The male specific issues the great majority of men struggle with are related to divorce, dating, relationships, marriage, unemployment, raising children, and their inability to access and communicate their feelings. Each of these issues can best be resolved in small, confidential groups with other men. It’s entirely unnecessary for men to get into Men individual therapy if they’re struggling with these issues. What I’ve learned over twenty years working with men is that under the right conditions, men are eminently capable of working together to resolve the issues mentioned. Therapists don’t play any role in this work.
Getting into therapy to resolve any of these issues is wrong on two fronts. First, therapy is expensive, but even that would be okay if therapy were a reliable, successful solution for men’s issues. It isn’t by any stretch. Second, male therapists don’t know any more about manhood issues than laymen. Male therapists struggle with all the same issues other men struggle with because therapy has no relevance dealing with the issues mentioned. In fact, male therapists’ training in psychology is irrelevant. Men have to assume the responsibility for their own emotional well-being.
Every single man who dug deep and did the work in my men’s group changed his behavior by working through his issues with other men. That’s worth repeating. Every single man who did the work, succeeded. There are no therapists who have anywhere near that level of success dealing with men’s issues. And worse, when therapists lead men’s groups, they are no longer men’s groups, but group therapy instead. Therapists, who lead men’s group, rob the men in that group of the opportunity to resolve their issues together and learn about themselves in the process.
Men’s groups don’t require a leader of any kind, therapist or otherwise. There’s no necessity for leadership because men can succeed far better without one. Leading men’s groups is a business for therapists, and men’s groups should never be about business. A man in a therapist led group pays for each facilitated meeting he attends, and that’s simply wrong. When men share their real life experiences on an emotional level, the results are vastly superior to any psychological help. Men are flesh and blood, not statistics or case studies, and every man in a men’s group should be an equal. When a leader assumes a role of authority, the men in the group become his patients or clients, and considering that therapists don’t know any more about their manhood than any other men, that’s just wrong-headed.
The work men accomplish in small groups of eight is different from group therapy. All of the work is related to men teaching each other what appropriate male behavior means and how to become better men. They accomplish this through the emotional sharing of their experiences. A man going through a divorce doesn’t need a therapist to tell him he’s in pain or that he should focus on how he’s feeling. What that man can benefit most from is hearing from other men who have gone through divorce who can share, on an emotional basis, how they felt, what they did that worked, and what didn’t work. He can hear how other men in his situation handled the devastating fallout from divorce. That man’s pain, anger, child rearing fears, dating, and ex-wife problems, can be best addressed by men who suffered them, worked through them, and moved beyond them. That information is invaluable, and is as available as the next time the group meets. Men have been meeting together in small groups like mine for decades, albeit in small numbers.
Shared emotional experience isn’t the same as advice, because it’s entirely based on what a man feels, not what he thinks. Advice has nothing to do with feelings. Advice is an opinion, and typically begins with the words, “You should”. Advice is the lowest form of conversation because opinions are debatable. A man sharing how he feels is not offering his opinion. His feelings are his absolute truth. No one can argue about a man’s feelings because that information is authentic when it comes from his heart, not his head.
The difficulty is getting men to realize the enormous value of what they already know. Eight, forty-year old men sitting together can share over three hundred years of real life experience. That’s an encyclopedia of male behavior a group can tap. Nothing is as relevant and real as men sharing their stories on an emotional level.
What most men expect or think is true about men’s group is incorrect. Men avoid emotional intimacy with each other because they have grown weary from years of listening to men who typically offer them lots of advice, judgment, and criticism. Men don’t trust each other because of how they have been treated by other men. There’s no trust in shallow relationships. Men learn it’s best to keep their problems to themselves to avoid an onslaught of advice.
Advice has no place in a men’s group. Men join groups to hear other men speak from their hearts, not their heads. There’s too much noise in their lives already to waste time listening to more gratuitous advice. Men want and deserve better. When men belong to a small, confidential group with other men who care about them, they feel safe unloading the emotional burdens that fester in their souls. They learn to open their hearts and speak from a place most men can’t or won’t because they don’t know how and have never felt safe enough to try. They also make authentic friends, and for many men, this is a first.
No man in a men’s group has to face his painful life’s issues alone, ever again. The sense of comfort knowing that seven other men truly care what happens to him and who speak their truths from their hearts to him can’t be quantified. It’s that big. Trust is a huge part of being in a men’s group, and that trust is unbreakable and enduring. The wimpy men are those who ignore their issues and continue to inflict them on everyone around them. The heroes are the men who face their issues and resolve them. That takes courage.