Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Reviews of the Evolving Men's Conference

I've posted a few things here about the interesting weekend in Boulder with 40 men who are committed to helping men evolve, so here are some other perspectives on the weekend.

First up, Jayson Gaddis, the man who made it all happen.

Is Men’s Work Dying? Or Does it Just Need an Extreme Makeover?

Wed, Sep 29, 2010

Marc Quinn, David Chang, & David Cates, post EMC

“Men’s work” as I know it is dead.

WTF? Seriously? C’mon, I just let go of another identity a few months back. Again?

This past weekend 40 men’s leaders and 6 women answered the call to be a part of the Evolving Men’s Conference. The context? Some of us thought it was to “evolve masculinity.” For others, the hope was to plan a bigger conference next year. Others didn’t know what the context was.

I visioned this conference with a few very bold expectations (the other men had their own wants as well, some the same, some different. These were just mine).

  1. I wanted to get male leaders to collaborate.
  2. Originally I wanted a bigger conference in 2011 but many folks told me to drop this pre-conference and see what the other men wanted. I acquiesced.
  3. I wanted to have us birth a single, new masculine paradigm that we could all rally around and get behind.
  4. I wanted us to evolve masculinity in a tangible way.
  5. I wanted women to help us with this bold agenda.
  6. I wanted to share how the deep feminine would be pivotal in the new masculine way moving forward.

Number 1 and 5 were the only expectations that were met. The rest were dropped. As Bill Harryman said in an email to me: “it wasn’t at all what I wanted or expected, but it was EXACTLY what I needed.” And further, I would add, I think almost everyone received what they needed, and not necessarily what they wanted.

We had lively discussions about the masculine and feminine within us and outside of us. We engaged in conflict, told the truth, held back, cried, laughed, danced, listened deeply, co-created, did business, and finally took some action.

What emerged was far better than what I had hoped for. Without giving you the blow by blow, here are some highlights and what I believe is emerging . . .

Read the rest of the post. This was also posted at the Evolving Men's Conference site.

Graham Phoenix of the Male eXperience blog, and a very kind and passionate man, has put up two posts about the weekend. He came all the way from Spain for the conference - that's cool.

Evolving Men??

I feel excited, inspired, challenged, educated, sad, unnerved and really tired/jetlagged. No, I’ve not been partying, I’ve been to the Evolving Men’s Conference 2010 in Boulder, CO.

It is truly amazing when 40+ men, with a sprinkling of women, get to together to talk about men. For two days in Boulder we talked, went into our inner selves, argued and felt the space together. Many of us had not met each other, had not heard of each other’s work. There were revelations and disagreements, moving forward and going off at tangents, but whatever happened, there was growth and development, well for me at least!.

Read the whole article.

Power through Polarity


So why am I so angry, what’s the matter with me. I’ve just been to a great weekend in Boulder, CO, spending two days talking to men about men. Yes, I’m tired, yes, I’m jetlagged, but there is more to it than that. I’m simply pissed off that there are so many men doing work for men, without any apparent effect.

OK, we all influence a few people, in some cases some influence lots of people, but it’s having no apparent effect. Men out in the world remain in fear and confusion.

Read the whole article.

Finally, David Cates, a member of Jayson's team for the event, has a couple of posts.

Toppling The Monolithic “Ideal Man”

Recovering from an intense, rocky, miraculous weekend at the Evolving Men’s Conference in Boulder. I went expecting a unified vision to emerge, and collective action. Apparently so did most of the other leaders who had gathered.

What we got instead was the truth: In 2010, there are as many ways to be a man as there are men.

The men’s movement came of age in the 80s, the era of corporate conglomeration. We are living in a very different reality today.

In the internet age, what seems to work is micro-niches in a loosely woven network. Diverse voices. Diverse truths. Wildly different approaches.

What do I, a white American boomer, have to say to a young Latino man? Turns out, not much. Honestly, if I turn it around, how much of my worldview do I get from hip-hop – or for that matter, from big-band swing?

Every tribe has its own voice and values.

So how do we proceed?
Read the whole post.

Guys, the google search term ain’t “Men’s Work”

“Men’s Work” is a tool-belt full of bizarre-looking tools that the guy on the street can see no use for. Good luck selling it to anyone but workshop geeks.

