Mens’ Quest For Wholeness: Conselling Needs Of Pakeha Males

Mens’ Quest For Wholeness:
Conselling Needs Of Pakeha Males

Philip Culbertson

In this chapter I will claim that one of the most significant factors explaining the high levels of domestic and public violence in New Zealand is the definition of masculinity that Pakeha men have inherited and the risks and demands for men who attempt to achieve it. In order to comprehend the extreme stress which the Pakeha definition of masculinity places on
men, we need to begin by understanding how culture-specific every definition of masculinity (and femininity) is. Next we need to review how this Pakeha definition developed as a result of the history of European settlers and settlements in this country, leading to a summary composite of “manliness” in Pakeha tradition. Finally, this chapter will address some therapeutic methodologies which counselors might employ to support Pakeha men in their struggle toward a more holistic identity which refuses to take the traditional expectations of Pakeha masculinity at face value.

“It is very hard for a Kiwi to admit that he is half woman” (Baxter, 1990, 199)

New Zealand statistics suggest that our men are in trouble:

  • 80% of alcohol sold is consumed by men.
  • Six times more young men than young women commit suicide (Shenon, 1995; see also “Boys have …”, 1995).
  • 94% of drunk drivers are males.
  • The country has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world.
  • 86% of all violent offenders are males.
  • Of the 71 homicides in New Zealand in 1995, 60 were committed by men.

In spite of the domestic violence statistics, 76% of admissions to hospital resulting from assault are males, almost always the victims of other men. Wholeness and integration seem to elude men in New Zealand, and the counselor is challenged to take gender issues in the counselling relationship seriously.

The Construction of Gender

When I first arrived in New Zealand to teach at tertiary level, I included in my syllabus two books which I had written in America on some psychological and spiritual issues for men (Culbertson, 1992, 1994). A number of male students responded that while they had learned a great deal from reading the books, the fit between my theories and their experience of being men in New Zealand was not always a successful one. The problem was that the American definition of masculinity and its resultant issues was not identical with the Pakeha definition of masculinity and its resultant issues.

To begin, a distinction must be made between “sex” and “gender”. According to sociologists Candace West and Don Zimmerman: “Sex is a determination made through the application of socially agreed upon biological criteria for classifying persons as females or males” (West and Zimmerman, 1991, 14). Ordinarily such classification is assigned to babies immediately at birth (“It’s a boy!”), based on whether the baby has a vagina or a penis. Gender has been more difficult to define, but is generally agreed to be primarily a socially- or culturally-determined artifice, or as West and Zimmerman define, “a socially scripted dramatization of the cultural idealization of feminine and masculine natures” (1991, 17; see also Novitz, 1990). James K. Baxter uses the term “civil fiction” to define the same artifice (Jensen, 1996, 114).

In addition to social and cultural determinations, I believe we need also to recognize historical determinations/definitions of gender which are based on the cumulative heritage of how men and women had to learn to behave in order to cope with a variety of sequential historical conditions. Whether gender is defined socially, culturally, or historically, its definitions are systemically inherited from one generation to the next, and each
generation must decide whether to adopt or adapt what it has received. One may be born a male, but manliness and masculinity have to be achieved, or even earned (Mailer, 1968, 25). Whether one has achieved masculinity is based on a whole series of standards and definitions which are quite culture-specific, though not usually spelled out systematically.

The standards of definition are for the most part unique to the culture in which the male is living. The lack of congruence between one’s assigned biological sex (male) and one’s nature, characteristics, and behaviours (manliness, masculinity) usually results in a significant degree of interpersonal and internalized shaming. For example, during the 1981 Springboks Tour demonstrations, men who supported the tour attempted to shame men who opposed the tour by calling them “pansies” or “poofters” – a traditional expression of the feared incongruity between a person’s maleness and his success at achieving masculinity (Phillips, 1996, 262).

