A Man




September interview with Alyce Barry

Alyce Barry has written a brilliant book, “Practically Shameless – How Shadow Work Helped Me Find My Voice, My Path, and My Inner Gold ” describing how we put up so many walls in our lives that we end up inside a box of our own creation. Then she helps us understand how we can find FREEDOM by transforming the box.

This is, however, a double-themed edition because I wanted to pick her brain during our interview on the differences she perceived between men and women – or the Masculine/Feminine within the individual’s psyche (the Yin/Yang).

There was something unique in the way she personalized her book, her story. – in the same way Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison did in her ground-breaking work, “The Unquiet Mind.” (See interview in the ARCHIVES section.)

As we began our phone conversation, Alyce Barry shared in detail her evolution of writing the book. Trained as a technical writer, she said her first draft was “dry as dust.” (Her published version is not, btw.)

“I think the main reason it was unbelievably dull was because it wasn’t mine,” she said. “I was simply repeating things on paper I’d read or heard other people say.”

After a series of life-changing events, plus the inspiration from Robert Bly’s book, “The Maiden King - The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine” about the power of story to convey ideas, she was able to pour her own experience into an early draft of her manuscript.

Barry’s story is one I believe we can all relate to: she believed she was never good enough growing up.

“The little girl comes home from school. She’s got a gold star on her paper. She’s proud of it, and wants to shine for her family. She shows them the gold star, feeling good about herself, but her family gives her the kind of feedback that tell her she’s not so hot after all. They do it in a way to cut her down.”

To keep the creative writing going for her book, Barry created a fictional character the reader could relate to, and identify with. One day, her editor told her, “I wish there was more of you in here. Could you write this book and make the story about you?”

There is an ancient Egyptian saying regarding the Masculine interaction with the Feminine … “Divine power in woman is so strong that boys in some sense die simply from having experienced that power.”

As Masculine initiated men, hopefully, we are able to survive our interaction with the Feminine without running away or drowning in her sea. Learning how to be a man, first, allowed me the power to look at the Feminine.

“I have worked with women who are doing very manlike work,” Barry continued, “and men doing very womanlike work. Men generally find it harder to get in touch with a more loving and connecting side. Boys often get shamed for being sad like a girl, or being afraid because it’s perceived as weak. Girls are more likely to get shamed for being powerful or angry.”

To her credit, the author did not want to generalize too much about the stereotypical perceptions of what it is to be a man or a woman. She was more interested in how shame effects both Masculine/Feminine energies similarly.

“If I were to paint a picture of shame, it would have two parts: one doing the shaming and the other feeling the shame. The one doing the shaming was originally someone outside you, you incorporated it, and as an adult, it’s a part of you.”

Shadow Work, created by her brother Cliff Barry, uses tools that are longer and more elaborate than a simple 20-minutes GUTS process on an NWTA.

One of those Shadow Work tools is the acknowledgment of the “Risk Manager” in all of us – an essential part that Alyce Barry says is “…a voice of caution from the Magician quadrant. Its job is to develop strategies for coping with life. Whatever works for us as a kid we continue to use throughout our adulthood until it doesn’t work any more.”

When this piece is honored, I’ve personally seen and participated in great breakthroughs on the carpet from a person’s own self-confined “box.”

The sides of the “box” that the author identified for herself included The Editor Wall – “You never get it right!”; The Angry Wall – “Just try harder!”; The Sad Wall – “I can’t connect!”; and The Resigned Wall – “Well I guess I’m just a ________.”

As a good Jungian myself, I asked if the four walls of the box were our ego, and that the goal was not to ultimately escape, but to integrate the ego/box in a healthy way.

“It seems like people use the word ego in different ways,” she responded. “I think of the ego as the sense of self that Jung believed we must have in order to grow up healthy.”

In the book, Alyce Barry talks about her most personally challenge – embracing the Editor wall of the box, the shadow side of the Magician, and learning to trust herself and life.

“For me, trust is usually a Magician issue because it has to do with fear and control. Most of us carry a trust issue that says something like, ‘You can’t be trusted because you’re bad – you’re bad inside.’”

Your humble editor was first initiated with the name “Free Raccoon.” Talk about Magician issues … whew.

“Magician wounds are the trickiest to transform, to heal. So many people are horrified at the seemingly ‘evil’ nature of this energy. The darkest, riskiest process is the way we heal the predator, by stepping into it in ritual space with experienced eldership. I’ve been told that we’re ‘worshipping the devil.’”

She continued.

“Every person who has been perpetrated on, has a predator inside. They grew up with somebody who had the dark stuff and they swear they will ‘never be like that.’ They shove all that dark energy into shadow, and they unconsciously invite predators into their lives to play the other half of the loop. They’re not ready to see they have dark stuff inside them. Unfortunately or fortunately, they can’t put it away completely. There’s gold still in it. Even the predator has gold! The darkest places are where the really good stuff is … everything comes from the Divine.”

Tell me more about the Masculine/Feminine.

“I like Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero With a Thousand Faces’ which is about the symbolism of quests … about a man going out into the world, brave and noble, and finding a beautiful woman to make his wife. It’s the masculine side of each of us that goes out in a noble way to conquer and find good things.”


“There are two approaches to life, ideally working in a cycle. The Masculine approach is the first phase of the cycle, going uphill toward a goal and making sacrifices to get to the top. When at the top, the Masculine realizes how much is missing. So now, the Feminine side takes over and heads downhill, bringing back in what was sacrificed, including a focus on people and relationships – the ability to listen.”

There may very well be those who, like my friend Warren Farrell, say that we too quickly identify erroneously what is a Masculine vs Feminine trait. I’m with you. And yet, the value of having a woman’s input into this discussion is invaluable. Are you willing to listen, from either your Masculine or your Feminine?

Barry says she uses both energies.

“If I sacrifice parts of myself during the uphill phase, my Feminine side tells me there was a good reason I did it that way. It’s all good. Some people hold a goal of being perfectly in tune with both energies and being one with the Divine on a 24/7 basis in some kind of spiritual bliss. I don’t believe we’re created to be like that, and God knows that and doesn’t expect anything different.”

Carlos Castaneda talks of honoring the Masculine sword, especially as we age and the Lover energy becomes stronger.

“I think life sucks for men in the 21st century,” she concluded. “Some women get all worked up about not making the same money and having a glass ceiling in the job market, but my judgment is that women have one enormous advantage that outweighs everything else … women are allowed to connect with each other as deep friends. Men are discouraged from doing that because intimacy is viewed as weakness or they might be Gay - and the world would then end!”

Thank you, Alyce.

“I want men to know that at least one woman – me – understands what a misandrist is … I don’t blame men. I want to bless them.”

© 2008, Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.

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