Guest post: Why Don’t Men Seek Therapy? Masculinity

Guest post by Dr. Christopher Kilmartin – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

Scene one: an 8 year old child comes home from school and says, “The other kids are picking on me.” The parent responds with, “I’m so sorry, honey. Does it make you feel sad?”

Scene two: another 8 year old child comes home from school and says, “The other kids are picking on me.” The parent responds with, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

You might have guessed that the child in the first scene is a girl; the second a boy. Parents and other adults tend to socialize girls to take the inward journey – to spend time thinking about how they feel. Boys are socialized toward the world of action—to solve the problem.

In the extreme, both can be problematic. The tendency for women to “ruminate”—to dwell on feelings passively, is thought to be responsible for doubling their risk of depression compared with men. Men, however, have at least double the risk for substance abuse and four times the risk for suicide.

So mental health demands both healthy expression of feelings and an action-oriented understanding of the problem. Complicating things for men are the continual messages we get from the culture that doing anything–running, dancing, acting, talking, or looking–“like a girl” is to be avoided at all costs. Children are remarkably sophisticated pattern-seeking organisms, and so boys learn that talking about feelings is not for them.

And then there is the problem that nobody really helped boys understand masculinity; it was merely enacted for us and we rarely saw anyone being critical of the demands to never display vulnerable emotions. We felt the pressure but could not name it. And when one cannot name a pressure, it is very difficult to resist it.

If as a boy, if your father and/or other important men in your life seemed larger than life—always in control, never sad, worried, or unconfident—then you probably thought had the sense that “I will never be that.” It can be very healing for men to understand that these men had learned and internalized the performance of masculinity, and thus that they were no different from you—sometimes feeling low, unsure, afraid. You compared your inner experience with others’ appearances and inevitably came up short.

So if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or some other mental health problem, you have to fight your masculine socialization to deal with it. First, you have to understand a little bit about masculinity. Once you can name it, you are in a better position to resist it at the times when failing to do so conflicts with an important life goal or value and/or hurts another person. Most of us value having good feelings and being fully present for our loved ones, and so we have to do some things that we were taught are “feminine” but are really human as well as essential for managing our inner struggles.

Next, ask for help. The old joke was that we can’t even ask for directions when we are lost (Thank God for GPS!) but we can ask, and we have to. You can’t wait for a time when picking up the phone and calling a therapist will be comfortable; that is very unlikely. You have do it despite being uncomfortable. Then, when you get into treatment, you will have to talk about your feelings and your inner life. It will feel awkward, but do it because it’s important.

Self-disclosure, feeling awareness, and introspection are skills, and skills improve with practice. Remember the first time you tried to swing a golf club, play a chord on the guitar or piano, build something out of wood, change a tire, or dribble a basketball? You felt awkward then, too, but if you stuck with it, over time it became second nature. These psychological skills are no different; young girls learned them as a matter of course, but the culture conspired against our learning the same things. And when do we invest time and effort in learning a skill? When we value the outcome.

Take solace in the fact that if you struggle with mental health or problems in living, you are not alone. Many men do, even those who have cultivated the appearance that they are always sure of themselves. Forgive yourself for not being what other men appear to be, but are actually not, and understand that acting like an unfeeling machine is highly overrated.

Dr. Christopher Kilmartin is a professor of Psychology at Mary Washington University and the author or co-author of several books, including “The Masculine Self” (5th ed., with Andrew P. Smiler) and “Overcoming Masculine Depression: The Pain Behind the Mask” (with John R. Lynch).

The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, Division 51 of the APA, advances knowledge in the psychology of men through research, education, training, public policy, and improved clinical practice.

Division 51 believes aspects of traditional gender roles are restrictive in nature and often lead to negative consequences and unhealthy interactions for many individuals and society. SPSMM endeavors to point out constrictive conceptions of masculinity that have inhibited men’s development, reduced men’s capacity to form meaningful relationships, and contributed to the oppression of others. SPSMM supports the empowerment of all persons and believes this empowerment leads to the highest level of functioning in individual men and women.

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Guest Post: Depression and the Strength of Asking for Help

Category: Men and Health 

Guest post by Sam Drexler – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

Men suffering from depression often struggle to ask for help. Asking for help is widely perceived as a weakness among men, which prevents them from getting the care they need. While vulnerability may hurt a man’s self image, receiving effective treatment could dramatically improve his well-being. “More than 6 million men in the United States have at least one episode of major depression each year,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We need to encourage men to be more proactive about asking for help.

Asking for help is intimidating, especially for something like depression. The first step in the recovery process is admitting to yourself that you have a problem, which can be very difficult. Once you recognize you are suffering from depression, you can seek support from trusted friends and family. Asking for help should be seen as a sign of strength and self-awareness, but unfortunately it is often thought of as a sign of weakness.

When men don’t ask for help and suppress their feelings the consequences can be devastating. Depression not only affects the individual, but also impacts their relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Here are some ways to deal with depression.

Medical Treatment

During a visit with a doctor or therapist, they will ask you questions about your mood and any major behavior changes to assess your symptoms and come up with a treatment plan that works for you. Finding a professional that you connect with and trust is essential to the healing process. A psychotherapist can help you cope with troubling thoughts and feelings and work with you to develop healthier behavior patterns. A doctor may recommend antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. It is important to note that antidepressants often take weeks to have an effect.

Lifestyle Changes

Regular exercise can significantly boost your mood not only for the short term, but also for long-term depression. According to several studies reviewed by Michael Otto, a psychology professor at Boston University, and his colleagues, “exercise could be a powerful intervention for clinical depression.” A healthy diet can also improve symptoms of depression. Eating nutrient dense foods while cutting back on saturated fats, caffeine, and alcohol can positively affect your mood and improve brain functioning.

Restful sleep is proven to be good for both your mind and body. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night for adults and suggests maintaining a consistent bedtime routine. There are no quick fixes for depression, so be patient and have faith that this difficult time will pass. Trust your support team and remember asking for help is a great strength.

Support Resources

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Men’s Health Network

Sourced from

American Psychological Association

National Sleep Foundation

Mental Health America

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Guest Post: Support During Trauma: You Are Not Alone

Category: Men and Health 

Guest post by Natnael Aklile – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

As a recent survivor of an Artery Vein Malfunction, brain injuries are a topic I hold extremely dear to me. In September of 2013, a collection of tangled blood vessels in my brain tore, physically affecting the right side of my body. The bleed was significant; as there was about as much blood spilled in my skull as about the average size of an adult’s fist. As a result, the right side of my body was and still is weaker in strength and response time but as I continue my therapy sessions, I continue to improve. I spent two months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital doing intense physical, occupational and speech therapy. To this day I continue with physical therapy but I no longer need occupational and speech therapy.

