I (Barry) have been a participant in various Men’s Support Groups for the past 40 years. I have learned more in these groups about myself than in any individual or group therapy that I ever did. When my wife, Barbara, died in a skiing accident in 1983, I relied heavily on my Men’s Group at that time. I found that the women around me mainly wanted to take away my grief and I didn’t need that.
By contrast, the men in the group didn’t try to take away my feelings. Instead, they supported me in expressing my feelings, no matter how painful it might have been for them to hear me talk about them. They also supported me in mobilizing myself. They might say after listening to my feelings, “Okay, now what are you going to do to take care of yourself?” In short, they helped me to mobilize and to begin to take the necessary steps to recover from this trauma. I will never forget what they did for me. It literally saved my life.
Group Theme is “How To Become A More Authentic Man”
In 2016, I started my own Men’s Therapeutic Study Group. Now in its third year, this group of about 8 men meet weekly. The theme of the group is “how to become a more authentic man.” In order to know what issues to focus on, participants take a Self-Quiz when they begin the group so they can rate themselves on twenty characteristics of an authentic person. Members use their results to see where they men need to improve their “authenticity score.” They often identify an issue or a challenge they are currently facing, and then contract with the group for support on overcoming these challenges in leading a more authentic life.
For example, one member had social anxiety and was afraid to give his phone number to a young woman he wanted to date. He voiced fears that she might reject his advances or think him too aggressive. The group encouraged him to risk either giving her his phone number or asking for hers. Recently in group he proudly announced that he had given his phone number to this woman and he had set a date with her.
I also use the The Male Mother and The Servant Leader books from my “Real Men” series as part of the content of the group. Soon I’ll be adding The Wise Elder book.Each member receives a copy of these books when they join the group. These books are written to help men develop a balance between their mature inner masculine and mature inner feminine parts. I believe that becoming a mature, authentic man requires this integration, so we work on this in the group.
The Context For the Group Is Joseph Campbell’s Journey of Transformation
I also here are specific steps on this journey that the men are encouraged to identify with in their personal journey to become more authentic. I also ask the men to use Campbell’s Journey of Transformation to determine where they are on that journey. A key step in this journey is Crossing the Threshold into the unknown. It often brings up fears of The Guardians of the Threshold. Group members help each other overcome the fears that hold them back on their journey towards authenticity.
During the first 10-15 minutes of each group meeting, I introduce a topic that I believe will interest the men. I may show a short video or read a short essay on the topic. Then I ask, “What do you think of this? What ideas do you have about this topic?” Last year we discussed men’s sexual harassment of women several times, because it was in the news. One thing the men reported is that they did not know how to avoid being accused of sexual harassment at work, when around female colleagues. They said they didn’t always know where the “line” was that they dare not cross.
After some discussion of the evening’s topic, each man gives a short check-in about what is “most alive in them” at this moment. Then they can contract with the group to work on a personal issue. They ask for the amount time think they need, and what specifically they want from the group. Men can also ask the group for feedback or ideas or even suggestions, about a dilemma they have in their life.
Men’s group saved my life. This group offers a practical, but also ethical guidelines to live by. If you’re looking to expand your consciousness and live for what truly matters, while also getting what you want from life, I highly recommend it. E. W.