“Process”… “Quest”… “Authenticity”… “Communication”… “Truth-telling”… “Inner Masculine/Feminine”… “Weekend Workshop”… “Initiation”… “Brotherhood”… blahblahblah…

WE may know what these tools are… but to most men, they’re awkward and intimidating jargon.

Wait till a man’s ready to build: a home, a family, sex, a career, money, community, a stairway out of his pit. Meet him in the real world. Address his desires and dreams.

THEN suddenly those tools gain value. Not because he wants the tools themselves… but because he wants to build something.

Focus on that SOMETHING… and you’ll have his full attention.

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NPR - The End Of The Macho Man?

Add NPR to the list of media outlets taking a look at men and masculinity - Most recently Newsweek, and most annoyingly The Atlantic (the author of which article is today's guest). Today's discussion is spurred by the Newsweek article(s) and the perpetuation of the "decline of men" meme so popular these days.

Here is the show, with the beginning of the transcript. I find this whole meme a bit frustrating . . . . A good take-down of the Newsweek piece can be found at Mediaite.

September 28, 2010

The recession has hit male-dominated fields particularly hard, while women's presence and performance in school and in the workplace continues to increase. As notions of masculinity change, men are redefining themselves, as well. The Atlantic's Hanna Rosin and author Guy Garcia discuss the changing role of men in America.

Copyright © 2010 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

On the cover of the current Newsweek, a muscular, shirtless man cradles a puppy-eyed toddler over his shoulder, the headline: "Man Up! The Traditional Male is an Endangered Species." Which may be an exaggeration, but the recession hit male-dominated fields so hard that some people call it the he-cession.

Women's presence and performance in the workplace and in higher education continues to grow, which forces many men to redefine themselves. As earning power shifts more towards women, how has that changed your relationship? How have men's roles changed?

Tell us your story, 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. Thats at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the hour, "The Good Wife" is back on TV. We'll talk with the creators. But first, the changing role of men. Hanna Rosin is co-founder of Slate's online women's magazine, Double X, and a contributing editor at the Atlantic, and she joins us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. HANNA ROSIN (Double X): Thank you, glad to be here.

CONAN: And the article you wrote for the July issue was titled "The End of Men." Inevitably, it had something to do with the rise of women too.

Ms. ROSIN: Right, exactly. I was basically looking at statistics in different areas: economics statistics, education statistics. And you put all these points together and you get basically a new map of what America looks like, which is really kind of intriguing, and it has to do with a kind of patriarchal dominance that we're used to over all these years seems to be fading, and it's kind of alarming.

CONAN: One of the most important ones, that for the first time ever in America, that the number of women workers outnumbers the men.

Ms. ROSIN: Exactly, and that statistic hovers around 50 percent. It goes from 49 to 51. But it's also changed in high-paying jobs. There are certain professions that are being turned over to women. The higher you go up the ladder, it's flipping. So it's not merely that women are working, but women are working at better and better jobs these days.

CONAN: But some people will say immediately: Wait, there's still a gap, a salary gap, 77 cents on the dollar.

Ms. ROSIN: It's true, and there was a study that came out today about women managers, and as I looked at this, because I've looked at so many of these studies, after a while you begin to see that it just sort of depends on how you slice the numbers.

If you start from the '70s until now, there's been a tremendous amount of progress. If you look at the wage gap, it's been shrinking over the years.

There are still huge numbers of problems - for example, the problem with mothers. There's always a pay gap that's larger between women with children and men with children, and that seems to persist over time.

But I think looking at the problems in terms of progress - women are making progress, they're not making progress, they've stalled in progress - misses the bigger picture, which is that the economy is becoming more amenable to women than it is to men, mostly because women are better educated and because the jobs that are growing are jobs that women tend to do. So that's the kind of big forecasting future picture.

CONAN: But we can't ignore the fact that older women in particular are still amongst the poorest in our society.

Ms. ROSIN: Absolutely, and I think if you go from older to younger, the changes become stark. Another recent interesting study showed that women under 30 are - in 147 out of 150 cities - are making more money than men under 30, and that is really amazing.

I mean, that's kind of a future generation statistic that shows both the earning power of women, their power as consumers. I mean, as it happens, that was a marketing study done to show companies who they should market to in the future.

CONAN: And of the 15 job categories expected to grow the most over the next decade, men dominate just two of those fields: janitorial workers and computer engineers.