It is a complicated issue to tackle, since it is not genetic or a preventable situation. It just happens. However, the key place that needs work on this subject would be dealing in the mental stress that comes with the recovery period. It has been a lengthy and sluggish recovery, but I’ve managed to stay positive due to my support team that I have been blessed with. My friends and family were extremely supportive and continue to be to this day. Nevertheless, not everyone is as blessed as I am to have such a great support team, as I witnessed plenty of individuals needing emotional support in the hospitals. Although most had the weekly emotional therapist that was provided by the hospital, that was not nearly enough. Some of these individuals needed extensive therapy and had little to no support from family and friends. In my opinion, this country does not focus enough on the psychological effects that lead to depression until it is too late. There should be more efforts in protecting the mental state of the patients and their family, as it is usually a very difficult time for them as well.

Family and friends are critical in dealing with a recovery from a traumatic injury. According to a therapist I was appointed to in the hospital during my stay, a lot of individuals need extensive therapy just to keep from becoming depressed. I was and continue to be very grateful of the support team I was lucky enough to include on my journey, as that was one of the main reasons I was able to keep my sanity in such a discouraging period in my life. Personally,  I learned time and again, you can only control your response to life’s ordeals so if you can, relax because things tend to work out in the end anyways.

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What Stops Leaders from Empowering Others?

empowerment

Empowerment

 

guest post by Alain Hunkins – Pioneer Leadership

The research firm Universum recently queried over 2,000 business leaders and professionals, asking:

What’s the most important quality that you expect future leaders to possess?

The #1 response (41%):

They empower their employees.

Empowerment.

It became a business buzzword twenty years ago, and has been in and out of vogue ever since.

At it’s core, it’s about enabling others to do things on their own.

Most leaders I work with strive to be empowering.

But there’s a big difference between striving and succeeding.

What stops leaders from empowering others? What makes it so hard?

I got a first-hand taste of this empowerment challenge working with a team that I spend a lot of time with:  my family.

My 11 year old son Alexander is in the fourth grade.  His school recently held a “walk or bike to school” day, to promote physical activity.

Alexander asked me if he could bike to school on his own.  (The school’s about a mile from our house.)

Some qualities about Alexander you should know:

  • He’s incredibly responsible.  Always has been.
  • He’s very safety conscious.
  • He has a great sense of direction.
  • He’s ridden the route to and from school many times with me.
  • He stops at busy intersections, gets off and walks his bike after checking no cars are coming.

So can I ride to school, Dad?

I paused.

I know all these qualities of my son.  I love these qualities.  Yet, even so, I noticed that my first impulse was to say “No”.

Thoughts flew through my head:

  • What if a car doesn’t see him?
  • What if he gets a flat tire?
  • What if he can’t get his bike lock unlocked?
  • What if the bike gets stolen?
  • What if a policeman stops him and hassles him for being a biking “free-range” kid?  (This has made the national news lately.)

That first instinct was to shut things down.

But I waited to respond.  In the pause, I questioned myself:

Where are these thoughts coming from?

I was doing what psychologists call catastrophizing: creating worst-case scenarios in my mind.

My fear was talking: I was afraid to let go of control.

Generally, I’d like to think of myself as an empowering leader. But in that moment of fear, empowerment was the last thing on my mind.

I wasn’t interested in serving anyone else.  I had no interest in helping Alexander fulfill his potential.  I was only interested in my own selfish need to preserve the safety of the status quo.

And if that wasn’t enough, my ego felt under attack.

That ego-voice was shouting at me:

Hey, Alain!  If Alexander can now ride alone to school, then you are irrelevant.  Useless.

I wasn’t ready to give up my own need to be needed.

I was blind to the opportunity that biking to school was offering.  Not only would Alexander  developing more responsibility, I’d be less locked into my role as parent-chauffeur.

So, Dad, whaddya think, can I ride to school by myself?

All of these thoughts–the catastrophizing, justifying, questioning–had happened in about three seconds of clock time.

Thankfully, I’d stayed in that pause of reflection without responding.

I came to my senses.  I remembered my primary charge: to steward my son’s growth into greater autonomy.

Sure, Alexander, you can ride to school.

I’ll admit it:  The micro-manager in me almost blurted out:

But make sure to wear your helmet!  

But I caught myself in time.

(n.b. No surprise ending here. Everything turned out just fine that day. Alexander now wants to ride to school most mornings.)

Where have you seen leaders (you or others) unwilling to let go of control? What do you think kept them from empowering others?  What were the consequences? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.

Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

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Flying

by Niklaus Towne

My anger consumes my life and I hate myself for it. As a child, I was hospitalized for my rage. I have tried therapy, group work, meditation, acupuncture, diet changes, exercise regimens, medications, marijuana — but self-control stays out of my reach. Whenever I become stressed, I throw a tantrum. I lash out, scream, and become dangerous. My wife and I want to have a child, but she confesses that she is hesitant to raise a child with a partner so full of rage.

By good fortune, I find myself at a weekend workshop for men on the Pine Ridge Reservation, not far from my home. I do not fully understand the program when I arrive with three of my students. I assume I will sit off to the side and watch them work through their troubles. But I am thrown in – surrounded by over one hundred men from around the world. We begin to go into “inner space” in hopes to become the men we are meant to be. The work is intense. It culminates in “Buffalo Work”, wherein the men push you into your own guts and your own heart.

I tremble with anxiety as I step into the circle. The Lakota elders bless the space and I feel the power in the room. The men begin asking questions and I reply only, “Shame, hating myself” before a physical transformation begins to happen. Blood rushes to my head and neck and my ears ring loudly. I cannot keep eye contact with the men and I shake violently. I pour water over myself and plead, “There is something in me, something bad, please get it out!”

Suddenly, I am in the air, held by my chest and my t-shirt. The man holding me pulls the anger from my body – running outside to throw it away. I crumple to the floor and the elders smudge me with sage, hitting it into my body with an eagle wing. Another man scoops me into his lap and holds me while I cry. Through my sobs, I say “I’m sorry”. The men forgive me and ask me to forgive myself. I do, and instantly I feel light and hopeful. As I start to recover, the men pick me up and walk me out into the sun, holding me high in the air. I am flying – held by the men who showed me such kindness. The warm sun is on my face. I am loved and accepted.

I am forgiven. The rage is gone. The men ask me, “What is your medicine?”

“Love.”

Niklaus

Niklaus Towne lives with his wife, two labradoodles, dachshund, cat, and chickens in the middle of the prairie of South Dakota. When he is not busy teaching preschool, he can be found swimming at the nearest lake or planting trees. He completed his New Warrior Training Adventure in May 2015.

