships with their mothers, and contemplates sociocultural influences on gender. Of particular interest to many readers will be his extended case studies, which Diamond employs to bring his theorizing to life." Ken Corbett, Ph.D., author of Masculinities (2009) and A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High (2016).
"Michael J. Diamond offers us an exceptionally deep and thought-provoking journey into the fluid interiority of fully realized manhood. In recent times, feminism and female development have received powerful attention, whereas masculinity and its discontents, its developmental trajectory and bigenderality, have never been so carefully considered. Diamond integrates personal experience, psychoanalytic practice, social science training, and immense intellectual and cultural breadth to create a treatise on male development that will stand as a classic. The structure of the book is creative and informative. Each chapter begins with a summary and ends with rich clinical material. This is an inspiring addition to the study of gender." Harriet L. Wolfe, M.D., is President-elect of the International Psychoanalytical Association and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California San Francisco.
"Masculinity and Its Discontents: The Male Psyche and the Inherent Tension of Maturing Manhood, by Michael J. Diamond, is a landmark in psychoanalytic thinking and in our literature given its clear, insightful, theoretically and clinically based study of masculinity and the development of male gender identity. This exceptional book is not only essential for all clinical analysts---both experienced ones and those at the beginning of their careers---as a way to better understand patients, but it also comes at a particular sociocultural moment in which we need to face up to many misunderstandings and negative views about what mature manhood means. I strongly recommend it to analysts and to other readers who already know that psychoanalysis is helpful in understanding human and gender development, but who stand to learn a great deal more from this informative book." Cláudio Laks Eizirik, M.D., Ph.D., is a Training and Supervising Analyst, Porto Alegre Psychoanalytic Society (Brazil); Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul; and former President of the International Psychoanalytical Association.
"How to be a man today? How to be a father? How do parents shape the gender identity of their sons? What conflicts influence lifelong male development in times of fluid gender identities? Based on his considerable clinical experience and careful investigations in the psychoanalysis of men and their psychosexual development, internationally renowned expert Michael J. Diamond addresses these questions. A unique feature of the book is Diamond’s impressively comprehensible presentation of the concept of psychic bigenderality to refer to a permanent tension between the inner masculine and feminine" Professor Martin Teising is former President of the International Psychoanalytic University in Berlin and is the author of numerous books and articles on masculinity and male development.
"Masculinity and Its Discontents: The Male Psyche and the Inherent Tensions of Maturing Manhood represents a long overdue critique and revision of our psychoanalytic understanding of male identity and development. In offering a more complex theory of masculinity that rejects outdated binary reasoning to view male identity as an ongoing dynamic process that requires incorporating rather than rejecting the feminine, Michael J. Diamond draws on multiple disciplines, including contemporary psychoanalysis, neuroscience, gender and attachment theory, and cross-cultural studies. Given its theoretical richness supported by experience-near clinical material, I have no doubt that this book will become required reading for clinicians, students, and academics across disciplines." Christopher Christian is Editor-in-Chief of Psychoanalytic Psychology; a Training and Supervising Analyst and past Dean of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research; and the co-editor of Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Conflict (2017, with Morris Eagle and David Wolitzky) and Psychoanalysis in the Barrios: Race, Class, and the Unconscious (2018, with Patricia Gherovici).


“Michael Diamond...offers a unique and much-needed guide to understanding male psychology. Diamond has built a body of work that is unparalleled for its sustained, careful, and thoughtful exploration of the male psyche. The book, sophisticated theoretically and well-grounded in the author's creative work with male patients, provides both an indispensable guide for the working clinician and an essential foundation for understanding aspects of our contemporary man problem. Taking an important, and often neglected, life cycle perspective on the evolution of masculinity....[he] discusses the experience of ‘the feminine’ within the male psyche [and] shows us the value of an empathic exploration of the complex challenges of male development. He puts the experiences of male fragility and the quest to prove one’s masculinity within a developmental perspective and shows how a sensitive clinical approach can lead to the resolution of developmental fixation points and the diminishing of defensive behavior.” — Psychoanalytic Psychology

"This book makes a detailed psychoanalytic exploration of maleness and the male psyche and how it comes into being ... as a developmental trajectory rather than as inborn and static. [Diamond] writes with understanding about young people existing in ... a trans domain, ... and pays careful attention to self-experience in which gender role identity may be different from core gender identity at birth. The heart of the book ... [is] ... of enormous value to men ... about how to try to be in the world if not being phallic, thrusting, 'successful' and potent in ... an increasingly narcissistic way which excludes or dominates the other. I recommend this book to those wanting to consider maleness, gender, male sexuality, and how one might think differently about the male sexual and gendered self." Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations

"Michael J. Diamond has successfully integrated a wealth of theory and clinical evidence about the gender development of boys as they become men. He … has added to and embellished Freud’s legacy with today’s pluralistic ideas and concepts. This book … delineates the path by which a boy becomes a man. As such, Diamond’s book is a welcome step in this direction for our field, … helping us to understand the unresolved childish anxieties that linger throughout life when men have had to, as little boys, not shed tears, act like little soldiers, be brave, and so on. Several cases are presented to demonstrate the author’s clinical work in helping his male patients evolve toward a more fluid gender … [explaining] that the analyst himself must arrive at psychic bigenderality. Reading this book has been a most valuable experience." Psychoanalytic Quarterly


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