MEN TO TALK
Manhood is what we look forward
to when we are powerless boys and what we look back on with pride
when we are limping toward the grave. To be known as a good man
is the highest compliment for a man. It is what men despair of
achieving when depressedin our careers, our family life,
in our sexuality, in our values. Our idea of manhood is our motivation
toward self-respect. And most of us could not be more aware that
the old images of manhood need revision. Stephen
concerning men's health are poignantly revealing. Men, compared
with women, experience much higher rates of
morbidity and mortality due to heart disease, substance abuse, and
violenceall of which have their origins in emotional repression.
The release of emotions, on the other hand, is believed to contribute
to well-being. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology are beginning to
show that positive emotional states increase the number of healing
cells circulating in the body. Laughter and improved mental outlooks
alone can help reverse the course of some progressive illnesses.
convergence is presently occurring in our country. Mainstream medicine
is slowly acknowledging that body, mind, emotions, and spiritual
perspective are interconnected, and that dis-ease in one of these
realms produces symptoms in another. The men's movement has arrived
at the same conclusions.
endeavor to achieve male health and well-being is nourished by four
taproots: mythopoetic artistry, Jungian archetypes, twelve-step
wisdom, and body-based emotional release techniques. The life force
of the movement emanates from thousands of small support groups
around the country. Here, men meet regularly to talk about important
matters in their lives. Over time, they experience trust, acceptance,
and respect from other males, instead of competition, put-down,
Many Men Are In Pain
live in isolation with few, if any, close friends. To varying degrees,
they have bought into destructive cultural beliefs about masculinity
and are stuck in the male box that emphasizes "power over"
and "control" as the operative behaviors for men. They
have become trapped in mind-sets that stifle growth.
as oaks that feel no pain and need no help, they endure until their
hearts attack them. Or they act out their stress by abusing their
children, express control through domestic assault, or power through
acquaintance rape. They commit suicide because they can't admit
they are hurting, or homicide in response to a remark that bruises
their fragile sense of self. Or they get lost in a maze of addictions
to subdue the inner turmoil. Most of these men are success objects
running a competitive maze, searching for perfection, confused by
a material world that does not leave them time for satisfaction.
themselves, men lose the ability to care for the earth and be active,
loving family members. Lacking inner peace, they wage war, endlessly
draining away the precious resources needed to fight the poverty
and disease they are running from.
Talking Is Transformative
statistics, together with the ordinary events in the lives of men,
indicate that change is urgently needed. More than anything else,
men require tools to use in forging ahead to new awareness.
of the most handy and functional tools available is articulation.
Talking helps us gain access to ourselves. Telling our stories and
listening to those of other men shed new insights into ways to conduct
our lives. Talking together, we find that we are sons, fathers,
lovers, grandfathers; some of us have sex with women, some with
men, some with men and women. And beneath our differences, we discover
that we are all men. As such, the archetypal beings, warring, magician,
and wildman hold secrets for us in their hands. Mentors and elders,
too, have the power to resurrect for us ancient aspects of maleness.
want to know how to become heroes, healers, brothers, and friends.
We yearn to awaken and integrate the feminine aspects of ourselves.
Bringing these desires to fruition requires a stable, ongoing source
of support—a forum that encourages us to express how we are feeling
about our life path and how we are grappling with the difficulties
before us. Talking about our journeys keeps us on course. It also
serves to reduce male violence.
essential at each juncture of a man's journey, is more critical
than ever during the transition to fatherhood. The powerful forces
at play on the threshold to fatherhood bring a man face to face
with the gifts and the wounds received from his parents. Feelings
about how he was parented are sure to arise, and in sharing them
he will be able to increase his consciousness about the new role
he is undertaking.
and new fathers alike desperately need a safe space in which to
express their hopes and fears. Fortunately, fathering centers are
springing up around the country to support men as they connect with
this nurturing part of themselves. Older men who have raised children
are also stepping forward as trail guides. Still, much more counsel
is needed, especially for teen fathers who may be overwhelmed by
the difficulties of parenting, or by the extraordinary range of
emotions it stirs up. Every man has inner wisdom: he has encountered
pain and survived. Now he must learn the language of feelings. Where
he learns to express himself does not matter, provided that it takes
place in a supportive atmosphere on a regular basis. The journey
toward wholeness begins with a willingness to enter the darkness
within; embrace our shadows; explore the contours of our anger,
fear, and joy; and talk out, rather than act out, the emotions we
have held hostage since childhood.
NEW MALE MANIFESTO
the book Knights without Armor by Aaron R. Kipnis, PD (1991).
Published by Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. Distributed by St. Martin's
This may be reprinted without permission. To order, call 800-288-2131.
Men are beautiful. Masculinity is life affirming and life supporting.
Male sexuality generates life. The male body needs and deserves
to be nurtured and protected.
A man's value is not measured by what he produces. We are not
merely our professions. We need to be loved for who we are. We
make money to support life. Our real challenge, and the adventure
that makes life full, is making soul.
Men are not flawed by nature. We become destructive when our masculinity
is damaged. Violence springs from desperation and fear, rather
than from authentic manhood.
A man doesn't have to live up to any narrow, societal image of
manhood. There are many ancient images of men as healers, protectors,
lovers, and partners with women, men, and nature. This is how
we are in our depths: celebrators of life, ethical, and strong.
Men do not need to become more like women in order to reconnect
with soul. Women can help by giving men room to change, grow,
and rediscover masculine depth. Women support men's healing by
seeking out and affirming the good in them.
Masculinity does not require the denial of deep feeling. Men have
the right to express all their feelings. In our society this takes
courage and the support of others. We start to die when we are
afraid to say or act upon what we feel.
Men are not only competitors. Men are also brothers. It is natural
for us to cooperate with and support each other. We find strength
and healing through telling the truth to one another—man to man.
Men deserve the same rights as women for custody of children,
economic support, government aid, education, health care, and
protection from abuse. Fathers are equal to mothers in their ability
to raise children. Fatherhood is honorable.
Men and women can be equal partners. As men learn to treat women
more fairly, they also want women to work toward a vision of partnership
that does not require men to become less than who they authentically
Sometimes we have the right to be wrong, irresponsible, unpredictable,
silly, inconsistent, afraid, indecisive, experimental, insecure,
visionary, lustful, lazy, fat, bald, old, playful, fierce, irreverent,
magical, wild, impractical, unconventional, and other things we're
not supposed to be in a culture that circumscribes our lives with
Dads, a periodical available by calling 207-829-5260. Heinowitz,
Fathers: Entering Parenthood Together. San Diego, CA: Parents as
Partners Press, 1995. Kauth, Bill A
Circle of Men: The Original Manual for Men's Support Groups. New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1992 Sam
Keen, Fire in the Belly. New York: Bantam Books, 1991 Kivel,
Paul. Men's Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives
Apart. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing Group, 1992 Mead,
Michael. Men and the Water of Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1993 Sonkin,
Daniel, PhD. Learning to Live without Violence: a Handbook for Men.
Volcano, CA: Volcano Press, 1989 Zilbergeld,
Bernie. Male Sexuality. New York: Bantam Books, 1978.
Men Exploring New Directions (AMEND), 303-932-6363 Domestic
Abuse Intervention Project, 218-722-4134 EMERGE,
The Fathering Center, Albuquerque, NM; 505-266-9233.
La Cerva, MD
La Cerva 2000