Ms. ROSIN: Exactly, exactly. So if you try and project 10, 15, 20 years down the road, it's not just a matter of what the recession did or didn't do, it's a question of the recession having opened up the window on something that economists would have seen coming for some time.

CONAN: And those are the facts. How does that change people's relationships?

Ms. ROSIN: It really does. That's the next question, is then what happens to American marriages? And I think that's different class by class. If you look at the working class, the big story there is that marriage is disappearing, effectively, in the sort of middle and working class, that women are choosing not to get married in the first place.

The number of children born to single women is skyrocketing. And so you have a situation where it's not necessarily a pretty picture for women or a straight female empowerment, but it is that women are dominant and running households, and the men are kind of disappearing.

And then in the upper classes you have a slightly different picture, where you have a lot more marriages where women are out-earning men, but there is more equality.

CONAN: Is the playing field leveled in any significant way?

Ms. ROSIN: In the middle classes the playing field is leveling. In education, women are surpassing men. And then you have the final question to talk about, which is why does the top still seem so male-dominated? Is that arcane? Is that something in the past? All this pressure coming up from the bottom of women doing better and better and surpassing men in all these professions, the legal profession being the classic example.

There are just as many women graduating from law school, just as many women, almost, as first-year associates, but not as many women who are, you know, at the end of the road partners.

Is that something that's dying? Is that something that's an anachronism and that we'll see fade over time, or is that something endemic to child-rearing and all these other questions that we haven't quite worked out in our families?

Read the whole transcript.

Secret Lives of Men - SAM KEEN: "Fire in the Belly" & “In the Absence of God”

Interesting - I never really got into keen's books for some reason. Maybe it was too woo for me, or too old school men's groupie, not sure.

SAM KEEN "Fire in the Belly" & “In the Absence of God”

Keen argued in "Fire in the Belly" that men must redefine their identities, going beyond the modern rites of manhood--alienating work, war, performance-oriented sex--the new male "psychonaut" brings forth meaning by undertaking "a spiritual journey into the self." In his latest book, "In the Absence of God" Keen sets out to recover the elemental experience of the sacred in everyday life. By appreciating emotions like wonder, gratitude, anxiety, joy, grief, reverence, compassion, outrage, hope and humility we may once again find ourselves in the presence of an unknowable but all present “G-D.” Keen suggests we may also regain the commonalities between Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other spirit traditions and end the contentious differences that have divided them and our world.

Listen to internet radio with Secret Lives of Men on Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jayson Gaddis - The Shadow and My Major Blind Spot

Jayson was our fearless host this last weekend for the Evolving Men's Conference - he had posted this piece on his blog before the conference and I had been wanting to share it, but spaced it out. So better late than never.

The Shadow and My Major Blind Spot

Mon, Sep 20, 2010

The Shadow

For years, folks have been giving me a certain kind of reflection. It went something like this:

“Jayson, I appreciate what you are telling me, but “how” you are telling me is kind of harsh.” In other words, I would often laser in with my very accurate bullshit detector, but “how” I called bullshit left people feeling stung and even hurt.

Sometimes, even today, I give people feedback as a way to push them away in order to get some personal space. I also have cut people out of my life because the story was “I can’t stand your neediness.” (more to the story below…)

In fact, I used to unconsciously get in a fight with my wife to get some space from her because I was too afraid to ask for space directly (a classic enmeshed relationship pattern). Do you have some version of this?

The feedback others gave me was the kind of mirroring which was attempting to point me to my blind spots. At first I was defensive. Later I was open to hear it. Now, I begrudgingly give thanks when someone points out a blind spot, otherwise know as my shadow.

The Shadow

Ah yes, the shadow. We all have one. As Carl Jung said,

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well0meant intentions.”

The shadow is essentially what we are unconscious to within ourselves. The shadow can run our lives if we are not careful. Contrary to popular belief, the shadow is not some dark, bad part of us that we must “get rid of.” The shadow is as valid as any other part of us and it needs our curiousity, love, attention, kindness and acceptance.

Once we finally see our shadow, we can begin to heal it, reclaim it, and become whole again.

As a “healer” it is pretty easy to fall victim to hiding my shadow from my clients and mentees. Most western therapies train the therapist to reveal very little about themselves so the patient or client can project onto them. Then, the therapist works the projection and the person can begin to heal. While this is valid and largely a good technique for certain folks, it is far from what I am doing these days.