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ManKind Project Durango Helping Teens in High School

by Tim Birchard

The project was recently featured on "Inside Durango" TV.

The project was recently featured on “Inside Durango” TV.

The MKP Durango Area Community in southwest Colorado recently collaborated with Durango School District 9R and other local organizations to host the 2nd Annual ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference for 8th grade boys transitioning to high school.The conference, a character development opportunity for more than 200 boys (up from 90 boys served last year), featured workshops focused on nurturing Responsibility, Perseverance, and Respect. Interactive workshops included hands-on experiences with aikido, drumming, low-ropes courses, and other events designed to help the boys identify and articulate issues related to connecting with the Mature Masculine.

Directly in keeping with MKP’s stated purpose of supporting men in leading meaningful lives of integrity, accountability, responsibility, and emotional intelligence, the Keys To High School Success conference was designed and continues to evolve to directly address what eighth-grade boys need most, as prescribed by Ph.D. psychologists Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon in their seminal study, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (Random House Publishing Group, 2009):

  1. Give boys permission to have an internal life, approval for the full range of human emotions, and help in developing an emotional vocabulary so that they may better understand themselves and communicate more effectively with others.
  2. Recognize and accept the high activity level of boys and give them safe boy places to express it.
  3. Talk to boys in their language—in a way that honors their pride and their masculinity. Be direct with them; use them as consultants and problem solvers.
  4. Teach boys that emotional courage is courage, and that courage and empathy are the sources of real strength in life.
  5. Use discipline to build character and conscience, not enemies.
  6. Model a manhood of emotional attachment.
  7. Teach boys that there are many ways to be a man.

MKP has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with School District 9R, and is in official sponsorship supporting Conference needs. For this year’s conference, ManKind Project men were involved at all levels, from providing workshops to writing grants to coordinating conference logistics. School District 9R and MKP Durango Area Community plan to continue to grow and enhance that partnership, with MKP Durango Area Community taking over the conference at some point in the near future.

The Colorado School Public Relations Association (COSPRA), an organization dedicated to helping public school district members build stronger ties with their local communities through the practice of public relations, recently recognized the ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference as an award-winning community effort in the state of Colorado.

What we found particularly impressive about the ‘Keys to Success’ is its ambition to positively change the personal behaviors of young male students to help them succeed. ‘Keys to Success’ is a Medallion Award Winner.”  — Dan Dougherty, Director of Communications, Mesa County Valley Schools

The planning committee is working to carefully document all aspects of the curriculum in order to build a program that can be easily replicated by school districts and communities across the U.S. The program is aligned with and satisfies state education standards for 8th grade health education in three different tracks: Healthy Relationships, Advocacy, and Positive Self Image.

In an effort to increase and maximize opportunities for 8th grade boys to come into contact with examples of the Mature Masculine, one of the next steps in the evolution of the conference is to bring I-Group circles for the boys into local middle schools. By offering weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly opportunities throughout the school year for connection with experienced MKP men who are doing their work, the Keys To High School Success conference will transform from a stand-alone, annual event into the culmination of a year-long process through which boys becoming young men learn to do their work.

For more information about the Keys To High School Success conference, contact Tim Birchard (timbirchard@gmail.com) or Michael Cahn (mfcahn@gmail.com).

 

Tim B

Tim Birchard, a.k.a. Coyote Trickster, initiated January, 2013 in Elbert, CO, and has staffed three NWTAs. He currently serves as co-coordinator of the Keys To High School Success conference with fellow Warrior Brother Michael Cahn, and also serves on the MKP Durango Area Community Stewardship Council. In addition to working as an academic advisor to science, technology, engineering, and math students at Fort Lewis College in Durango, he is also an author, a recording musician, and a record collector. For more information, visit www.timbirchard.com.

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The Dimming Embers – a poem

Category: Poetry 

The Dimming Embers

Into the dimming embers Men blow.
Fire lights exploding, in the glow!

Timbers falling on dusted earth.
Crying.
Dying.

Then from the sky, tears of Life falling.

Soaking.
Drinking…
Quenching the thirst of landed seeds.

Sprouting.
Branching.
Leafing into new days of timbers rising!

And so it shall be.
After dimming embers glow.
From fire dusted bark, we grow.

~philippe berthiaume 3/2/2014

Philippe

Philippe Berthiaume is a creative soul receiving his first Blue Ribbon Award for a crayon drawing of Columbus’ Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. He was six years old. It was his defining moment as an Artist. 16 years later he graduated with College degrees in Photography, Ceramic Arts, and Theology. Today, he paints pictures with words on paper, not with paint on canvas__ and his first novel is almost complete. During the warm months, his green thumbs are happy digging, planting, and meditating in his vegetable, perennial, and Japanese gardens. They are equally happy cooking in the ManKind Project kitchens of New England as a Man of Service. Philippe completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2009.

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Shadow of You – a poem

Category: Poetry 

Shadow of You.
Of light and dust.
And skin and bone.
A man among men.
You were never alone.

Shadow of You.
Of light and dust.
You carried me then.
In your skin and bone.

Shadow of Me.
Of light and dust.
And skin and bone.
A man among men.
I am never alone.

Shadow of You.
Now light and dust.
Not skin and bone.
I carry you now.
In my skin and bone.
A man among men.
We are never alone.

~philippe berthiaume 12/14/14
~honoring the memory of my dad.

Philippe

Philippe Berthiaume is a creative soul receiving his first Blue Ribbon Award for a crayon drawing of Columbus’ Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. He was six years old. It was his defining moment as an Artist. 16 years later he graduated with College degrees in Photography, Ceramic Arts, and Theology. Today, he paints pictures with words on paper, not with paint on canvas__ and his first novel is almost complete. During the warm months, his green thumbs are happy digging, planting, and meditating in his vegetable, perennial, and Japanese gardens. They are equally happy cooking in the ManKind Project kitchens of New England as a Man of Service. Philippe completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2009.

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All of Me – a poem

Category: Poetry 

by Brooks Harrelson

All of Me

All of my soul wants you,
What part of me can I show you?

My lover wants to hold and care for you,
warm you in the cold nights, and grey spaces,
wrap you in protective blankets of love against
the howl of change and the grief of loss until
the Spring blossoms in your soul, and filling,
lights your smile and your eyes. And,
I want to be held so by you.

My friendly, savage beast wants to romp and play
with you in the fields, nuzzling, chasing, laughing,
tumbling down and down in carnal delight to rise
and start again, from dawn to blissful sunset exhaustion.
Fiercely, wildly, gently, strongly, putting all of myself into you,
and receiving all of creation in return.

