Home The post – patriarchal man. Interview to Dr. Giorgio Cavallari

The post – patriarchal man. Interview to Dr. Giorgio Cavallari

The post – patriarchal man. Interview to Dr. Giorgio Cavallari
a cura di Dr.ssa Valentina Rossato*

MATERIA PRIMA Rivista di Psicosomatica Ecobiopsicologica - Il Maschile - Numero IV - Dicembre 2011 - Anno I
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Giorgio Cavallari is a psychiatrist and a Jungian psychoanalyst (CIPA, IAAP), he lives and works in Milan. He is General and Scientific Director of Istituto ANEB and Professor at the Psychotherapy School of the same Institute. He has published quite a number of works, among them L’uomo post-patriarcale (The post-patriarchal Man) and Dal Sé al Soggetto (From the Self to the Subject). Together with other researchers of the Istituto ANEB, he is co-author of La forma, l’immaginario e l’uno (The form, the imaginary and the one, La psicosomatica (The Psychosomatics), and Intelligenza analogica (Analogical Intelligence). He has also written a chapter for the international volume of Jungian studies Jung Today giving his personal contribution.

Since the 60s in the Western countries there has been an epoch-making transformation as far as the traditional role of the men and the women is concerned. Which is the sense of the ‘crisis’ of the masculine in the contemporary Western world?

A crisis can refer to a moment of difficulty, but it can also be a chance to reflect on the possibility of a deeper, richer and more human way of being a man. The ecobiopsychological approach has in fact demonstrated that it is possible to look at the ‘crisis’ also as an opportunity for change. Once the men had a predominant role in society simply because males: they were dominant in the family and had the best and prestigious positions economically and socially. Nowadays it is different, they have to demonstrate whether and how much they are worth individually, within the family, at work and in society.

How has the figure and the role of the father modified over time? Is there a ‘father archetype’?

There was trace of the existence of a father archetype both in the Western and in the Eastern tradition already in ancient times. According to me, Aeneas who was courageous enough to leave Troy in flames taking his child by the hand and carrying his old father on his shoulders, can be considered also today a deeply involving and ‘valuable’ example: he rescues his father who represents the value of the traditions and bravely wishes to give his child a future. He serves a ‘bridge’ function of connecting the past and the present, he does not deny the past and opens up to the present. In the Vedic Upanishad of the Ancient India the father is given three duties: he has to generate his children biologically, to protect and sustain them and to let them free to be the masters of their own destiny once old enough.
Ecobiopsychologically, it is possible to think about a father archetype dealing with the ‘function’ of generating, protecting and making his child enter the world. Even nowadays these functions have a value, if socially the old hegemonic tyrannical Pater does not exist anymore, that does not mean these precious and founding functions are to be lost.

In your book ‘L’uomo post-patriarcale’ (The post-patriarchal Man), you claim that the twilight of the patriarchy with its stabilizing values on the one hand opens up to new perspectives, but on the other it can also make ancient ghosts, archaic and dangerous paternal imago re-emerge. Can you tell us which could be these archaic and dangerous ‘pathological figures’ of the paternity and which could be the consequences both on the fathers and the children?

I could refer to many pathological figures, but I consider three of them particularly worrying: the first one is that of the absent father, a male figure who can biologically make his partner pregnant but that it is not present, he does not face up to any responsibilities concerning his children’s life. I am not only referring to the separated fathers defaulting on their educational and economical obligations, but to all those subjects who cannot live with joy and motivation the challenge of being parents. The second figure is that of the patriarchal tradition which re-emerges, not as a normative and leading figure, but as a brutal and perverted re-edition of the masculine hegemony. Violent fathers (physically and psychologically) without any respect for the subjectivity of their children. The third one is that of the father-brother considered as completely dysfunctional by the ecobiopsychology: these are the fathers who in anguish because of the passing of time and because of the ageing relate to their children as if of the same age, brothers and accomplices.

It seems that the patriarchal society has made a scission between the dimension of the body, of the feelings, of the natural order and the kingdom of the culture, of the society, of everything is said and told, the law. What is the meaning then, with reference to the collective psyche, of the new involvement of the fathers in the child care and the presence of women in the business, political and economical world?

I believe nowadays this scission is be overcome: the men who take part in the child care have nothing to lose, on the contrary they have the possibility to know more closely the value of the human life and that particular intimate union between the psychic dimension and that physical dimension typical of babies. If the woman has, because of her anatomical specificity, to keep the baby in the uterus and feed him/her, the functional container which helps a baby to grow up can and must be wider as to allow the men playing their important and respectable role.

You have underlined the difficulty the modern man has to build up his own identity and the importance of adolescence in relation to that. Which are the fundamental and inevitable steps for a young man to become an adult? Which are the models in the process of development of the adolescent personality to be followed? Which are the risks and the dangers?

