D eep within you are two powerful allies: your inner masculine and inner feminine. These complementary aspects of your fundamental nature, distinct from your gender identity, are a potent source of love, healing and success in the world. Each plays a crucial role in your overall wellbeing, so it is important to understand and nurture their unique and complementary natures in order for them to work in harmony with each other. By becoming aware of and harmonizing your inner masculine and inner feminine, you can overcome self-defeating behavior and painful patterns of emotional distress and create a more fulfilling, empowered, and profoundly peaceful life.
The Difference between Gender and Your Inner Masculine and Feminine
Regardless of whether you identify as a man, a woman, non-binary, transgender, or any variation on the gender continuum, and regardless of your sexual orientation, you still have both an inner masculine and inner feminine as the two fundamental functions of your nature, just as you have two hemispheres of the brain and a right and left hand. They are part of the balance that exists naturally in all things. In fact, the journey of recognizing and harmonizing your inner masculine and feminine is entirely separate from how you express your gender identity.
A quick note about gender roles before we go any further: Societally constructed gender roles often do not align with people’s natural gifts and life path. For example, our society subjects boys and girls to patriarchal restrictions about how they can dress and act and what kinds of careers are available to them. These kinds of male/female gender roles are not what I’m referring to when I talk about the inner masculine and inner feminine. Over the course of 40 years of teaching this material, one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered is that people associate the words “masculine and feminine” with social roles and gender expressions, whereas in my work I am referring to the masculine and feminine as principles.
The inner masculine and inner feminine are functions that are active in all aspects of our lives. A person can be wearing a skirt, makeup and high heels, and still engage their masculine function; and vice versa, a person can have a crewcut and rugged pants, and still engage their receptive feminine nature. So the inner feminine and inner masculine have nothing to do with the esthetics that indicate your gender expression.
Another consequence of our conditioned gender roles is that we assign specific and exclusive qualities to the masculine and feminine. For example we’ve been socialized to think of the feminine as loving and the masculine as strong. But the truth is that the feminine and masculine are both loving and both strong; they just express their love and strength in different ways. Our inner masculine might express loving strength by creating structure, healthy boundaries, and skillful action, while our inner feminine might express loving strength by staying present in the moment and maintaining solidity and a connection with the depths of our true self, feelings, and inner guidance, even when it’s difficult to do so.
One of the many positive outcomes of realigning our inner masculine and feminine is that we become inner-directed and free instead of dependent on other people’s approval of our gender roles. Then, our lives becomes productive, meaningful, and abundant with love.
Characteristics of the Healthy Inner Masculine
Your healthy inner masculine is the part of you that is the generous giver and functions in the realm of the outer world. Your inner masculine gives you structure, discipline, protection, and boundaries, as well as the ability to follow through with targeted action. You engage your inner masculine every time you are involved in external, goal-oriented activities and pursue your desires and inspirations in the outer world with focused, sequential actions. Through the lens of your inner masculine, you acquire knowledge and resolve problems by applying logic, dissecting them in their components and understanding the function. This is the part of you that relates to the outer world in a linear and analytical fashion.
Your inner masculine is a force of productivity and generous giving to yourself, others and to the world. It’s also the source of both your discipline and your heroism. When your inner masculine is healthy, he maintains strong connection with your healthy inner feminine. He provides her with protection, support, and structure, and he receives from her guidance, nourishment and inter connectivity with the life-force. Consequently, your life feels both fluid but also consistently “on course,” and you feel safe, productive and nourished. You then feel loved from within and are more capable of loving others.
The Weak Inner Masculine
But what happens if your inner masculine is weak or negatively conditioned? Your inner masculine can become ineffective when its development has been stunted by trauma or abuse. Then, your inner masculine disconnects from the outer world and—instead of moving forwards—withdraws inward and loses potency. An ineffective inner masculine makes it difficult for you to set boundaries, protect yourself (particularly in intimate circumstances), speak out and voice your opinion, and stay on task. So even though you may have many creative ideas and ambitions, it becomes challenging for you to find the discipline and focus to reach your goals or to complete the projects you start. When your inner masculine is weak, you lose your internal support and structure, and in order to protect yourself you risk becoming rigid and controlling. With a weak inner masculine you might experience a lot of fear and vulnerability in the outer world and in your intimate relationships. You also might find yourself engulfed in emotional turmoil for too long, lacking the ability to move through your emotional storms with resilience without falling into debilitating depression.
The Overpowering and dominating Inner Masculine
If you’ve been abused early in life, it’s possible that rather than becoming weak and collapsed, your inner masculine instead takes on the model of your abuser. Then, your inner masculine closes off to the fluidity and connectedness of the feminine and perpetuates the pattern of being overpowering and dominating. This kind of masculine imprisons the inner feminine. As a result, you end up feeling overly driven, exhausted, and propelled from the inside-out to work and be active all the time. When you try to rest, you might feel anxious and agitated because deep down, a part of you feels that you are wasting your time. Maybe you experience loneliness and want more intimacy and fulfillment in your relationships but, you feel that you don’t have space or time in your life to nurture a relationship.
