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Be a Man

When I decided to go it alone, I meant it. I pursued it with a vengeance, and with pride. What could be more manly than to face my own demons and straighten them out through sheer strength of will?

It didn’t work, but I didn’t even realize it until I met somebody who was interested enough to listen — really listen. When it all started to pour out of me, I was shocked by the torrent of pent-up emotion. So much had been festering for years.

Old taboos die hard. Most men still don’t reveal their weaknesses, least of all to other men. With good reason they fear mockery, but it gets worse. I felt my strength should be self-contained — that I should figure things out on my own. This, even more than the fear of mockery, convinced me to stay silent … and it shut me down.

Here’s the logic: all problems have a rational solution; emotions are irrational; they are therefore not real problems; problem solved.

Even with all the logic in the world
you can’t figure out feelings on your own

The ease of this illogic reveals the underlying anxiety. It avoids not just scorn, but reality. We expect so much of ourselves that sometimes we just can’t help but pretend. As long as it takes, as hard as it is, persist and it’ll come true.

Women have long experience of sharing their sorrows. They know, on the whole, that strength comes from open hearts. Even with all the logic in the world, you can’t figure out feelings on your own. Ignored, they confound each other, run amok and choke the heart. We begin dealing with them by sharing, at least by seeing others share.

Some emotions, like grief, don’t even have a solution, but silence makes them worse still. Other emotions can be solved, though not once and for all the way men want. The currency of the heart is storytelling, and at our core is the story of who we are. We keep it in check because it’s unseemly to be self-centered, but there’s no escaping our deepest drive: self-preservation.

Some truths seem universal
but in the end they’re all personal

The ancient Greeks turned storytelling into a fine art, and in the Temple of Apollo are inscribed the words, “Know thyself.” It’s been the foundation of thoughtful men and women for millennia. As vague as it might sound to practical-minded men, there’s no more pragmatic approach to life. We’re born from a cocoon and from that moment forth, all we know flows in through the senses. Very little is plain fact; we interpret it all, often wrongly. Some truths seem universal, but in the end they’re all personal. Understanding where they come from is a tremendous resource. Without it we’re impoverished.

Exposing yourself to all this can be awkward. What are my needs? What do I want? How do I feel about the choices I’ve made? What’s possible? How can I improve my lot? These are the questions we’ll explore in my upcoming men’s workshop.

This mindful reflection workshop is just for men, because men need to listen to themselves, and then to each other. The first step is sit together.

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4 responses to “Be a Man”

  1. John Day

    Hi Stephen,
    Do you have anything via the Internet or correspondence am in Western Australia?

  2. Baiba Caunite

    Thank you for your cogent discussion. Just what I needed today. Knowing rationally & accepting the truth emotionally is my dilemma. I am confronting some medical info about myself; one one hand I think I need to accept the truth (am adult woman, etc) but emotionally I want to yell, unfair, unfair. Thank you for comments.
    PS listened to some S Bachelor dharmaseed talks, saw your website. And for me, yes, I feel unfrocked by the medical news. Feeling vulnerable is frightening. Thank you again.

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