Ecobiopsychologically, the male adolescent needs to integrate the archetypal dimension of the strength (somatically the growing of the muscular masses and of the sexual desire) and that of the integration of a function (not less archetypal) of the control on such a force. Synthetically, the most important risks are those of the hypertrophy of the expansive aspects manifesting without rules (violent adolescents, bullism) or on the contrary the renouncing of that force towards a depressive, dependent and passive drift.

If fundamental in the building up the masculine identity is the correct management of the aggressiveness, another fundamental dimension is that concerning love. How does the masculine put itself in the relationship with the feminine dimension?

The human universe contains the difference between the masculine and the feminine. It is a fertile tension, if accepted and not denied it can be the base for a healthy creative attitude: the meeting with what is different (but not alien) can in fact produce difficulty but also open up to new perspectives.


How has the couple relationship modified from a patriarchal to a post-patriarchal society? What about advantages, challenges and risks?

Certainly we are not dealing with the strictly deterministic values and behavioral patterns anymore. An American analystjokingly (even though not that much) said that at the time of the patriarchy the destiny of males and females was decided according to the gifts under the Christmas tree. For the girls the doll meaning: learn how to protect, to look after, to be tender with your future children. For the boys: mitt, ball and bat meaning learn how to throw and hit hard, and run fast: that is what you must do in society and at work. That generated the stereotype of the couple with the lady being sweet and sensible, and the man hard and without any fear. Nowadays there is more freedom, being tender is not a defect for men and being assertive not a limit for women. The challenge is that where there is more freedom, more responsibility is needed, a more differentiated consciousness is necessary. The risk is that a rigid value pattern leaves its place to a sort of anomie and not to a more evolved one.

On the assumption that each man activates in his concrete meeting with a woman new possibilities, individual, collective and universal phenomena, the opportunity of a reciprocal transformation, what about the reverse of the medal, which could be the ‘pathologies’ associated with the man-woman meeting? How can they be read collectively with reference to the society transformations?

Once the pathology of the couple was basically ‘neurotic’. The couple instead of being a space where to realize its own individuality and find pleasure was a theatre were the senses of guilt and the fears, were played. Nowadays the problem is different: what can be defined as the pathology of our times is the narcissism. And that affects first of all the social system, then the individuals and the couple, there is a tendency to control and manipulate the other, an escape from responsibility, a lack of empathy and negotiation.

In your text you have underlined how the analytical psychology has pointed out that the construction of the masculine identity must pass through ‘a fight’, an initiation challenge of the rising masculine to get free from the wrapping coils of the ‘mother complex’ as to emancipate from the imprisoning force of the Uroboros. But how is the post-patriarchal man to be seen in respect to the positive aspect of the ‘mother complex’?

Today the ‘positive’ aspects of the collective maternal dimension are the attention to the nature, to its laws, and to its unavoidable need to protect it. The answer, in an ecobiopsychological perspective, should in fact go beyond the psychological dimension. The ‘Mother-Earth, as suggested by Morin, is not anymore a monster to be tamed, but the world where to breathe and eat and cannot be destroyed.

How will the post-patriarchal man put himself in respect to the masculine patriarchal ‘inheritance’? And which will be instead the new qualities and values he must integrate in his personality?

The patriarchy is to be developmentally overcome, not denied. The force, the determination, the courage, the impulse (Ulysses) to go ‘beyond’, to go beyond the Pillars of Hercules, are still of value. What needs to be integrated is the sense of proportion, of limit, of the overcoming, of the unilaterality of a way of thinking that sees in the continuous imperative growing, conquering and winning a sort of dangerous imperative.


Which is the relationship of the new post-patriarchal masculine identity you have outlined in respect to the theme of the complexity?

The meeting of the masculine and the feminine puts itself in relation with the complexity because the authentic meeting of a man and a woman is not the sum of two parts but the genesis of a complex unit (the couple) inside which the differences among the parts are not cancelled but put in relation inside a creative tension.

If the masculine is deeply transformed by the meeting with the feminine, which will be the changes in the feminine, in the relationship, in the couple and in the society?

Being transformed inside a relationship means getting near the love mystery: entering a deep relationship without losing the balancing of our Self, assimilating the parts of the other remaining ourselves.

Cavallari G., L’uomo post patriarcale. Verso una nuova identità maschile, Vivarium, Milano 2003
Cavallari G., Dal Sé al Soggetto, un itinerario psicoanalitico, Vivarium, Milano 2005
Cavallari G., Creatività: l'uomo oltre la crisi, Vivarium, Milano 2013

*Dr.ssa Valentina Rossato – Psychologist and psychotherapist specialized at the Istituto ANEB.

Translated by Dr.ssa Raffaella Restelli – Psychologist, member of the British Psychological Society (UK), Ecobiopsychological Counselor and expert in ANEB Psychosomatic Medicine. Linguist in ANEB Editorial area