Many anthropologists claim there is an essentialist definition of masculinity which is pan-cultural. For example, David Gilmore claims that in every culture, men are expected to carry out the roles of Protector, Provider, and Procreator (Gilmore, 1990). Such a pan-cultural definition might be termed “the mythic masculine” and functions in the same manner as a Jungian archetype. But archetypes also have culture-specific incarnations-for example, the Trickster archetype is incarnate in classical Greek culture as Pan and in traditional Maori culture as Maui. Pan and Maui are not identical, yet both are cultural embodiments of the Trickster. Similarly, in one culture Man as Protector might be defined as going off to fight far-away wars, while in another culture it might be defined as protecting the immediate boundaries of the home. In one culture, Man as Provider might be defined as a nomadic hunter, in another culture as a settled gatherer of grain, and in a third culture as the man who works in an office and brings home a paycheck. Each specific incarnation is a product of the history and cultural heritage of a specific location and period in which it is acted out (Culbertson, 1993).

To comprehend the incarnation of the mythic masculine in Pakeha society, we must analyze the history of European settlement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Historical Construct of Pakeha Masculinity James and Saville-Smith (1994, 12) comment upon how many Commonwealth societies organize themselves around race, class, or gender. An example of the first would be South Africa, and of the second, Britain. They claim that New Zealand is organized around unusually strict gender roles. [1]

The strong dichotomy between masculine and feminine gender roles can be interpreted as a product of the history of white settlement in this far-away nation. The majority of Europeans who came to this country from the 1830s to the 1880s were single men or men who had left their families behind (Phillips, 1996, 6-7; Belich, 1996, 278, 334, 391). [2]

The first half of the puzzle is how a single man, halfway around the world from his culture of origin, plays out the traditional roles of Protector, Provider, and Procreator? Does this not leave some sort of vacuum which must be filled with another definition of masculinity?

The second half of the puzzle is who these men were and what wounding caused them to go so far from home? Generally they were men who couldn’t find their place in their family of origin, or in the economic and class structure of their society. But what was so bad that their best option seemed to be to risk their life on a boat to go so far away that they were almost out of communication’s reach?[3]

Now these men came only 150 years ago or less. This is within the reach of my students who do family genograms. They keep running into secrets, a further confirmation of the wounding or shame which caused these men to leave England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Dalmatia, the US, Germany, Scandinavia, and Australia.[4]

Among these were also the “remittance men,” the black sheep of ‘good’ families, for whom special opportunities were created as long as they stayed away (Belich, 1996, 326).

So we have a vacuum of Provider, Protector, Procreator, and we have family-of-origin wounds. But the variety of personal wounds seems to have coalesced here to form three primal wounds, wounds so common that they became a gender-corporate founding trauma (“The Search …”, 1996; Belich, 1996, 337). These three primal wounds dictated new definitions of masculinity designed to give single men who could not be Providers, Protectors, and Procreators, something to be. The new society of single Pakeha men would not organize itself around class: that was one curse they left back home (Belich, 1996, 321). Evidence suggests that it did not organize strictly around race, for among other things, some of the white men married Maori women.[5]

This leaves only gender, particularly because of the huge imbalance between the numbers of men and women.

As the growing number of single men here produced a demand for commodities, farmers growing food and middle class merchants with goods to sell and trade-began to arrive, often bringing families with them. They needed land and a settled lifestyle. For a time, this produced some tension between the minority settled colonists and the majority itinerant males.[6]

The males who had no families provided the foundation for a new definition of masculinity, contradictory to Protector, Provider and Procreator: The Man Alone.[7]

At the same time, the growing economy began to produce jobs away from home that were more lucrative, and the settled colonial households began to break apart by the 1860s (James and Saville-Smith, 1994, 27; Belich, 1996, 379-80). These new jobs, plus the jobs which brought single men to the country, often couldn’t be done alone, so men began to work cooperatively with mates (Belich, 1996, 393).