My magician wants to look deeply into your eyes,
and connect our souls,
to explore the paths of consciousness and future,
to sail on dreams of possibilities,
and follow our fears to magical gifts of the heart.

My sovereign leaps with joy at your sight,
and would shower you with gifts from abundance.
I want to live at your feet in service,
I want to use the power of our joint magnificence to bless all who surround us,
and to sit, with you, in glory.

The heavens call me and hold my hopes. You are there.
The earth below supports me. I feel you there.

And all these are in my heart, that wants just to touch your heart,
A little.

April ’15

Brooks Harrelson is married and a father of three, of whom he is exceptionally proud. He’s been in software development for 54 years. He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in June 1999. He’s active in the Men On The Loose I-group, a Leader in Training for the ManKind Project, and active in the Arlington MA Diversity Task Group. His personal mission is, “I create a world of blessings through connection and service.”

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Men’s Work is a Tug of War

from the Lair of the Wildman

boyoutIf you had attended Elementary School or High School with me, you would immediately recognize me in this photograph – I am the one up front. In fact, I don’t think I was as cool as this kid.

For me, those years in school were a nightmare. Sure, I was usually the last one picked for a team, I was clumsy and pudgy. We didn’t have much money and my mother made clothes for me that caused quite a sensation; and teachers usually liked me – a sure fire method for exclusion.

All those truths hurt and caused conflict but the thing I wanted most was to ‘belong’, and I don’t know if its the nature of people or wanting something so badly, but thats the thing I just couldn’t have.

That truth is what makes the story that follows compelling for me. Following March’s Conversation Circle, where once again 16 men showed up to get real about their shadows and gold, I received an e-mail from a man widely known in the community. This man is a long-time warrior but a man who hangs on the fringes, dresses differently, is a lightning rod for judgement and an self-appointed eccentric. He had heard through a friend of my Conversation Circles and wanted to be included on the e-mail list. My gut response was “No!” That is how I found out I was perfectly willing to be in the background part of the photo too.

So to speak it clearly, I, who was painfully familiar with being made fun of, being excluded, and the butt of sarcasm and even ridicule about things that might or might not have been true – was suddenly willing to perpetrate those acts against another man.

I sat with this unwanted e-mail a few days before responding. By now I had had an opportunity to look more closely in my mirror. I saw a very accurate and unflattering image of my ego and attachment to things that are not even mine – like the beautiful and provocative energy of this circle of men. I saw my fear of having to share, my fear of things changing and the illusion that I have any control over change. Most powerfully, I saw my own need to “feel special” and what I was willing to do to perpetuate that feeling rather than “knowing” that it is inherently true.

A few days later, this man agreed to sit down face to face and talk with me. I had included him on the next e-mail but, there was more work to do. It is worth noting that I was 35 minutes late for that breakfast meeting. He doesn’t carry a cell phone and I went to the wrong restaurant (of the same name) and noticed the Universe permitting me to be humbled on my way to being humbled.

After a brief greeting and exchange, I got right to it. “Jim,” I said, “Thank you for the e-mail you sent, it gave me a chance to see myself more clearly.” I looked in his eyes deliberately, took a deep breath and continued, “When I read it my gut response was that I didn’t want to share my group with you. And, that is not the kind of man I choose to be.”

Now an amazing thing happened when Jim responded, he said, “Thank you for seeing me brother!” There were no bells nor magical chimes, but I am telling you the world felt a little shifted. Not only that, Jim gave me permission to share our story for the sake of a bigger picture.

Reeling from the blessing I had received in my conversation with Jim, I thought I saw a larger opportunity. Could I share this story with the Circle? What if sharing the truth of my own prejudice and attachment to ego in this regard, could allow more of us to look honestly at the fractured condition of our community of Warrior men? So, with the intention of sharing the ‘ugly’ truth about myself, I called and personally invited more than a dozen men, who sit on a different side of our tribe to to ‘step into’ my discomfort with me. The more I called, the easier it got. Hell, those who I didn’t have numbers for I Facebook messaged and texted.

To set the tone last Friday, after men landed and checked in, I announced that we were going to have a Tug of War, assigned two Team Captains, and, just like in High School they selected teams one by one. I had a remarkably old and familiar feeling in my gut. It began a meandering and heartfelt exploration of belonging and not.
Of wanting and not daring to want.

I was, until this moment, ambivalent about disclosing to you that, aside from Jim, not a single man I called personally showed up. However, I just realized what the real Tug of War is.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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The Confusion that Leads to Distraction and Overwhelm

guest post by Alain Hunkins – Pioneer Leadership

sirensSome months back, I shared a post (The Antidote to the Interruption Age) about how we’re no longer in the information age–we now live in the interruption age.

Do you feel more overwhelmed and distracted than you used to?

If your experience is anything like many of the leaders I work with, you probably answered yes. 

Part of the reason we’re so much more distracted than ever before is quite simple:  there are a lot more things to distract us than ever before.

Before technology enabled us to create a boundary-less world where we could work, connect and consume 24/7, we didn’t have this kind of access.  It’s as if we’re now swimming in a perpetual ocean of information.

As exciting as riding these waves this can be, this swimming can easily turn into floundering–on a good day, we’re treading water.  On a bad day, it can feel like drowning.

The cause?

We confuse opportunity with priority.

Opportunity.  

It’s a shiny, glittering window that magnetizes the senses.  Looking through its frame is thrilling.

Like the Sirens that called to Odysseus, opportunity offers you possibilities at every turn. There are the obvious distractions:

  • Read this about this horrible tragedy/natural disaster!
  • Learn about what great lives your friends are having!
  • Get the inside scoop on your favorite celebrity!

or the more subtle ones:

  • Call this client back who never buys, but is real friendly to talk to.
  • Check in with a colleague to once again “vent at the appropriate level”.
  • Read more articles on what I’m working on, because I need to do more research before producing.

Opportunity is sneaky:  it travels at the speed of thought, so you can imagine a glorious outcome without putting in any effort.

Priority moves slower.  It travels at the speed of action.   Rather than surfing the waves, working a priority means staying on shore, grounded and focused on whatever’s most important.

Priority translates into work.  What needs to be done right now?  What do I need to move forward?

  • Call these five prospects.
  • Do the laundry.
  • Finish that report.
  • Have that difficult conversation.

Opportunity is usually attractive and sexy.

Priority:  not so much.

I recently came across a quote that seems particular appropriate to this:

“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”

–Anonymous

What do you do to keep your priorities straight, and not get caught riding the waves of potential opportunities?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.

Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

 

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Stones of My Fathers – a poem

Category: Poetry 

Stones of My Fathers

Stones of my Fathers.
Mud under foot.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.
Laid by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Cobbles under foot.
America, Europe, the Middle East.
Laid by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Marbled Cathedrals, Temples, and Mosques.
Made by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Carved blocks.
Michelangelo’s David.
The Slave’s White House.
Made by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Wailing walls from Boston to Berlin,
Jerusalem, and China.
Segregated in. Segregated out.
Laid by your hands.

I cry with you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Crushed under foot, flat and smooth.
With painted lines, yellow and white.
Laid not by your hands.
Now stained with Red.

I cry with you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Carved with names.
Bones of the innocent.
Dying on you.

New York City.
Boston.
Los Angeles.
Ferguson.

France.
Israel.
Iraq.
Sarajevo.
Poland.
Rwanda.
Armenia.
Syria.
Vietnam.
Kenya.

Stones of my Fathers.
I pray for you.

~philippe berthiaume 4/24/15

Philippe

Philippe Berthiaume is a creative soul receiving his first Blue Ribbon Award for a crayon drawing of Columbus’ Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. He was six years old. It was his defining moment as an Artist. 16 years later he graduated with College degrees in Photography, Ceramic Arts, and Theology. Today, he paints pictures with words on paper, not with paint on canvas__ and his first novel is almost complete. During the warm months, his green thumbs are happy digging, planting, and meditating in his vegetable, perennial, and Japanese gardens. They are equally happy cooking in the ManKind Project kitchens of New England as a Man of Service. Philippe completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2009.

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Prodigal Father, Wayward Son – a Book by Sam & Gifford Keen

by Boysen Hodgson

I read “Fire in the Belly” in my early 20’s. It was a powerful addition to my list of favorite personal development books, along with “The Book; on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,””Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” “The Road Less Travelled,” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Yes, I was a young man searching.

Sam Keen’s powerful voice for the sacred masculine was terrifying and liberating. It felt unattainable. Maybe it was. Now, in 2015, as a man in my mid-forties, the masculinity presented in “Fire in the Belly” still resonates. And, with the progress of time and culture, it doesn’t feel as transcendent as what I see some men actually living.

Though the message he brought was radical, Sam Keen was still a man of his time. Sam Keen, as a father, a husband, and a working man, was different than the stereotype of the 1960’s corporate suburban provider, but his expressions of the values of manhood were a horizontal shift rather than an up-level into a new paradigm. His realisations about manhood were an essential and natural next step in an evolutionary process, similar to what Robert Bly captured in “Iron John.” Modern man’s search for the intersection of life-giving power without Patriarchy’s death-dealing oppression. It was a vision of men trying to kindle a spark of wildness in a time that felt deadening, and find their tender hearts in a time when their hearts felt hardened.

Some things have changed. Many have not. The evolution of our gender system is ongoing, and progress happens. I am fiercely optimistic. I see men living with power and compassion all around me. I see men awakened. Sam Keen played a role in this emergence – and for that I am deeply grateful.

“Prodigal Father, Wayward Son” the new book co-written by Sam Keen and his son Gifford Keen is reflective of the unintended consequences of the kind of manhood that a younger Keen wrote about, and a beautiful testament to the power of vulnerability, truth-telling and forgiveness. It is a series of stories told by Father to Son and Son to Father on a path to reconciliation.

Gifford and Sam Keen offer up the past unflinchingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to read. But what I loved about the book is the tenderness that emerges in the empathy that they discover together. It takes hard work to get there. It takes a level of personal responsibility and vulnerability only achieved through effort over time, the kind of effort that requires a fire in the belly.

I was fortunate to speak with Gifford and Sam in February 2015, shortly after the book was published. I believe that the Sam Keen I spoke with is a wonderful example of the evolution I explore above. What I experienced in the conversation with Sam and Gifford were men whose hearts were wide open, compassionate, and ready to speak the truth.

See the full interview here.

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications and Marketing Director for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Boysen received his BA with Honors from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, after completing 2 years of Design coursework at Cornell University. He has been helping companies and individuals design the change they wish to see in the world for 15 years. He’s a dedicated husband.

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40 Powerful Purpose Quotes from Across the Ages

by Brandon Peele

Since the beginning of history, humans have had a deep relationship to their life’s purpose, and sought to gift future generations with this message, weaving purpose into art, philosophy, literature and religions.  Our ancestors who heeded the call of purpose, who made their life’s purpose central, reached unheralded levels of achievement, fulfillment and spiritual realization.

Need a lift? Need some inspiration? Check out PurposeUpgrade.com for a free 75 minute Webinar – “Purpose 2.0 – Upgrade Your ‘Internal Operating System’ for a High Impact Life.” If you want change in the world – and in your own life – it’s time to upgrade your operating system.

This gallery of 40 purpose quotes is only the tip of the iceberg for what is out there. Leaders of all kinds from throughout history have arrived at a similar place … KNOWING and LIVING from a deep sense of purpose is key to feeling fulfillment, significance, and belonging.

Brandon Peele

Brandon Peele is the Founder of The EVR1 Institute, and co-Teacher of the Man on Purpose Course, a powerful 7-week LIVE online course that connects men to their life’s purpose.  Brandon is a co-author of the Purpose Activation Blueprint (purposeactivationblueprint.com), a free workbook that helps men build the life and world they want.

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Guest Post: Spice Up Your Relationship with a Blind Date

Want to learn and experience something new with your partner? Try going on a “blind date”. Here’s how it worked for Michael J. Russer.

– –

by Michael Russer, originally published at the Good Men Project 

My partner and I wanted to do something different and adventurous for Valentine’s Day. So she had this idea about us going on a “blind date”. Where we would meet at a restaurant and bar as if being set up by our mutual friend “Bill”. The idea was to stay totally in character (i.e. as if we had just met) throughout the entire meeting and dinner. And what came out of this exercise was not only surprising, it certainly spiced up the rest of our evening during the “debrief” phase.

Getting Lost at the Bar

We decided that we would “meet” in the bar lounge area of the restaurant, one that overlooked the entire city of Santa Barbara where we live (very romantic I must say.) I actually saw her arrive and go into the lounge area, and what I thought was the ladies room. So I picked a nice spot on one of the couches near the fire place as I waited for her to come out. And I waited, and waited. Then I started thinking: “What the hell happened? Where did she go?”

So I got up and walked around until I found her actually sitting at the bar, looking very sexy as she sipped her glass of Chardonnay. As I walked up to her I was thinking how typical this must be in other blind date situations –the awkward initial trying to spot each other before formal introductions.

“Excuse me, are you Jacky?”