I continue to reveal more of who I am not only because this is one aspect of the new masculine paradigm, but because people keep telling me my truth-telling serves them. It gives other men “permission” and inspiration to do the same.

Even still, this one is hard to admit. I don’t like admitting what I admit in this video, but it is crucial to my path. It is paramount that I continue to tell the full truth about myself so as to be fearless and free.

Not surprisingly, after uncovering this shadow last Sunday night and being raw all week, my shadow surfaced three specific times. Three times I lashed out toward others. Ouch.

Watch the video as I take responsibility for my main shadow.

Go watch the video.

The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #32: Is There Anything Good About Men with Dr. Roy Baumeister (Part I)

This seems like a relevant topic (even though we know there is a lot of good things about men) - the media has been pushing the idea that men are in trouble of becoming obsolete, or at the least, at risk of no longer being relevant for much of anything.

On the other hand, Baumeister is mostly mining terrain covered better by Warren Farrell already - and he is, for me, disconcertingly conservative in his vision of masculinity - and we already know that model does not work for most men (look up gender role strain).

The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #32: Is There Anything Good About Men with Dr. Roy Baumeister (Part I)

by Brett on September 27, 2010

Welcome back to another episode of the Art of Manliness podcast! In this week’s edition, we talk to social psychologist Dr. Roy Baumeister about his book Is There Anything Good About Men? How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men. We discuss why men have enjoyed a higher economic and social status than women while at the same time making up most of the prison population, deaths on the job, and homeless population in America. This is the first in a two-part interview with Dr. Baumeister.

Listen to the Podcast!

Other ways to listen to the Art of Manliness Podcast:
Listen to this episode on a separate page

Monday, September 27, 2010

Study confirms women have become more like men

Hmmmm . . . Is this a good thing? I know it's been happening, which is partly why women are starting to suffer from some of the traditionally male health issues. I wonder if men are becoming at all more like women? It certainly seems to be what many people think is happening, and some more traditional men fear it is happening.

Ideally, both sexes would be able to embody healthy elements of both gender roles. Wouldn't that be nice?

[As an aside, it kind of blows my mind how little most men's group leaders and coaches know about gender theory. There seems to be a huge disconnect between academic studies of men and masculinity and those who work directly with men - more on this later.]

Study confirms women have become more like men

By SAGE Insight

Cohort differences in personality in middle-aged women during a 36-year period. Results from the Population Study of Women in Gothenburg

From Scandinavian Journal of Public Health

This research measures differences in personality in middle-aged Swedish women during a 36-year period. Society has undergone major changes in recent decades, many of which have had a pronounced impact on women’s lives. The results of this survey indicate there has been a transition for women in direction towards a stereotypically ‘‘male’’ personality profile, but not at the expense of traditionally socially important female traits. Comparisons in psychological profile subscales showed an increase in dominance, exhibition, aggression and achievement. The findings support the hypothesis that society and the environment influence personality.


Aim: To investigate secular trends in personality traits in adult female populations. Methods: Two representative, population-based cohorts of women, 38 (n = 318) and 50 (n = 593) years of age participated in a health examination in 1968 and 2004 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI) and Cesarec-Marke Personality Schedule (CMPS) were used to measure personality traits. Socioeconomic and lifestyle variables (personal income, education, marital status, children at home, physical activity and smoking) were reported. Results: In both age groups, secular comparisons in psychological profile subscales showed an increase in dominance, exhibition, aggression and achievement. Only small divergences were seen concerning affiliation, guilt feelings, nurturance and succorance. EPI showed a corresponding rise in extroversion. Social data showed a statistically significant increase in percentage of unmarried women, personal income levels, and higher educational achievement. While around 70% of women in 1968—69 had elementary school educati2on only, around 90% had high school or university education in 2004—05. Conclusions: The results indicate major transitions in the adult Swedish female population in the direction of a more stereotypically ‘‘male’’ personality profile, but not at the expense of traditionally socially important female traits, which remained constant. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that society and the environment influence personality.

