(or) Why Men’s Groups Need Women
Guest post by Erin Brandt
Bottom Line: Because AFTER men get tremendously powerful support from other men in digging through their deepest shit and celebrating their biggest wins, what’s crucial is practicing integrating your new skills… directly with women…
– *with* the support and guidance of your brothers
– with women specially chosen because of their love of, respect of and skill with men
– *before* you are on your own again, doing the best you can… just you and the women in your life you love so much.
Who you love, and by whom you get triggered.
The Longer Version: Please don’t let women into your men’s group.
Not at first.
Not just any women.
Men’s groups are sacred.
(As are women’s groups.)
We need interactions with people who are different from us to help us expand our perspectives. And, it is from a stable sense of security that we have the capability to consider those different perspectives.
Babies are born completely right-brain dominant until they are about 18 months. That means that all genders are big piles of emotion and connection and very vulnerable and attuned to other nervous systems. It was when our parents reflected our emotions back to us through their loving facial expressions in a similar way to ours, that they created a loving, consistent base of security for us through their attunement (how closely and accurately they could read our feelings and needs). From them as our secure base, we could explore non-family members, the world around us, and take risks.
As adults, we get that sense of security through our connections with people that we consider close, on the same team, who acknowledge and fully validate the parts of ourselves that we consider essential to ourselves. When we “feel seen,” our nervous system down-regulates and we relax, our peripheral vision expands and we “see” more solutions, we are no longer in our “fight or flight” defense mode and so we can hear others, be more collaborative and connect.
Your men’s group is your stable base of security. Maybe just one of your bases. Or, maybe it’s the only one.
People are both similar and different. It is valuable to focus on the similarities, and it is valuable to focus on the differences. Those who will “see” us, mirror us and reflect us to ourselves, in a most attuned way, will (not always but) often be those who are similar, whether in nature or nurture… in our similar age groups, those with similar psychological histories, in our economic brackets, and last but certainly not least, in our same-gendered groups. Tall people will inherently understand the challenges of other tall people. Pregnant people will have viscerally experienced many of the challenges of other pregnant people. Men will biologically, mentally and emotionally tend to know the challenges, and gifts, of other men…
… in a way, that when valued and fostered, becomes your stable base of security.
One base from which you can explore “the different other”.
New relationships with women. Or take the risk to begin to view your relationships with women in a different way.
When our parents introduced the world to us (after our immediate family), hopefully they first introduced kind people, people who modulated their voices and could be gentle with a baby. Then, (hopefully) slowly, we experienced some painful parts of reality… we fell and bumped our heads, we met “mean” children on the playground, and we got hurt. Along the way in childhood, because some (or many) of the risks we were exposed to were more than we could handle, we all know the experience of big or little trauma. And that is why when we create healing and growth programs, we are careful to orchestrate the challenges to be incremental and attuned to what the individual can handle, at their own growth edge.
When it’s time to practice bringing what you’ve learned about yourself into action with women (with plenty of consistent encouragement and clear, attuned reflection from your support team, your brothers)…
Do it with the help of kind women.
Women who understand men, women who value men… and masculinity… in this world. Women who cherish men.
Invite those women to participate by reflecting on their experience with you.
– *Only* invite women who can communicate their experience in a way that does not prevent you from having yours. Women who can handle their emotions in any moment while working with you, so that you don’t have to take care of them… in the sacred time that is for YOU to practice.
– The women who are just dying to know what happens in a men’s group are not necessarily the best choices. No need to be suspicious or over-protective. Just be discerning. Eagerness to help and curiosity does not necessarily equate with skill.
– Choose women who can receive, accept, and welcome the ways that men express themselves… differently from women… like expressing your emotions with movement, or maybe with stronger voices… women who are so confident that you are inherently protectors, that they won’t be thrown into fear when you express yourself in powerful ways.
Invite them to participate occasionally. I’d suggest not more than once every six weeks.
Preserve the precious enclave you are lucky enough and tenacious enough to have built.
Where the code is honor, honesty, clarity, fierce protection, team, brotherhood, deep respect, powerful love, kindness but not necessarily softness, boldness, and service.
Where you cultivate love and loyalty for each other whether in the deep stillness and spaciousness, in the humor or the holding, or in the challenge and the action.
Build your security first. Then take the risk of practicing with kind women.
Then come back to your security. Excavate more in yourself, and build a new level of skill.
Then challenge yourselves by practicing with women again.
I’m excited to see you get more support, so you can step up your excellent game even more.
Thank you for doing the work on yourselves that you do, and being the kickass support for each other that you are.
The world needs powerfully, attuned men.