Once it became clear that I was her blind date, we shook hands and retired back to the couch as we waited for our table. Now we were firmly in the “let’s get to know a little more about each other” phase. You know how it goes, a certain measured charm, a sly look here, a subtle grin there. I didn’t want to come off as being too anxious or make it blatantly obvious that I thought she was absolutely gorgeous and whip smart. Likewise, while being relatively animated and engaging, she didn’t immediately let on that she thought I was quite charming with a good sense of humor.

My God, we really got into our roles as we started “learning” more about each other through questions and observation. Without question, as most couples experience in this kind of initial pairing, we both put on subtle airs and just a bit of pretense. Which is so weird to experience given that our real relationship has neither. So in some ways it was like an out-of-body experience (at least for me) as I observed our interaction. I actually found myself wondering if she felt I was passing muster as someone “interesting”.

Being a Real Klutz in a Pretend Situation

After about thirty minutes of pleasantries on the coach our table was ready. As we stood up I almost knocked her drink into her dress. I felt so embarrassed, actually much more so than if we weren’t in character. Apparently, there was a part of me that totally believed we were meeting for the first time and worried what a lousy first impression I must have made with my clumsiness.

Dinner was incredible. The food, ambiance and spectacular views. We both drank it all in as we continued to relax a bit and reveal just a bit more of our vulnerable true selves as we took our time eating. Even our conversation became a bit more playful as we let our guards down just a bit. Clearly, this “blind date” seemed to be going in the right direction for both of us.

After we finished dinner we walked hand-in-hand (she really let her guard down I must say) around the beautiful property surrounding the restaurant. Eventually however, our “date” had to come to an end and we went our separate ways (we each drove there) after saying how much we enjoyed the evening.

The Debrief

Of course the “going our separate ways” thing didn’t last very long as she drove over to my place where we debriefed and shared our experience with each other. Here are some of the things we discovered from our little experiment:

  • Staying in character was surprisingly easy. We both really got into it without a hint of a snicker or knowing wink that would have broken the spell. It was if we were in a play-–very cool to experience.
  • We received a fresh perspective of each other. Since we didn’t meet this way in reality and our courtship started out as strictly friends first, we had never experienced that “aha” moment that comes with a fixed “date” situation. We were both able to observe the other on how genuine and engaging (or not) we would have been if we met within this kind of context.
  • My partner confessed that she spent extra time picking out the right dress and spending a couple of hours at the beauty salon. She pointed out that she actually enjoyed a great deal preparing for our ‘meeting’ and broke the routine of thinking ‘why bother, it’s just him’. It did actually push her to do something she doesn’t do regularly and enjoyed the experience of looking beautiful for the ‘blind date’.

Interestingly, it also gave each of us a whole new appreciation and respect for the other. Think about this for a moment. This experiment could have actually gone sideways. What if one of us really didn’t like the way the other was coming off (something I actually considered.) It could have tainted our real relationship. Instead, we seemed to have developed an even deep bond, respect and attraction for each other.

My partner and I have a relationship based upon mutual authenticity, respect, trust and a great sense of adventure. And as with any adventure there is risk, but with this risk is the reward of a far richer relationship that is anything but stale. So next time you feel you and your significant other may have fallen into a boring routine, spice it up a bit and go on a “blind date”. In addition to opening your eyes, it will open your heart as well.

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From Dad’s Toolbox

from the Lair of the Wildman

There’s a wrong I’d like to right. The man I wronged is dead, so I am asking you to hear my truth in this regard. If it resonates, so be it, or, share your truth.

I was 48 when I first heard of a Warrior Weekend and the idea that there were other men in the world that wondered . . . ‘is this it, is this what being a man is?’ was foreign to me. I was hungry for the company of men I just didn’t know it, I was more often hiding behind the skirts of women, looking for validation. Or just plain hiding.

I grew up in Minnesota in the 60’s, the son of a hard-working, high-school educated man. He was plain-spoken, raised on a farm (that I cherished), he cried once that I can remember – when his father died, he was a perfectionist, and, he was profoundly unavailable to me emotionally.

I took this personally and when I began to spend time with men, it became fashionable for me, in reviewing the life I had with my father, to proclaim that he really wan’t much of a father, or, that he didn’t have much to give and therefore could really be the father I needed. I want to amend that story I made up.

Richard was a self-taught carpenter. He spent most of his early to middle working life in the employ of developers and the year I was twelve he had a great partner. Every day, for months that year, Dad and Bob hung 100 sheets of rock a day. It was the equivalent of five houses a week. Do words written with unabashed pride read differently? Richard was 48 that year and it wasn’t long after that he went into business for himself.

Richard was how I worked my way through college. Not every son gets to know the intimacies of this ancient father/son dance, but some do and I count my self lucky. As fortunate as I feel, know too that working for a father is a bugger. A perfectionist is seldom a perfectionist unto themselves and so it was with dad. My work and ethic was under constant and unwavering scrutiny. This was especially true in the world where ‘plumb’ and ‘level’ reside. As an adolescent, I was frequently given to ‘good enough’. I didn’t get it.

Let me put it another way. The idea that all things are ‘connected’ doesn’t emerge from Buddhist philosophy; it came from a carpenter, and he wasn’t born with it, its functional wisdom that is the product of trial and error. Try building a wall on a floor that isn’t level. Try hanging a door in a wall that isn’t plumb. Install a window or cabinet in a room and, damn, if one thing doesn’t lean on the other. There’s something sneaky about plumb and level because a degree here, is a foot on the other side of the room. The consequence of being inattentive in this moment, can mean unforeseen tragedy a month or a year down the road. Gives me pause even now.

When I was 28, a buddy and I built a cabin in the foothills of Mt. Shasta in northern California. My emotionally unavailable father drove the straight 46 hours out with me in a Jeep Wrangler to help. We didn’t talk so much about life, but he brought his tool box.

When I was later married and at 33 started to build another cabin on a lake in western Wisconsin. My father spent weeks and months helping me finish the place. We disagreed on politics, religion, and gutters but he brought his tool box.

Then, at 42, in an attempt to save my marriage we sold everything and bought a run down 100-acre farm.to ‘start over’, It was an 80-year-old man who brought his tool box and drove the 80 miles out to help where he could. Finally, divorced, I moved back in with dad to help him out with his Cancer diagnosis and collect myself, I began to go through his tools and when he died in June of 2012, I used some of them to build his casket. He loved the long clear grain of fir.

I reflect from time to time on the things I have built in my life and recognize with a flush, that I didn’t clearly see what dad was really giving me.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

 

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The first stone

from the Lair of the Wild Man

When my eyes opened this morning, my head had been working for some time already. I woke with a late-night conversation poking at my sensibilities and weighing on my heart. A man I have known only briefly through social media has begun to interject divisive, strongly rhetorical conservative talking points to my posts. We disagree fiercely on core issues. When I sit with this kind of conflict, I see the same tension replaying inself in every arena of daily life. Is it any wonder then, even elevator conversations are either heated or paralyzed? Our debates happen to be political or reflections on ethics and society, and its heavy stuff. But it isn’t just those conversations. . .