Read this research for free

Article details:
Andre, M., Lissner, L., Bengtsson, C., Hallstrom, T., Sundh, V., & Bjorkelund, C. (2010). Cohort differences in personality in middle-aged women during a 36-year period. Results from the Population Study of Women in Gothenburg Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 38 (5), 457-464 DOI: 10.1177/1403494810371247

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day Two - Evolving Men's Conference: Personal Reflections

Chogyam Trungpa: Freezing the Space

Someone is walking toward us—suddenly we freeze. Not only do we freeze ourselves, but we also freeze the space in which the person is walking toward us. We call him “friend” who is walking through this space or “enemy.” Thus the person is automatically walking through a frozen situation of fixed ideas—”this is that” or “this is not that.” This is what Buddha called “wrong view.” It is a conceptualized view which is imperfect because we do not see the situation as it is.

From “The Eightfold Path,” in The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation, pages 118 to 119 in the Shambhala Library edition.

When I found this quote in my email today from Ocean of Dharma, it resonated with how I was feeling about coming to Boulder for this gathering of evolving men, leaders of men's groups, and men who work with men. I had expectations . . . very few of which were realized in what happened this weekend.

If I had remained stuck in those expectations, those thoughts of "this, not that," or "this is not that," I would have missed out on an excellent, transformative experience - I would have missed out on connecting with some beautiful loving men (and some very wonderful, supportive women who called us out a few times and helped contain us a few times), and on finding some places in me where I need to do more work if I am to be an effective leader, coach, or therapist.

At one point today, Jayson called us out on not showing up in our fullness - for projecting our "perfection" and not showing the places where we are fucked up in some way. He called on us all to be transparent - to say, "I have places where I am wounded and broken, and I don't always know the answers." To model our growth process.

How can we expect men to show up and say, "I am hurting, I'm lost, I'm confused," if we do not model for them that it is OK to do that" And not only is it OK, but it takes some serious courage and strength to say, "I'm fucked up, and I need help."

That is my challenge to myself. Jayson's way of showing up is not my way, but I am on board with his challenge - I want to have an open practice, an open dialogue - I don't know all the answers, I am not an example of a fully present and healed man - and I don't know anyone who is all that. But I am committed to my growth - and to your growth - and to serving men who want to find their tender warrior heart, their fearlessness.

Chogyam Trungpa is the teacher who brought me to men's work, who taught me that fearlessness is not about facing down a lion, or a mugger - fearlessness is about facing myself, my wounds, my pain, my imperfections, and being compassionate with myself about those wounds. And if I can do that with myself, and for myself, then I can be fearless with your pain, compassionate with your wounds, and be tender with your broken heartedness.

That's where I am as the conference wrapped up today - in fact I tweeted this comment this morning before Jayson called us out:
I need to be more present in my primary relationship - I can be more present to Jami, who deserves my full attention.
In my life, at this moment, that is my edge - being a better partner to the woman I love, who totally supported me in coming here, even though it was not the best idea financially. She gives me so much support to follow my passion around men's work, around blogging and writing, around being in school, and I have not been as present to her as she sometimes needs - I get caught up in "doing" when she sometimes just needs me to sit down with her and "be."

I feel sad that I have failed to do that, and grateful that she allows me to be my imperfect self and still loves me.

So, anyway . . .

BIG THANKS to Jayson for having the vision to make this weekend happen - and maybe we need to do it again and again before we are ready to host a conference.

Stay tuned, I'll have more thoughts to share in the coming days.

Tom Matlack - Male Bonding

This is an interesting post from Tom Matlack and the Good Men Project Magazine - on male bonding, from a variety of different perspectives, all of which appear to be white, upper middle class - not a lot of diversity.

In some respects it reveals how hard it is for men to talk to each other - and that most men seem to just accept that as how it is - why? Why should men only be able to bond through sports, or drinking? Why can't we just talk to each other? And why should we just accept that limited way of sharing?

Male Bonding

Tom Matlack asked guys what makes them feel connected to other men. The good news? Not a single man said “chest bumps.”

One of the reasons we started The Good Men Project was to help guys talk about the things they don’t normally talk about. In that pursuit, here are men talking (in print, for the world to see) about what makes them feel most connected to other men. Guys, there may be hope for us yet…

Nude yoga.
Daniel, writer

Men prefer not to call it “male bonding.” We can’t call it “man time,” either, because that just sounds… questionable. Either way, it’s usually something involving little-to-no speech and a good amount of physical exertion. Your mind might immediately go to sports, but I’d say lumberjacking or drinking. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. Oddly enough, the guy friends I still have today are the ones I used to go behind my house with so we could shoot each other with airsoft pistols at close range. The friends that bleed together stay together.
Seth Palmer, television producer

