The concept of masculine and feminine energy blew my mind on first reading about it. Studying these dynamics can help us live authentic, exponentially empowered lives and understand ourselves and relationship dynamics better.
What do I mean by “masculine” and “feminine”?
Described in ancient texts as yin and yang, or shakti and shiva— the feminine and masculine are equal but opposite sides, aspects or energies (I’ll use these interchangeably) that we all have to different extents, regardless of our gender.
Each person tends to show up somewhere on the feminine to masculine spectrum in relationships. You could have a baseline preference to be very masculine or feminine with your partner, or sit more towards the middle. Although we culturally think of women as more feminine and men as more masculine, this is not always the case; there are masculine and feminine-dominant people of every gender and orientation. We tend to attract and be attracted to partners who show up on an equal level but opposite energy to us — regardless of our sexual preference.
Even though we each have a preferred baseline, or “core” energy (as described by leading contemporary author on masculine-feminine dynamics, David Deida) in our relationships, we can also shift into one or the other depending on the situation. As in much of nature, it’s a fluctuating, sliding scale. With practice — and sometimes after removing mental or societal blocks — we can choose to show up in either as and when required. For example, when I want to find my flow when I’m dancing, come up with creative ideas, help a friend with a relationship upset, or trust my intuition — I tap into my feminine energy. When I’m analyzing investments, planning my week or negotiating in business, and need to be decisive or directional — I use my masculine energy.
As a side-note:
Many of us (me included), can at first find the typically gender-associated words “masculine” and “feminine” triggering or stereotypical (see this article for example). After more thought however, — they may only be triggering as long as on some level we:
1. Associate women with being feminine and men masculine — rather than thinking that we all have both aspects, with one usually being a preference in our relationships regardless of gender ; and
2. Mistakenly believe that feminine qualities like being nurturing, intuitive etc. are inferior to masculine traits like being directional — usually due to societal conditioning. If considered equally powerful but different, then connecting to mature feminine energy is a strength, not a weakness.
Energy polarity and attraction:
Choosing which energy we show up in can also help increase sexual polarity and attraction in romantic relationships. We might be in our masculine energy at work, and move into our feminine when we get home to our significant other because we enjoy a more masculine partner (or vice versa). Relationship depolarization, loss of attraction (and energetic head-butting) can occur when a naturally more feminine person — who prefers a more masculine mate to them — unwittingly shows up in their masculine when dating, after being conditioned to act “tough” or competitively in their masculine-dominant workplaces or from old childhood environments.
As a feminine-dominant person, I have also felt effeminated by partners (i.e. my energy shifted into the masculine with them) who were chronically non-directional and didn’t express their masculine side to help make relationship decisions. I’ve found the key is to have a partner who is comfortable showing up in the opposite energy to how you would like to in a relationship, and also noticing if you are trying to outdo them in the area you would actually like them to take the lead in. For sexual polarity, if you are taking up the masculine or feminine side, your partner will usually be in the opposite.
What’s more, societies, cities, work cultures or countries can be more masculine (think fast-paced concrete jungle cities, like London) or feminine (for example, beautiful nature-havens like Bali) energy. In environments where one energy is suppressed or not as valued — as is currently the case with the feminine throughout much of the world — many try to survive and thrive by minimizing this side to fit in with a family, work or cultural life that is dominated by the other energy. This can lead to a detrimental imbalance for individuals and the world around us.
Individuals or collective groups can also show their masculine and feminine sides in more mature (higher-self, or love-based) or immature (egoic, or fear-based) ways — which I’ve added as the vertical y-axis on the chart below.
How can our feminine and masculine energies show up?
Here are some examples of mature and immature masculine and feminine energy traits, to help you see where you tend to show up:
Mature Masculine Energy:
When we are in our “mature masculine” we provide safety and security, using our inner and outer strength in a loving way to support those around us. We are directional and organized in our lives — sure of the business moves we need to make or where we want to take our date, for example. Our mind is clear and our focus strong; we are great at analyzing facts and figures and coming up with solutions. Mature masculine energy can be a stable, solid, directional foundation for others, particularly for those predominantly expressing their feminine energy. I like to think of it as a (masculine) mountain supporting wild (feminine) nature around it.
Mature Feminine Energy
In our mature feminine, we hear and trust our own intuition. We read people and situations — feeling into what is right, and surrendering to things which aren’t working out (instead of trying to force them to). We are sensual and deeply connected to our bodies, as well as the environment around us; and fearlessly fully feel and express our emotions. Vulnerability is seen as a strength — a tool of connection to the truth and what is right for us. We are nurturing in our strong feminine, caring for projects, people, ourselves, our relationships, plants and pets — so they can grow and flourish. We are spontaneously creative, inspired and inspiring. I think of a lioness as a symbol of the strong mature feminine (powerful and nurturing), and see mother nature as the ultimate life-giving, nurturing feminine energy — supporting all life with food, air, water and habitat.