An overpowering inner masculine leaves you feeling empty, drained and alone—even if you are successful in reaching your professional goals—because you have neglected the needs of your soul and your emotional fulfillment. You have stopped listening to your inner feminine and you feel mechanical and disconnected because without her you lose the perception of your wellbeing and the wellbeing of other people around you and you overriding their needs as well as yours.
This kind of dominating inner masculine can also become harshly critical and, to the extreme, even violent. He is the source of your self demeaning thoughts and your self-destructive behavior.
Characteristics of the Healthy Inner Feminine
Your inner feminine is the part of you that is responsible for receiving and governing the realm of your inner world. Your inner feminine brings fluidity, expansion, creative inspiration, interconnectedness, sensuality and awareness of your feelings and emotions. You engage your inner feminine every time you are still and go inward into the perception of your inner knowing, which gives you direction and clarity and the ability to rest and restore yourself. Through the lens of your inner feminine, you know intuitively the truth of any situation because you perceive reality from an all-inclusive 360-degree perspective. Because of this ability to know beyond logic, (sometimes referred to as a “gut feeling”) your inner feminine can navigate comfortably in the realm of the unknown, such as during life transitions when you have to surrender to not knowing what comes next. Your inner feminine is a force of regeneration, openness and receptivity to others and to the abundance that the world offers you. It is through the function of your inner feminine that you become open to receive the guidance and wisdom of your spirit and soul. Most importantly you can receive love.
When your inner feminine is healthy, she stays connected with your healthy inner masculine and open to receiving his gifts with gratitude and appreciation. In your daily life you are able to receive the abundance that is offered to you, whether in the form of rewards for your achievements, compliments, or loving relationships. Feeling the support and protection of your inner masculine, you are capable of receiving without fear and doubts but with grace and openness of heart.
The Weak Inner Feminine
But what happens if your inner feminine is weak? Your inner feminine can become stunted when it’s disconnected from the protective aspect of the inner masculine, and—lacking the protection of the masculine—tries to protect you by closing off and rigidifying. Then, you lose the ability to be open, fluid, and receptive. You also might find yourself shutting down your sensuality and your visceral perceptions, becoming overly centered in the realms of the mind and tense in your physical body.
If you have been violated and have reacted by closing off your inner feminine, you might find it difficult to trust what is offered to you even if it is good and loving, so you become hypervigilant and uptight. Consequently, even though you desire good things in your life, you might be uncomfortable receiving compliments, gifts and, most importantly, expressions of love.
With a contracted inner feminine, you might end up working extra hard and doing all the right things, only to find that the rewards elude you, leaving you wondering why all that work did not bear the fruit you had hoped for. The reason is often because the feminine part of you is not open to receive, and consequently she does not know how to nourish your inner masculine, thereby weakening him.
An additional consequence of a wounded, contracted inner feminine is that you might experience difficulty connecting with your feelings and emotions, and you become overly mental and disconnected from your inner guidance and your body.
The Overwhelming and Undermining Inner Feminine
Just like the inner masculine can become overpowering and dominating, the inner feminine can become overwhelming and undermining. This happens when your inner feminine undermines the structure and discipline of the inner masculine, particularly if she feels controlled and disregarded. This type of toxic inner feminine can ensnare you with an overpowering amount of emotions that do not come to a resolution but instead suck you down into a never ending black hole, and you might end up feeling depressed and out of control.
Because this kind of shadow inner feminine creates chaos, you may feel that your life is undermined by continuous drama that depletes your life-force and vitality. In addition, this extremely chaotic inner feminine has poor boundaries and often enmeshes with others. When this happens, you might find yourself over-identifying with other people’s emotions and circumstances to the point that you begin to lose your sense of self and you can no longer distinguish your own thoughts and emotions from the thoughts and emotions of others. To improve this stagnant situation you must connect with your healthy inner masculine to give you boundaries and forward motion.
The Next Step…
The more your inner masculine and inner feminine are connected with each other in a healthy relationship the easier and grace-filled your life becomes. The more they are disconnected from each other and in a power struggle the more painful and conflictual your life becomes.
We live in a patriarchal society where the conflicts between masculine and feminine are systemic and baked in our societal structure and collective consciousness. Consequently, everyone has, in some form, a degree of these shadow aspects of the inner masculine and inner feminine imbedded in their psyche.
The good news is that understanding these deep aspects of our human nature is the first step to transforming their destructive impulses into their original, life-affirming, inspirational, powerful and loving natures.
To go deeper into this exploration of the inner masculine and feminine, I recommend my four-part series about the Shadow Masculine and Feminine, starting HERE.
Cover image: Detail from “The Alchemy of Love” by Tiziana DellaRovere