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It’s my week to host our men’s group. Guys I talk to often ask me “what goes on” in the group, so I thought I’d sketch out what a typical meeting is like.

We’re a group of 6-7 guys (one guy is currently living out of state for a few months) who meet for a few hours every other week on a weeknight. We take turns hosting at each of our respective homes in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin counties, and we often car-pool. We arrive at 6pm, share a meal, and then have out meeting from 7-9pm.

Whoever is hosting provide the meal – most of us like to cook, and some cook quite well, but even the best cooks resort to take-out on occasion due to time constraints. These meals seldom include alcohol, but one a few special occasions it has been offered by the host. Those assembled try to help the host in whatever way they can, but it is his night.

After we’ve enjoyed our meal and helped clear things away, we move to the living room (or whatever space is available) for our meeting. To get ‘centered’ and shed distractions, we usually go through some sort of relaxation exercise. One of our guys is particularly good at leading a relaxation meditation and enjoys doing it, so we often avail ourselves of that gift.

When we’re ready to start the meeting, the host welcomes everyone and asks if anyone ‘needs time’. Men may have something that they’ve been thinking about recently, been burdened by, had an epiphany about, or otherwise wish to share with the others. Not every man is required to share at each meeting (though there is the expectation that, over time, all men will share with the group). Then the host asks who would like to go first.

When a man shares what he has brought to the group, the other men listen. The point is the opportunity to be heard and to share feelings (“I feel” instead of “I think”). Sometimes the man speaking may not be clear or what is being shared is complex – the other men can occasionally interrupt to ask a question or clarification, but it is important to allow the speaker to continue where HE is going with his stream of thoughts and feelings.

When he has relayed what he brought to the group, if moved to do so, other men can respond. They can speak from their own perspective (“when I feel that way, I . . .” instead of “I think you ought to . . . “). Advice is occasionally requested directly by a man, but it should not be a primary assumption that a man is seeking advice in all cases. Often just being heard is enough.

The man of focus is asked if he is ‘done’ (said all he wished and heard enough responses) – if he is, another man starts his share. It is important that men assess the urgency of other men’s need to share at a given meeting since time may run out. It is also useful of the host can monitor the group to make sure we’re staying on task and not wandering aimlessly and wasting valuable time.

What have men shared? Anything and everything. Residual childhood issues, employment problems, relationship struggles, insecurities, anger, shame, dreams & nightmares, the burden of aging parents, raising children, monetary problems, etc. In all cases, the other men will encourage the man speaking to say how he actually feels about what he is sharing and not just the explanation of events (from which feelings are to be inferred). Each man’s experience of an event is unique, so we try not to make assumptions, but to get to that man’s reality.

What I find most interesting about all of this is learning that other men experience many of the same struggles and challenges that I once thought were mind alone. And some men have significant challenges that dwarf my own in comparison. The perspective provided is enlightening.

We try to make sure and wrap up nicely by 9pm. If one guy really missed sharing something, we might decide to run over or at least make a note to allow him to start off our next meeting. As a ‘close’ to our meeting, we gather in a tight circle, arms on shoulders, looking down at our feet, and chant three ‘ohm’s in unison (the sound and vibration is quite primal and brings us into a sort of synchronicity with each other).

Then its hugs all around, thanking our host, and departing for home.

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Why a group of veterans with PTSD allowed 60 Minutes cameras to record their gut-wrenching therapy sessions and air them on national television; then, Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell objects to critics who say he fails to credit other people’s works; also, In an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, author Malcolm Gladwell critiques his bestselling book, “The Tipping Point”; and, On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, former Secret Service agent Clint Hill remembers his emotional interview with Mike Wallace in 1975.