I found myself on a page with a video highlighting the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. The cinematography was brilliant, the voice over powerful and measured. The posts that followed were divisive, angry and polarized. Not only did participants display complete irreverence for the other side’s views, posts were nasty and filled with name calling and actual threats.

A similar feeling came to me last night while I was watching PBS and a special by the BBC on the work of a northern Minnesota man who has been collaring and tracking black bears, bringing their struggle into the light. The response? Supporters are simple-minded liberal tree-huggers and the detractors are actively hunting the projects collared Research bears. Seems we are a binary as computers.

With my Facebook friend, my ‘facts’ are no better, no more persuasive than his. Moreover, (as he quickly points out) it seems most of the ‘facts’ cited in social media these days have been designed to be used and shared and repeated in just this manner by a public beleaguered with sound bites, memes and hyperbole. I believe we are being ‘used’. There’s something happening to civil discourse. In fact, even the words seem obsolete.

I reached out to him privately recently and suggested, “You are the loudest voice I hear across this river that divides us. If I forego what I think I know and I lay this stone down at my feet in your direction, could it be the first stone of a bridge we build between us?”

What if I forego what I think I know and lay this stone down?

That, my friends, is the work of the Wild Man. And if you’d ask it of a friend, would you ask it of yourself?

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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The Price of a Cubicle

from the Lair of the Wild Man

Some years ago now, I danced with a bawdy band of bough-brandishing brigands. We performed under the name General Hardware and danced Border Morris, an ancient English/Welsh men’s folk dance with sticks. There was a particular event that opened my eyes and this is that story. It comes back to me whenever men wonder about the nature of the Wild Man.

The evening was a cold one in early November and we gathered, shivering as we waited to perform at a Samhain festival in western Wisconsin. Samhain is a Gaelic celebration that marks the end of the harvest season and, the descent into darkness. Yes, it is a pagan ritual.

On this moonless evening twelve of us gather to lead the procession into the great circle where the Corn King resides. Eight of the men gathered will be dancing with bleached, antlered deer skulls. Tonight we are dancing the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance and it predates all the other dances we know. It is a trudging sort of dirge of a dance that requires pairs to ‘meet’ and click their antlers.

In accordance with the ancient tradition, the remaining four dancers don the garb of the British archetypes, the Hunter, the Fool, the Betty and the Hobby horse. Those Brits are a strange lot after all.

The Wildman

The Wildman

A wordless signal goes out and our troupe, along with a gifted, chilled fiddler begin our somber trudge to visit the King. We are followed on a winding dirt path, lit by an occasional candle, by as many as 80 guests for whom this has become an annual ritual. We have become a somber and wild spectacle of a procession.

As we weave through the woods I can hear children giggling and parents whispering. Rounding the last corner reveals the circle of the King and he is something to behold. He centers the circle of flaming torches and stands fire-lit and 16 feet tall. He is the creative genius of the man who holds these events and has taken about two months to build. I helped one year and filled the King’s wooden pallet legs with the fallen debris of the forest. Once the body of the sculpture is build and filled, dried corn stalks are stapled all around to finish the effect and spread the flames quickly. Rising from a powerful chest are the Gaelic wings for this king will burn brightly before he flies to the Norns – the old hags of mythology.

Now the forest is a buzz. I can feel the excitement, the pulse of all things. The King is enormous, and well-endowed, a reminder of the importance and the gift of fertility. More giggling. The host of this grand visage steps boldly to the front and asks three questions. First, “Are you living the life you want to live?” Silence. Furtive glances all around and many heads down, too. Second, “If not, who did you give your power to?” More silence, deeper and darker. And finally, the knife. “And, when are you going to take it back?” Words fail me. Who has ever spoken thusly?

Then, out of the crowd an old hag appears hobbling toward the King in a long black tent of a gown. She and her staff wobble, and her nose is like a craig. She cackles as she walks. Even as she struggles forward, there is a giddiness about her. Ah! She carries the flame. As she stoops to the dry stalks at her feet her face reflects the first glow and she is gone. Quickly, the small tongues of flame race around the base of the man and upward, upward! Now all the faces in the gathered crowd are golden and awestruck.

One day, years later, I was describing this evening, this wonder to a made man – a hedge fund manager. HIs jaw went slack, he stood for the twenty minutes bound by the words and images and said, “people really do this?” He came back every day for days and each day we spoke of it with reverence. I remember thinking then, as now, there is a great price paid for the comfort of a cubicle. For the regular, mind-numbing obedience to the machine of Civilization and its twin Industrialization. I cannot be, nor would I choose to be all Wild Man, but I work to integrate that energy and hold dear the Wild Moments.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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Getting Lucky vs. Hooking Up – guest post

by Michael Russer, reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project

Here’s why today’s “hook up” millennials may be our best hope yet for a shift towards true intimacy.

– – –

When I was the age of today’s millennial men I thought about one thing when it came to women—getting “lucky”. This was something that didn’t happen all that often, hence why the term “getting lucky” was so apropos. In our current culture getting lucky has been replaced by “hooking up” where having sex is about the same as ordering a cheeseburger with animal-style fries at your local In-N-Out burger joint.

At first blush this may seem like culturally we are going backwards with respect to relationships. However, I contend that the millennials are well positioned to take the next evolutionary step towards truly conscious intimate relationships because of the prevalent hook-up culture. Just stay with me for a bit, you will see where I’m going with this.

Surprising attention from the Ritalin Generation

What I’m about to share is strictly anecdotal. However I’ve experienced it so many times I believe there is a fundamental shift happening. As a fully impotent prostate cancer survivor I speak and write about extraordinary intimacy to people of all ages, orientations and stages of relationship. What I have noticed (surprisingly so) is that the millennials in my audiences seem to be extremely interested in achieving truly connected intimacy which seems totally counter to the casual sexual behavior so ascribed to this generation.

Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing

Here’s what I think is going on. In a hook up encounter, sex is so accessible that it essentially becomes just a form of mutual masturbation for the primary purpose of releasing sexual tension. Within this context there is rarely, if any semblance of true connection between the parties. And without connection there is no intimacy. And it is that lack of intimacy that becomes the unfillable hole that so wants to be fulfilled. Therefore there is this huge disconnect between sex and intimacy (generally speaking) for the millennials.

