Man – You’re not Alone, You’re with the Men

“What’s the point of a men’s group?”

I was asked this question recently in the pub. I used to pour beer down my throat by the way, now I enjoy a pint and it’s enough. It’s much better.

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Ten years ago I never would have dreamed I’d be holding a fortnightly group for men in my home. That would have been too weird. I’d have been one of those weird guys. Back then, I used to seek intimate male company only when I was drunk or getting drunk. That was normal. Yet of course, drunk people really can’t listen or talk very well. It was all deeply, deeply dissatisfying.

Have you thought about how other men could be a mirror for you? How another man could teach you about yourself? What would it be like to be clear in your direction and purpose, to strengthen your integrity, become more trustworthy, strong, consistent, clear and grounded? Wouldn’t you like to know how it feels to be at your edge and be held accountable?

How are you spending your time these days..? Are you living your life? Or is it just passing?

How do you really feel?

Father meets Son

Last week I was privileged to witness one of our group re-connect with his 17-year-old son, who he had invited to come to our meeting, after a period of separateness and difficult communication for them both. It was a beautiful evening. As I sat listening, the gravity and depth of the ‘father wound’ in our society became clearer to me.

We are all wounded by our fathers somehow, all of us.

Many young men growing up within an un-fathered culture reject authority from an early age. The 2012 riots in London are only one example of the dive-bomber culture of violence and unfocused aggression many young men are involved with. Statistics from schools regarding the low achievement of boys compared to girls are undeniable. Some suggest teachers have lower expectations of boys than girls. Our young men are largely schooled and brought up by women (only 15% of primary staff are men) and the older men in their lives appear distant and unreliable.

My experience is that we can help our own sons and young men by sharing our inner lives with them. Young men need to grow up in immediate contact with a reliable and secure man. One who models a healthy sexuality, a sense of inner compass and a grasp on his soul. Perhaps one step towards this for us as men is learning how to be real with other men. It took me a while in my life to feel that being vulnerable with other men was okay. The men in our group challenge me to step up to the mark when I flounder and are transparent with me. They hear me as I am, and I hear them.

Honouring the Child in Me

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Deep in the heart of me, my inner child, is the man waiting to be honoured. If this honouring is absent before any man brings himself to woman it is likely he will remain a ‘boy’ in that relationship. I have found this to be painfully true. Perhaps this thought underpins much of the malaise in our society. Many of us are not meeting our women where they need us.

I am learning that this honouring can only take place among a group of men. It used to take place in the tribal rituals of our ancestors, in the fields and communities of farmers who worked on the land, where skills and trades were passed down from father to son. Boys understood how their fathers actually worked. Where does this take place today? Does it take place at all?

In the tragic and moving story of Eddie the shipyard docker, Arthur Miller identifies in his play Death of a Salesman that all most men require is respect.

‘I want my respect. Didn’t you ever hear of that?’

eddie2

Yet Eddie tried to do it alone. He didn’t speak his truth until it was too late. He couldn’t escape being his own island. He got stuck deeper and deeper into his own shed. The ‘respect’ he longed for was an illusion; all his pain and anger welled up over the years. He was looking for his soul.

And he lost it.

Being part of a group of men has taught me that we need each other for real right now; in a space where we can challenge each other safely, be together, and identify with some of the challenges, joys and longings of being a man in today’s world.

No woman can teach us that.

So, it’s not weird touchy-feely stuff. It’s making a commitment to other men to be the strong, authentic and loving man you are. It’s making a commitment to the people around you too, in your life, to ‘man up’ and be one of the men that we all need around us today. It’s standing shoulder to shoulder.

“there is a real sense of aliveness and clarity when men sit together and share”

Make a change. Stop taking it to the women in your life. They don’t need your stuff. Yet don’t keep it festering and rotting within you, like Eddie.

In the conversations I have with men, I frequently hear “I’ve never been this open with another man before.” It’s tough out there. Other men are waiting to shoot us down, waiting for any sign of perceived weakness so they can get one over on us. But my vulnerability is my strength, and now it can be heard. What would it be like to have the real support of other men in your life?

You’re not alone man, you’re with the men.

