On Men, Rage, Healing, and Essential Emotional Tools
Last weekend Robert, Joshua and I led a group of 17 men into the Men's Leadership Intensive – a 3-day deep-dive into the soul.
We create a safe container and take them into the dark places they haven't dared to touch in order to reclaim aliveness from locked-up pockets of numbness and pain.
We have a range of men at our weekend – from first-timers to those who've done a LOT of men's work – and everyone, without exception, finds these places. Or the places find them…
My Story (Pictured at top)
This was my moment. In the midst of a grief process that our facilitation team participated in, I took my place in the center of the circle and a rage overtook me. A rage at myself for all the ways I've fallen pray to anxiety and distraction these past 5 years and lived far short of the magnitude of impact I know is possible. Holding this stick and screaming from my deepest core, I declared – "PETER! You do NOT have a right to get in your own way. You do NOT have a right to waste your extraordinary gifts and talents. You're here to do SO MUCH MORE."
This isn't the whole story, but it's the side of the story that was repressed, that needed to come out – and in full force.
Following the rage was numbness, then tears, then a week of exhaustion and a more gentle letting go and forgiving of the past. On this blank slate I began again with a fresh sense of purpose, then got off track, and had another (more modest) reckoning with myself. And now here I am writing this post.
(Old habits die hard. Healing isn't linear. I'm not here to imply otherwise.)
I share all this to give a taste of what happens in these mysterious and vague-sounding men's weekends. It's real, gritty soul work, and I want more men to know about it.
A Stranger's Story
We host an Integration Day following our intensive at Kiva Hot Springs as a chance for the men to unwind and connect in an unstructured way.
I found myself in the sauna with a man who just happened to be there on the same day. He asked what the weekend was about and we got into conversation. I struggled to find a way to explain it to him, until I asked him about his life…
What came out was that he lost a child when his girlfriend was 6 months pregnant. He didn't know what to do, so he poured himself into work, hoping that success would make it better. It didn't. Their relationship didn't survive. He hasn't been with anyone since…
I was in tears feeling his loss, and with his consent I shared a reflection – that I imagine he was in more pain than he had the support or inner resources to deal with, he didn't have an outlet to grieve, and he chose workaholism as a substitute. He shut down his heart and locked all that grief away. It's cost him dearly… more than I know… and what I want for him more than anything is to process that backlog of feelings and find his way back to an emotional connection with life.
He looked at me, said I was absolutely right. I let him know how to contact me and told him I would love to have him at our next Intensive – but what I really want is for him to get support from someone who he feels safe with – whether it's coming to our weekend or working with a therapist or coach who he trusts.
A Strong Invitation
To best honest, I've been holding back from strongly inviting men in my community to join us for these intensives, and it's been a disservice.
I want every man I know to do this work of going to his most vulnerable places and discovering the gold inside.
If the man I met in the sauna had access to the tools and support that we offer during the Intensive, he still would have suffered an extraordinary loss… but MAYBE he would have been able to grieve and hold his partner in her grief and emerge together and stronger.
What I know for sure is that I came out of that conversation knowing without a doubt that having a fully-loaded emotional toolkit isn't fluffy and optional – it's essential for surviving and thriving in this world as a man.
If you're a man who was moved by these stories I shared, reach out to me here and let's talk about you being there with us at our next Men's Leadership Intensive in Santa Cruz in September.