At least in the days of “getting lucky”, when we actually did get lucky it was so special we often associated a deeper connection with the other person, whether the encounter warranted it or not. That is, getting lucky seemed to be a far more transcendent experience than just getting off. And it’s this lack of experiencing transcendence that I feel our millennials crave. And this kind of transcendence typically can only come from risking a deep, authentic and vulnerable connection with another human being, be it on the emotional, physical or even spiritual level.

Maslow’s hierarchy of intimacy

In Maslow’s model of the hierarchy of human needs, base-level needs (i.e. survival, food, clothing, shelter) come first. Then procreative needs show up as a strong second place (i.e. sex drive). As these lower level needs are met, people will (as the theory goes) seek to meet higher level needs, with self-actualization being the highest.

For much of the developed world, most of their lower level needs are met. This leaves a craving for higher level ones –including the feeling of transcendence (which is a form of self-actualization) that can occur during intimate encounters. So viewed through this lens, hooking up is certainly a way to address ancient procreative urges, but does nothing for achieving a deeper level of connection between partners.

The fact that many millennials seem to feel and acknowledge this emptiness is actually a good thing. This means they are *aware* of what is missing / possible –a critical first step to change and being open to exploring how to achieve the deeper intimacy they crave. Whereas I find many men in my “getting lucky” generation not as open to this same exploration –perhaps because that sense of emptiness is not as strong as it is with the millennials.

There is hope yet…

The passing of the baton from one generation to another is always interesting to observe. The older generation gives it over with a mixture of relief and concern. The new generation, always different, takes it with a mixture of confidence and trepidation.

I think we have much to hope for in our current generation of millennials. I personally find them to be very caring, intelligent, and most importantly –ready for much more in terms of deep, connecting intimacy than what their hook up culture suggests. And for that, I am grateful to and for them.

Michael Russer

Michael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels. He is the founder of NotYourTypicalGuy.com and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help millennial men achieve extraordinary emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy with their partners. Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

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Three Ways to Kill Routine and Revive Your Romance

by Michael Russer, Reprinted with permission from the Good Men Project

At some point most relationships end up in the rut of routine, here is a sure-fire way to get out of it and stay out for good.

Afro-american couple having an argument

Ever drive to work only to arrive and remember little if anything about the details of how you got there? That is one of the ways routine shows up in our lives. We put things on autopilot and let our subconscious do the “driving” as it were. This is also closely related to the destination of most routine activities –our comfort zone.

This is one of our ways of not having to be particularly conscious or present to every single thing we do. It can make some things more efficient, but almost by definition, it also means we are not fully present or available to new possibilities. And that therein lies the problem of allowing relationships to fall into routine. It has been my personal experience that relationship routine left unchecked can lead to the slow death of even the greatest of relationships.

Fortunately I believe there is a way out of this relationship rut and ways to keep out of it. What I’m about to share is simply my opinion based upon personal experience and observation of others. Feel free to take whatever value you may see here and ignore the rest.

Routine = Not Present

Let’s start with the premise that any time you do or participate in something routine it also means you are not fully (i.e. consciously) present. If we accept that idea then it is fairly easy to see how couples allow aspects of their relationship to become routine (which quite often includes the bedroom). And that outcome right there is the primary reason routine can kill relationships. It is my belief, supported by experience, that for any relationship to thrive it requires both parties being fully present for each other at least part of the time. And most importantly, during physical intimacy. Sex without presence is not true intimacy / connection. It may be great for getting off, but does nothing to deepen and strengthen the relationship.

Three Steps to Breaking the Routine

You know how your car has warning lights indicating something is wrong or about to go wrong? Well, relationships have them too, they are just more subtle. If you don’t remember the last time you both did something really different and fun, that my friend is a relationship warning light indicating you have started to slip into the rut of routine.

If you find you and your significant other have fallen into routines that are beginning to dull the spark you once had, here are three steps you can take to immediately break free from it:

  1. Acknowledge It – this means both parties being willing to authentically and vulnerably communicate what each sees as disconnecting / boring routines that have taken over the relationship. This particularly includes aspects of your physical intimacy. It is crucial to first get out in the open what each sees as routines that are stultifying the relationship.
  2. Be Willing to Get out of Your Comfort Zone – as mentioned earlier, the primary reason we fall into routine is that it feels comfortable and non-threatening. This means that if you truly want to break free of your routines each of you must be willing to go outside your comfort zone to allow possibilities to present themselves that neither of you even expected to exist. For example, my partner and I spent this past Halloween not only in San Francisco, the mecca for colorful display of people in costume, but in the very “anything goes” Castro district. Do you see what I’m mean about doing something “different”? We had a blast.
  3. Be Adventurous – consider things neither of you have done before but might be interesting to both. It is in the spirit of adventure and seeing what shows up that my partner and I keep routine at bay. And frankly, it is usually an incredible amount of fun and often insightful. We love discovering new things about people, the world and of course, each other. And the only sure way to do that is be open to that possibility. Here’s another example. Instead of driving the car to downtown San Francisco we took public transportation. What an amazing array of costumes we saw. The fun started right there and then, that set the tone for the rest of our evening.

And here’s the cool part of all this. When you each authentically acknowledge routines that are preventing the relationship from getting richer, get out of your comfort zone and do it with a spirit of adventure and discovery, you both are being very, very present for each other. Now all this almost begs the question as to how you are able to stay in this kind of space where there is little room for routine…

Discipline Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Ironically, it takes quite a bit of discipline from both parties to keep yourselves out of a relationship rut. That’s because our minds are very tricky about turning anything new into yet another routine. There is a thin line separating cherished “traditions” from boring routines.

Here are some of the things my partner and I do to keep things fresh, exciting and giving that sneaky rut wide berth:

  • Take Short Trips – we do our best to travel, even relatively short distances, to places neither of us have been before or infrequently.
  • Try New Restaurants – at least once a month we try some new restaurant just because.
  • Check Out New and Different Activities around Town – my Sweetie is particularly good at this. She is constantly scanning the local paper for new and interesting things, events etc.
  • Play New Games – I recently taught my partner how to play Monopoly (she’s from Brazil and never heard of it before) and now she loves it!
  • Attend Interesting Lectures – we both have minds that are insatiably curious so we are always on the lookout for new and interesting things to learn.
  • Be Erotically Adventurous – it seems we are always exploring the boundaries of what is possible with respect to our emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy and have yet to find any limits.

Every week we look to do and explore something different. We may not always succeed, but the very act of being disciplined about it keeps things fresh for us.

While all of this may seem to be quite a bit of work (it sometimes is), we both find it to be far superior to the alternative: a dull, lifeless relationship that never gets better.

Michael Russer

Michael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels. He is the founder of NotYourTypicalGuy.com and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help millennial men achieve extraordinary emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy with their partners. Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

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