Recently, I’ve seen quite a few of my male clients who find that their balance is off. The balance I am talking about the balance between excitement and safety, unpredictability and predictability…between being a “Good Boy” and a “Bad Boy”.
As men – no matter how old we are – we need to embrace our inner Bad Boy. You know him, he’s the one who has so much fun and sometimes goes too far and drinks a bit too much and may be too blunt or too loud or occasionally is way too sexy for his own good. Don’t think you have one? You’re lying to yourself. We ALL have one. Okay, don’t call it Good Boy/Bad Boy. Freud called it the id/superego balance. The id is the instinctual, primitive part of us that wants to eat when we want to, sleep when we want to, fuck when we want to and to never have to compromise or wait for anything. We want it NOW, dammit! That’s the voice of the “Bad Boy” id.
The superego is the “Good Boy” voice of caution, worry and concern about future problems or dangers. It’s the voice that says, “You better not do that, you’ll be sorry tomorrow.” Or “Doing that is going to get you in trouble.” It wants to protect us and keep us safe. Meanwhile, the id wants us to have nothing but fun, fun, fun. These two need to balance each other. If you go too far in either direction, you end up unhappy: either you’re indulging all your impulses and already regretting the trouble you’ve made or you’re so good and sweet that you’re bored out of your mind.
Freud didn’t leave the id and the superego to battle it out alone. He created the concept of the ego: the mitigating force between too much “Good Boy” or too much “Bad Boy” behavior. When we go too far in either direction, our ego warns us: “Hey bro, your balance is off. You better do something to get back to a happy medium. Now, what’s it gonna be?” The Buddhists call this happy medium “The middle path”; it allows you to have healthy helpings from the Good Boy and Bad Boy smorgasbord of life.
When clients tell me, “I’m so worn out from my life.” It may be because they’re bouncing back and forth between extremes; they haven’t yet found their Middle Path.
For example: Mr. A tries so hard to do the right thing, to eat right, volunteer for a worthy cause, be the perfect father/husband/son, work overtime whenever the company needs it…you get the picture. However, Mr. A hardly ever let’s himself go. His superego is so strong that he is locked into perpetual Good Boy mode. If he keeps this up, eventually he’s likely to have a strong reaction in the opposite direction. He’s likely to get so fed up with being so good that he’s likely to drink too much, score some crystal meth and cheat on his husband/wife (without a condom). And then he’ll come into my office and ask me, “How did I let that happen? I know better than to do that.” And he’ll be full of grief, sorrow and self-punishment. He ignored his inner Bad Boy for so long that it came out with a vengeance!
Then we have Mr. Z, the perpetual Bad Boy. He hates to wait…for anything. He almost always finds a way (through money, good looks, charm, personality) to get whatever he wants. You know him! He’s the man who’s done it all, had it all, and is bored to death. The idea of doing something purely generous and kind for someone else rarely enters his impatient, self-centered head. He’s living the Id-driven life, and it’s not making him happy. He’s often disgusted with himself and with his partner/friends for letting him get away with so much. But he’ll come in for therapy and tell me, “I don’t know why I feel so depressed, I have everything I could want”. His inner Good Boy is pissed as hell: he wants to see some kindness and compassion for others.
The Middle Path is a path of balance. You get to be both the Good and Bad Boys, sometimes even at once. You get to be outrageously sexy, goofy, loud and blunt and then pull back and be considerate, thoughtful, polite and kind. You get to have wild, uninhibited (safe) sex with your partner and then go to church the next morning. You get to buy super-expensive, sexy underwear and wear it to work beneath your conservative business suit, smiling to yourself because some hot man/woman gets to (slowly) take it off you that night. You let yourself have that tattoo or motorcycle you’ve been wanting, but you also pay your bills on time and call your grandmother in Ohio on her birthday.
It’s good to shake things up and kick yourself in the ass when you get too “good” and things get way too predictable (too much Good Boy energy). On the other hand, when you get too out of control and selfish (too much Bad Boy energy), you may need to pull back, be quiet and have a good honest talk with yourself. Whoever you are – and however old you are – why not embrace both your Inner Good Boy and Bad Boy? Your life will open up, you’ll find your own Middle Path, and you can have a helluva lot of fun…and few regrets.