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8 thoughts on “Man – You’re not Alone, You’re with the Men”

  1. I agree. And that the more resources we have as women and men for instance women’s groups and men’s groups, the more a man and a woman can truly come together. After they’ve dwelt in their polarities and been heard and witnessed by their own gender, they less they ‘need’ from their partner and the more they can simply be in their hearts. I really value my women’s group.

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  2. Hey Duncan,
    As one of the men who comes to the men’s group at your house every two weeks without fail, I want to echo what you say. For me, it has been life-changing to share openly with other men, whether anger, laughter, pain or hope. You guys have become my brothers, tribe, I’d love to say gang, but the word has been stolen and is lost to us.
    I still have my old best friends, but it’s different, so different:
    A couple of days ago I met my two best friends from secondary school. One of them had suggested the get-together so that he could explain why he had been out of touch for 6 months. It turns out he had been fighting cancer, and didn’t want to tell us until he was ‘on the mend’, which he was. My other friend was, as a result of this, encouraged to share that for years he has been fighting the inland revenue in court, facing enormous stress and in danger of bankruptcy. Neither had said a thing of their troubles until the troubles were pretty much past. Such was the habit we formed as teenagers, the habit of hiding all vulnerability.
    At one level I admire the fortitude of my friend who was recovering from cancer, tired from radiotherapy but wanting us to know that it was all pretty much fine now. You couldn’t accuse him of moaning or milking it! But 11 years earlier, when we were 29, I had been his best man, and here I was being informed once the pain had past. He hadn’t even been living with his wife and newborn baby, because the radiotherapy could harm a newborn. He must have been in hell. But he hadn’t wanted to tell his best man. Not till he was strong again.
    Maybe I feel some shame, that I had become the kind of friend he wouldn’t tell. Then again, it is unthinkable that I wouldn’t share this kind of thing among my friends in our men’s group. What are we there for, if not to lean on each other? So I agree with you. For those who are not in a tribe of men… Find one. Or create one.
    Kamlesh

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  3. Thanks so much Kamlesh. Whenever I’m in a men’s circle, it’s such a liberating space – especially in my experiences outside the group, with men with whom I’m less familiar – it’s as if the dog’s been let off the lead after years; all these things that remain unsaid and unwitnessed suddenly freed and let loose. It’s very exciting to see men so liberated when we have this opportunity with each other. Very empowering – the vulnerability is extremely powerful.

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  4. Duncan, just read this and felt your words deep within as they reached a truth and a need in my life. I have been trying to find a way to communicate with my father who remains difficult to reach on a personal level. This Christmas I mulled over the question of whether to close contact with him due to his lack of trust, but I haven’t been convinced that breaking the contact is for the best, I know that this healing for both of us is a real challenge. Now, even though the solution still remains elusive, this piece has encouraged me to try to keep the channels of communication alive.
    Thank you for sharing
    Stephen

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    1. Lovely to hear this Stephen, and of the challenging dynamic between you and your father. I do hope 2014 brings some opportunity for reconciliation between you both. Great that you’re hanging on in there. Duncan

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  5. Read all of your blogs. Brilliant Duncan. Such vital work you men are doing. I salute you brave warriors.Re education, I had no idea the large majority of teachers are women. Yes of course this could impact on young boys particularly if they are living in single mother situations. Where are the male role models?
    Not clear about the following comments (in Relationship Intensive… I need to feel like a man) :
    “And if we keep failing to show up as men, will we fall into a soon-to-be-dominated female society, unclear about who is who, creating more girl-friendly examination systems, while passing laws allowing all types of mixed partner and sex coupling scenarios to sit alongside this gender confusion? We are trying to take responsibility, some of us, but it’s tough out here.”
    Soon-to-be dominated female society?? I really dont get that and would like you to clarify. Also do you not agree with laws allowing mixed partners? Here I think when we look at gender preference in a partner we immediately think of sexual relations. It is not necessarily relevant. That, I think is the confusion.
    Thank you for stimulating this debate for me. Blessings to all your masculine hearts from one feminine one. Love Sarah

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  6. Hi Sarah! – I think this is a question about the ‘Relationship Intensive’ post? Let’s try and post the comment on there – then anyone else ever on that thread can see this really interesting question you’ve raised. Duncan

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