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/60-minutes-overtime-112413/

 

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We will be meeting on Monday 5/23/11, 7:30-9:30pm

Our topic will be

dis·es·teem
– verb (used with object) 1. to hold in low regard; think unfavorably of.
– noun 2. lack of esteem;  disfavor; low regard.
Origin: 1585–95; dis + esteem

I came across this term in Guilt, Anger & God: The Patterns of Our Discontents, C. FitzSimons Allison, 2003:

Another characteristic of the civilized person is disesteem, the lack of self-esteem, or even self-hatred.  Civilization must not only restrain, it must give ideals . . . and the higher the ideals, the greater the judgment. . . Under such arduous demands, I look in the mirror and do not like what I see . . . Disesteem is the easiest of all personal factors to underestimate, and there is no one who does not suffer in some acute way from its pervasive ache.

Many point to childhood experiences, which is were we first learn our civilization culture, as the potential building blocks of low self-esteem. Were you validated as a child?  Were there expectations you felt were unreasonable or impossible to reach?  Was there a lack of discipline in your household?  Were you compared unfavorably to others?  How were your mistakes or failures handled by your parents?  Your achievements?  What feelings did any/all of these situations create in you?

Parents/elders are just people, just like us, with strengths and weaknesses – anyone raising children of their own learn this lesson.  But children can place their caregivers on tall pedestals.  To obtain ‘love’ from a parent, some of us learn some rather peculiar behavior and thinking.  Even after a parent is gone or out of our lives, we internalize the ‘lessons learned’ and they inform our behavior today.  Often this is buried very deeply in our unconscious and hard to access.

To explore your personal self-esteem issues:

  • Identify the critical voice within you?  What is its repeated message to you?
  • How do you feel in response to this voice?  What reactions does it trigger in you?
  • From whom does this voice come?  Who does it represent to you?
  • What does it mean to keep this criticism inside of you? (e.g. does this possibly represent an emotional connection with your antagonist?)
  • Do you see a ‘closed loop’ created in this type of thinking, fulfilling the very thing addressed by the critical voice?
  • Can you differentiate the critical voice from yourself?  Would it be possible to have a conversation with the voice to understand it better?
  • You developed your critical voice for a reason – to help you survive in the world.  What is it trying to protect you from?
  • The disesteem within you is not your enemy, but your protector.  Unless it is satisfied that you are safe, it will exert a forceful control over your decisions.  How can you reassure it that you are safe as you enter areas IT feels are too dangerous to explore?

I look forward to meeting with you on this topic!

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We will be meeting Monday, March 14th.
From 7:30-9:30pm
Our theme will be boundaries.
We set them, we break them, we seek them, we push them.  The process of growing forces us to confront and establish boundaries. Boundaries are what give us a sense of self, individuality and autonomy.  Boundaries are also set by the external world, constraining our expression, movement, and complete freedom.  The boundaries of our bodies are skin, a permeable membrane protecting us from the raw experience of the world directly on our nerves. The boundaries of our emotional space are somewhat less clear, feelings can invade our interior life flowing past a blurry boundary between yourself and other.  And our minds are even less bounded, and yet still we have a sense of where we end, where the unknown hazy universe must exist beyond. Social interactions have implicit negotiations around boundaries, from partners to strangers in public spaces we are faced with the need to create and feel out invisible boundaries. Boundaries may represent limits we are uncomfortable crossing, or zones we create to feel safe. Our lives consist of dynamic interweaving of boundaries constantly shifting and changing.
Boundaries are edges, membranes where most of the activity, the growth and change happens. Shifting boundaries represent opportunities for new possibilities, but frequently come with discomfort, pain and fear. The maintenance of boundaries may forces us into conflict as the world around us seeks to settle into new relationships.
  • What boundaries are you working on changing?
  • What are boundaries you’ve worked to establish, that you fight to maintain?
  • How do your inner boundaries manifest in external expression?
  • What does boundary mean for you? What value do you place on boundaries?
  • What growth have you experienced at your boundary edges?
  • How do you think about the world beyond your boundaries, what is its character?
I look forward to meeting with you

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