Large groups of unsettled, untamed, uncontrolled men roaming the country. They, plus the victims created by this male rootlessness-the elderly, the destitute, and the abandoned-formed a serious threat to any orderly form of government.[8]

The Depression which began in the 1880s caused great upheaval, and some of those who could afford it fled the country. Perhaps in response, the 1890s saw the rise of a conscious governmental policy to promote the Cult of Domesticity, chiefly through propaganda and through legislation such as the Factories Act of 1894 (Phillips, 1996, 49-52).[9]

Belich attributes this sharp turn in policy to “moral panic” over the continually increasing vagrancy of the 1870s and 80s (Belich, 1996, 326). Gender relations were reframed and new roles overlaid upon the old. The cooperative association of masculine and feminine gender roles was promoted as necessary for the national interest, the public good, and the maintenance of law and order. Women now had two roles: The Dependent Woman, and The Moral Redemptress, Purifier and Guardian of the Domestic Order (James and Saville-Smith, 1994, 55).[10]

Women’s suffrage gave women further power over the home as well as an anticipated “civilizing” influence within the rowdy sphere of national politics. In response, men were expected to become The Family Man.[11]

But men already had a firmly entrenched role of Man Alone, with his mates. While the two roles for women could be fairly easily reconciled, men now felt caught between their two roles, one old, one new. This tension seems to have been resolved by men imaging themselves as Family Man, but continuing to behave as Man Alone (Donnelly, 1978, 92). Along the way, all other forms of masculinity had to be subordinated.[12]

Family Man was accepted as part of the stable national order. Man Alone was romanticized, and continued to be the primary draw and principle area within which masculinity was achieved or failed.



Mental Health and Polynesian Clients

Originally published in The GM Resource & Referral Directory 2000, 258-259.
By Cabrini Makasiale, with Philip Culbertson

People indigenous to Oceania and the South Pacific are either Melanesians (Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea) or Polynesians (Samoa, Tonga, Rarotonga, Niue, Aotearoa). There is a great similarity when we talk about doing counselling and psychotherapy with people of these various cultures, and yet each culture has its unique history, traditions, and values. In order to be responsible, since no Melanesian therapist contributed to this article, the remarks herein are limited to the stressors and needs of Polynesian clients.


Five major issues define Polynesian identity: hierarchy, obedience, family, land, and spirituality. Polynesian cultures are all hierarchical, though there is some difference among them in the way that power is distributed and moderated. All Polynesian cultures require obedience from inferior to superior in a complicated vertical structure of authority. “Family” is a large category in Polynesian societies, and most often resembles what Pakeha would call “a widely-extended” family. Land, too, is a primary source of identity: all Polynesians can recite easily the name of the village or geographical area to which their family belongs and something of the family’s history there. Personal names often relate to family history, or geography of origin, or the achievements of an outstanding ancestor, or the family’s hopes for the bearer. Names, like traditions of greeting and welcoming, are a critical factor in establishing a therapeutic alliance with Polynesian clients. Conversely, incorrectly pronouncing a client’s name or dismissing the expectations of cultural protocols, can quickly damage that alliance.

Culture Specific Stresses

It is very difficult for Polynesians to separate culture from self, or family from self. A child is born into “a group belonging.” From day one, the child goes to the group – on the mother’s lap, the sister’s lap, the auntie’s lap – and sleeps with a group when the group sleeps, and is carried everywhere and participates in everything. For this reason, many Polynesians are unskilled at making decisions independently, without seeking family advice and consensus. Therefore, an “externally-referenced” personality emerges. Pakeha culture presumes an independent core identity of separation, individuation, and individualism; Polynesian culture presumes a situational identity, dictated most often by cultural expectations, family desires, and tradition as interpreted by elders. Exposure to Pakeha ways of being and thinking undermines this identity structure, and can create significant stress and even nnd so the counselor working cross-culturally must exercise patience with the client.

With Polynesians, the family is always present, even when it is invisible (the family within). At times, it may be appropriate to have other family members present in the treatment rooms. At other times, the “internal family” needs to be made visible through externalization. Only then can choices be made about when to be connected and when to be separate. Polynesian clients may be reluctant to make decisions or behavioral changes without checking with the extended family first. I say to my client, “Yes, you may go check with your family, and there’s something else I would like to put before you to have a look at and see whether you would be interested in another way of looking at it – after you have come back from your family.” Eventually they will tire of functioning as a go-between between the therapist and the family, and begin to find a sense of self, to make decisions on their own.