I’ve read so many stories about men who could only communicate with their fathers when the subject of conversation was baseball (or football, or basketball, or golf), and it’s gotten to the point where these stories make me sad. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with talking to one’s father or to other men about sports. At best, our games give us glimpses of perfection and provide great entertainment. But these guys for whom games and the discussion of them are all—even when they maintain that when they’re talking about sports, they’re really talking about matters more profound and significant—these guys ought to get out more… which probably means they should more frequently walk away from their television sets.
Bill Littlefield, Host ofOnly A Game”

I choose to bond with men when there is a vehicle and a long road trip ahead. Guys are most comfortable speaking when they’re looking straight ahead (not at each other) and don’t really have an excuse to escape. My most serious conversations with all men—my Dad being the most influential—happen in the car. It’s partly why I think guys like cars so fucking much.
Dylan Leonard Brown, executive assistant

Matt Villano, writer.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but back in the days of communal life at school, “poo dollar” was a game played by adolescent males, where a dollar bill is smeared with excrement and placed on the sidewalk for an unfortunate person to pick up. I got to admit that I’ve never laughed so hard with friends in my entire life. And I’d love to think that I’ve outgrown such humor, but 20-plus years later a friend emailed me, knowing that I’m working in London for a month, to find out if the kids here “poo pound.” We still found it incredibly funny.
Joe Schrank, interventionist and sobriety coach

As a gay man, I’ve had the best bonding experiences of my life in electronic superstores. No matter what you are—gay, straight, bi, transgendered—most guys love electronics. Stick a bunch of men in an electronic superstore and the discussions and debates about plasma vs. LCD vs. 1080P vs. 1080i vs. Sony vs. Samsung vs. 7.1 surround sound vs. 5.1 surround sound vs. Blu-ray vs. 3-D is truly extraordinary. It always brings a smile to my face when a bunch of guys (gay and straight) can literally bond over a piece of electronic machinery.

Stafford Arima, theater director

Primal screaming. My best friend from middle school and I have seen each other through the last 20 years—all the ups, downs and sideways that adolescence, high school, college and our 20s brought us. We have reinforced our closeness in many ways over the years, but none in as memorably exhilarating a way as primal screaming. I was visiting him at his then-new house out in the woods. The neighbors are distant, and on this particular night his wife was out with friends. We were hammered, mixing yet another round of gin and tonics in pint glasses from the rapidly dwindling handle of Bombay Dry in the kitchen. I don’t remember how it started, but we began to yell, tentatively at first, amazed and somewhat unsettled at the noise we could generate, but soon increased in volume and gusto. We took turns, trying to outdo each other, but then began to overlap; one drunken, screaming, rope-necked 30-year-old gasping for a breath while the other continuing to scream, mouth open with drool stringing toward the floor, until the other could begin and spell the first. For some ten minutes solid we yelled into the quiet of his night kitchen, our bellows echoing around the house, until our heads were light and our throats hoarse. When we stopped, we laughed at ourselves in the uncanny silence, both swaying drunk but conscious of the catharsis of the moment and strange intimacy of knowing that there was no one else in the world but each other with whom that rawness would have been possible.
Drew DeVoogd, attorney

My roommate and I used to try to figure out what soccer team was better looking. That’s men’s soccer team. We’re both straight.
Ryan O’Hanlon, Good Men Project Magazine staff writer and former collegiate soccer player at Holy Cross

I don’t do anything different with my guy friends than I do with my female friends. Generally the best place to bond is an area with a creative energy, good conversation, and an adequate amount of coffee and cigarettes.
Eli Cadwallader, college student

Rafting down the twin fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with my business partners. I learned how smart my friends were playing hearts, how their minds really worked, and saw how they handled camping and the challenges of a foreign environment. Some guys I liked less, and many I liked a lot more.
Todd Dagres, venture capitalist

The bond that comes from playing competitive sport on a team is analogous to the bond that is created on the battlefield in war. Athletes will tell you that their bond to teammates can be stronger than any other in their life, including the bond they have with their wife and children. Something special occurs between men when they are in battle on the playing field-it could be the hormones that flow or simply the highly competitive situation-that leaves a lasting impression like no other.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg, professor of sport psychology at Austin Peay State University and the author of Full Throttle