Immature Masculine Energy
When we’re expressing immature masculine energy, we may want to dominate, control and conquer from a place of fear and ego — at almost any cost. We try to force things and — with the over-competitive nature of immature masculinity — when conflict arises we go into fight-or-flight rather than compassion or reason. We avoid, suppress and fear emotions in ourselves and others — dismissing vulnerability as a sign of weakness. We can become over-controlling of others, or even violent. Unfortunately this is where many of our current world leaders — perhaps out of over-confidence or short-term self-interest — seem to show up in their responses to international conflict, environmental issues or the pandemic.
Immature Feminine Energy
When we are in our immature feminine energy, we feel lost, confused, anxious, overwhelmed and unable to plan or make decisions. We seek self esteem and solutions to our problems externally, often because we don’t know how to trust our intuition or love ourselves. Our self worth is low and, although we look there, no one else can really give us enough admiration or love to make up for it. We don’t take time — or know how — to nurture ourselves, and may put others’ needs way ahead of our own, sometimes to people-please our way to love and acceptance. We may also play the “victim” in our own lives, and attract people in their immature masculine who confirm our negative self-beliefs. Our inner voice talks down to us, and we feel “not enough” and disconnected from our power.
In our mature masculine and feminine energies, we act from a place of love and connection to ourselves, others and the world around us. In our immature energies, we act from a place of fear, perceived lack, individualism and ego. We all slip into different aspects at different times, but it’s something we can work on if we want to.
What’s more, if we can move our own energies into mature states, we are likely to attract others who are also in their mature energies and elicit an equal but opposite response in someone we are communicating with.
Why it matters for the world right now:
There has been great inequality in many cultures over hundreds of years on the value we place on feminine vs. masculine traits. Femininity is often suppressed and undervalued (or at worst abused and persecuted), with masculinity historically the default, preferred state. Things are improving, but we still have a way to go. I believe that a general lack of connection to mature masculine and feminine energy — as well as the suppression and undervaluing of the feminine — causes many of the issues we face today as humans and in our natural world.
There are implications on individual, relationship and societal levels. For example, as we repress the feminine, we focus on the individual rather than the collective; competition instead of collaboration; technological development rather than deep human connection; profits over nature. The social benefit provided by a profession often does not correlate with the economic reward or respect offered to it. Formal education teaches us about algebra and passing exams; but not about self-love, nurturing nutrition or healthy relationships.
Many of our leaders are expressing immature masculine energy resulting in a poorly-handled pandemic and international conflicts; a general lack of community and nurturing is contributing to an increase in loneliness and mental health issues; and we rely on others to give us guidance and self-esteem, instead of being able to intuit what’s right for us. Most health problems in developed countries are caused by non-communicable lifestyle diseases, perhaps due to the prevalence of unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles, a lack of self-care education and the option to choose unhealthy habits (like binge-eating and alcohol over-consumption) to cope with our feelings of disconnect from ourselves, each other and nature. We continue to pollute and destroy our natural environment, in what UN chief Antonio Guterres recently called a “suicidal war” on nature, despite totally relying on clean air, water, soil and a complex network of other living species for our own survival.
We feel most empowered and at ease when we can express ourselves as we truly are. In environments like fast-paced cities and office workplaces, however, many of us tone our feminine side down after facing harassment, (unconscious and conscious) bias, a lack of understanding and discrimination. Many of us feel uncomfortable expressing our feminine traits, or are taught that masculine ones are preferable. We too often feel we have to show up in a “grey-suit”, unnaturally-masculine version of ourselves; to build a faux exterior and hide our feelings to avoid being seen “weak” and appease those in charge, all the while feeling deep-down like we don’t fit in. Many of us live cut off from our own inner knowing and intuition, relying on the outside world to tell us what’s right for us, while 24/7 marketing suggests we’re not good enough unless we earn more to buy more, or change ourselves to be who we’re not.
If we learn instead that being in our powerful mature feminine feels just as strong as the mature masculine, and how to express that side of us, we can balance things out and feel authentic in ourselves. If we can accept, value and encourage the expression of our own and each others’ mature masculine and feminine sides, we can tap into powerful strengths like empathy, intuition and compassion — which we as individuals, communities and the world need for more balance. Perhaps if masculine-dominant people express and empower their own mature feminine energy too, they will find it easier to value the authentic strengths of this energy in more feminine people, and global leadership will improve as we demand more balance at every level of society.
Fascinating, further reading on masculine-feminine dynamics and inequality include: David Deida’s writings on masculine-feminine energy and their interactions; Tony Robbins also discusses polarity and relationship dynamics in his blog and courses; as does author Diana Richardson, whose work focuses more on tantric polarity. Mama Gena’s “School of Womanly Arts” training program and books, along with Louise Hay’s short but classic book “Empowering Women” share guidance for women in particular to take back their mature feminine strength. “Lean In” — the book and community founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg provides research and tools to combat sexual discrimination at work. “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado sheds light on (at times shocking) statistics and anecdotes on the gender-based biases ingrained in our culture.
The world needs each of us to tap into our mature feminine and masculine energies; to appreciate nature, empathy, intuition, nurturing, connection as much as we do technology, profits, dominance, competition, power and analysis. We need this for our mental and physical health, and the health of our planet and all other species around us.
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