The mental health worker’s knowledge of the client’s culture, effective observation of expected protocols, and a secure therapeutic alliance of trust all serve as doorways to allow new ideas to be introduced. Among the most productive counseling techniques is re-framing, in which the content or intent of traditional ways of doing things is honored, but the outward expression of the tradition is altered to accommodate the client’s new situation, or needs for personal expression toward future goals.

For Further Reading:

  • Becker, Anne. 1995. Body, Self and Society: The View from Fiji. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. >
  • Culbertson, Philip. 1997. Counselling Issues in South Pacific Communities. Auckland: Accent Books.
  • Culbertson, Philip. 1999. “Listening Differently to Maori and Polynesian Clients,” Forum: The Journal of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists 5, 64-82.
  • Epati, A’e’au Semi. 1998. “Multi-Cultural Issues in Everyday Practice: Samoan Culture.” Auckland: Auckland District Law Society.
  • Finnegan, Ruth and Margaret Orbell (eds). 1995. South Pacific Oral Traditions. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Foster, RoseMarie Perez, Michael Moskowitz, and Rafael Art. Javier (eds). 1996. Reading Across Boundaries of Culture and Class: Widening the Scope of Psychotherapy. Northvale: Jason Aronson.
  • Ihimaera, Witi, ed. 1998. Growing Up Maori. Auckland: Tandem.
  • Mageo, Jeannette Marie. 1998. Theorizing Self in Samoa: Emotions, Genders, and Sexualities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
  • Morton, Helen. 1996. Becoming Tongan: An Ethnography of Childhood. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Tuilotolava, Mary. 1998. “Multi-Cultural Issues in Everyday Practice: Tongan Culture.” Auckland: Auckland District Law Society.


Mental Health and Indian Clients

Originally published in The GM Resource & Referral Directory 2000, 258-259.
By Laetitia Puthenpadath, with Philip Culbertson

The attainment of autonomy and emotional dependence from childhood attachments is a Western notion. In the Indian cultural context, personality development is a relational process. Maturation of the human person is attained through coming into harmony within social relationships. Self-identity is extended into a familiar self. This means fulfilling a complex system of obligations and responsibilities towards others throughout one’s life cycle. Even beliefs concerning the nature of health and illness flow from such an extended sense of self. Disease is not just localised in the individual. Well-being is viewed as a balance or harmony of forces maintained by the proper observance of social obligations and other interpersonal behaviours.


Indian culture is actually extremely diverse, so the mental health worker should not assume a sense of uniformity from one Indian client to the next. Yet all Indian clients tread the difficult line between individuality and a family-defined “we-self” which may strike the Westerner as completely paradoxical. While Indian clients have many ways of expressing their individualism, in the end they are extremely sensitive to family ties, societal conformity and group approval.

Traditional values include interpersonal harmony, filial piety, hierarchical family and social relations, and shame as a major behavioural influence, ideals of emotional restraint and self-control. Attainment of harmony both intrapsychic and interpersonal through negotiation between individual’s needs and group needs is of high value. Indian culture normalises dependency. Experiencing helplessness is accepted as a basic fact of human existence.

Another significant cultural element is shame. The phenomenon of shame influences behavioural patterns in Indian culture. An Indian living in a Western culture, if unable to live according to the norms of the family, will suffer a sense of guilt and shame which colours his or her behaviour not only at home but in public intercourse as well. The implications of this shame-based emotional link between self-image and the image of others can be far reaching. Exploration of self-identity and fulfillment of self-esteem will have less meaning for an Indian client and may actually intensify guilt feelings, derived from the inability to subordinate his or her desire for autonomy, in order to live harmoniously with parents and peers. Western models of psychotherapy that call for clients to express themselves openly in healthy self-disclosure, especially concerning problems with parents or elders, may cause difficulties for an Indian client. The client may experience this as self-indulgence and against the values of loyalty and family obligation.

Culture Specific Stresses

Due to the paradoxical nature of Indian culture, stressors are extremely contextual. Predictable ones include the pressures and expectations which come with Indian culture’s complex structuring according to caste, class, socio-economic influence, and race. In general, Indians feel caught between the influences of Western culture, and the patriarchal authority assumed by the indigenous cultures of the country.

