Paul Gard's participation in the ManKind Project (formerly known as New Warrior's group) in Indianapolis, helped him "see how my lack of understanding of my feelings put me in situations that I did not deal with in a healthy way, both in day-to-day life and in my relationships. For instance, if I was angry, I might blame you for my anger, whereas now I realize that you may be tapping something for me that is historical, or you may be breaching a boundary I have not set."
In the past, "I might have engaged in shaming behavior — punishing you with my anger — believing you were the perpetrator and I was the victim," he says. His work with the ManKind Project has changed his ability to respond. "Now I can contain my anger, bring it somewhere else, maybe to my men's circle, and sit and talk about what needs to happen. That, for me, is emotional literacy."
You Stop Buying into Media Messages.
Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., physician and author of Making Peace With Your Past: The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future, says "We all live in a hierarchy of competition and comparison; we are never smart enough, successful enough, handsome enough. We hold on to painful fantasies of our sexual and romantic histories. We judge ourselves, and the media reinforces it, causing a deep sense of unworthiness. And it's all an illusion. The truth is, each of us is a child of the universe, and we can make our way through the cultural conditioning and discover a new passion for living."
The dominant cultural story for American men is that of competition. "Men are taught not to share — that's vulnerability," notes Buck. "For women, it's the issue of accommodating others, of always being the caretaker. If you want to stop a conversation, ask a woman what she wants, and ask a man what he needs," says Buck.
Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" and editor of Health Wisdom for Women, maintains that cultural and media messages often set unhealthy ideals. The impossibly thin image of a model, who looks more like a "prepubescent boy with breasts" than anyone we know, would be so unreal as to be almost laughable, if we didn't take it so seriously.
You Become Aware of Your "Narratives,"
timeworn scripts that may be guiding you to repeat past actions, even if they are counterproductive or painful. Do any of these narratives ring true for you?
- "I'm not good enough."
- "I'm not smart/pretty/handsome/tall/thin enough."
- "I screwed up again! I can't do anything right."
- "I know my schedule is busy, but when I'm alone, I feel depressed."
- "Men need to be strong at all times and never reveal their weakness."
- "If I don't risk being vulnerable, at least I won't get hurt again..."
The common narrative, "I'm a bad person," is rooted in shame, which leads to sham — "when our outer presentation doesn't match our inner feelings," notes Bloomfield. To recapture joy, we must "let go of the slow drip of guilt and regret...the pain of punishment." His advice: Make a list of "if onlys" or "what ifs," then release them, recognizing that "This is the nature of the universe — to regenerate the ashes of the Phoenix."