Duty to parents and elders is a strong value in all Indian cultures, a duty which continues into adulthood. Because Indian children are raised in groups, by groups of caregivers, individualism remains a possibility where individuation is not. The norms of filial piety preclude any of the discussion or debate inside the family that ordinarily leads to individuation. Instead, Indian children are raised with an elevated awareness of the importance of pleasing their families in all things, and increasing the family’s status in society.

Gender role divisions are rigid in these patrilineal and patriarchal cultures, and the status of women in most families is often quite low. Even arranged marriages are expected to succeed, primarily through subordination of women to their husbands.

Coping Strategies

Coping strategies of Indian clients are basically four. Clients may somatise, that is, express their psychic stresses in bodily disorders. Conversely, they are susceptible to conversion disorders, in which bodily ills are expressed through psychological maladjustment. In more extreme cases, clients may exhibit histrionic symptoms or compulsive behaviours.

Symptom Presentations

Many Indian clients may seem to be emotionally repressed; culturally one is expected to always subordinate the individual self to the needs of the group, in order to avoid disharmony and disruption. Symptom presentations often appear subconsciously calculated to restore a version of the client’s childhood history which will maintain the integrity of the family’s social status of choice.

In New Zealand, Indians experiencing acculturation conflict ordinarily pass through three distinct stages: (1) The individual conforms to parental values, and adopts a traditional stance. (2) The individual rebels against parental values and adopts an extreme affiliation with Western values. (3) The individual attains self-worth through developing a new Indian-New Zealander cultural heritage with mainstream Western values. Mental health workers need to measure carefully the development level of their Indian clients, in order to choose a therapeutic approach that will be appropriate.

Psychological Approaches To The Treatment

Psychotherapy and counselling are not usually familiar in the various Indian cultures; physicians, however, are held in very high regard, so most referrals for psychological support must originate with a GP for them to be taken seriously. The mental health worker should expect that a “quick magic fix” be requested, due to cultural expectations. Long term treatment plans are, therefore, rarely successful; when the Indian client does not see immediate results, he or she will usually terminate. For this reason, contractual brief-term therapies – solution oriented and designed for symptom relief – are the best options.

Indian clients expectations of mental health workers are strongly shaped by the traditional Indian expectation of a guru-disciple relationship. To therapists, this will feel like an unhealthy dependency, but should be recognized as an expression of cultural norms. Therapists may find themselves quickly idealized, and then the subject of the client’s projected shadow as a test of the relationship. The client will often test the counsellor’s personal integrity and spiritual depth as well, since Indian culture is still heavily affected by Hindu spiritual values. Mental health workers are cautioned to focus on their own personal integrity, and to let go of any desire to succeed or to see results.

For Further Reading:

  • Almeida, Rhea. “Hindu, Christian and Muslim Families.” In Monica McGoldrick, Joe Giordano, and John Pearce (eds.) Ethnicity and Family Therapy. 2nd Edition. New York: Guilford Press, 395-423. >
  • Bracero, W. 1994. “Developing culturally sensitive psychodynamic case formulations: The effects of Asian cultural element on psychoanalytic control-mastery theory.” Psychotherapy 31:3, 525-532.
  • Britt Krause, Inga. 1998. Therapy Across Culture. London and New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  • Hoch, E. 1960. “Patterns of neurosis in India.” American Journal of Psycho-Analysis 20:3, 8T
  • Hoch, E. 1963. Psychotherapy in India and Indo-Asian Culture. New Delhi: Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
  • Kakor, Sudhir. 1991. Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Kurtz, Stanley. 1994. All Mothers are One: Hindu Indians and the Cultural Reshaping of Psychoanalysis. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Mitchell, S. 1988. Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis: An Integration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Singh, Ajit. 1998. “Multi-Cultural Issues in Everyday Practice: Indian Culture.” Auckland: Auckland District Law Society.
  • Sue, D. W. and Sue, D. 1990. Counseling the Culturally Different: Theory and Practice. Second edition. New York: John Wiley.