Biking with my older son. Boys and men communicate better while doing things. Good luck sitting a boy down across from you and saying, “Okay, let’s talk.” My wife recently thanked me for not sharing with her the more intimate details of what we talk about on our biking excursions, because ignorance is bliss!
Geordie Mitchell, educator

The first hour you wake up, hungover as hell, after an absolute ripshit night of going out somewhere with your friends. Half your buddies aren’t there, the other half is scrambled around on couches, stretched out on pillows or right on the hardwood floor, or on top of (insert random potentially soft, or seemed soft at 4 a.m., object here). This first hour when everyone wakes up feeling awful, not drunk but clearly not sober, and recounts the events of the previous night. The stories you hear are likely the funniest they will ever sound. Whatever happened, happened, and it doesn’t matter who hears it or who thinks what, because you’re likely surrounded by a good group of men that you’d trust with anything.
PW, medical researcher

Read the whole collection.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day One: Evolving Men's Conference - My Reflections

Evolving Men's Conference

Evolving Men's Conference

WOW - I'm freaking wiped out. There is a lot of passion, a lot of energy, and a lot of conflicting worldviews in the room, and it's exciting, creative, and frustrating. Sounds about right, yes?

The morning began with an attempt by Jayson and his team to build a container for the work to come - but a few guys felt like that was a waste of our time (in all fairness, without that work in the morning, the rest of the day may not have been as creatively volatile, in a good way).

The leadership team went with the flow they felt in the room (I was a little skeptical at first, like, "You're going to let a few guys derail your agenda?!") - before lunch we broke up into smaller groups to figure just what it is we came to Boulder to do - and some of us came a long way at considerable expense (especially the men from Europe).

What seemed "up" for everyone was getting to some take-home projects, some way to make this weekend useful going forward - set up some goals, some plans, and some steps to get that done. In retrospect, I am pleased and grateful that Jayson and the other leaders opened the agenda to what they saw coming from the group - I think it was a good decision that led to a very productive afternoon.

After lunch we engaged in an organic open process to generate ideas for break-out groups - and several came together - a very cool process that I had not seen done before. Those of us who didn't have a specific topic we wanted to propose listened to the others (a 30 second pitch) and voted with our feet, so to speak, by joining the group that moved us.

I ended up in a group working on the socio-cultural issues that keep men trapped in out-dated models of how to be a man, as well as the issues that keep them from doing "men's work."

One of the guys behind this topic was sort of, kind of, possibly speaking my language (social constructivism and integral). Although I did not know for sure that he was coming from that perspective, but sensing the potential of a kindred, I was drawn to his ideas as reflective of my own. I was correct in my sense - he's a guy I feel has much to offer in this area, since he works with several men's groups and talks integral without the jargon.

The jumping off point was identifying three primary "bubbles" (worldviews) that keep bumping up against each other in the men's movement, which also reflect the culture at large - the Biblical/religious perspective (this is how God made us and our holy book tells us so), the essentialist/archetypal perspective (men are masculine because of archetypal masculine essence, or because we are hard-wired as masculine in our biology/neurology), and the socialization model (social constructivism: we are essentially human beings socialized to be masculine, with many possible masculinities, all of which are cool).

[I threw in a little Ken Wilber color-coding there (amber, orange, and green), for those who know about altitudes and worldviews in his model.]

So the big question, then, is how do we talk about men and masculinity in a way that appeals to all three perspectives, or at least does not alienate them. If I speak of multiple masculinities that are socially constructed, the religious perspective will shut down immediately. Likewise, if I speak about God or religious origins of masculine identity, the other two wage rebellion or simply do not listen.

There has to be a way to speak about this work in a way that gets to men, that touches them in the ways in which the little box of hegemonic masculinity does not work for them, causes them pain, and restricts their authenticity - without alienating any the perspectives.

I suspect that we need to get to the real issues for men - many men are feeling lost, feeling misunderstood, and feeling like we no longer have an identity that is solid and respected as men. This addresses all three perspectives without languaging it in a way that might alienate one or more perspectives.

This is one of the things I am sure we will talk about tomorrow - so stay tuned.

Finally -we raised one important issue very briefly that I think needs more attention: Who is invested in preventing men from doing this work? Who wants to maintain the status quo as far as men being stuck in the old models and unaware that they can do and be something else? That is a serious topic for discussion in my perspective.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jeremy Sherman - Four I's: Your true selves, really

This is cool - but what is missing from this article by Jeremy Sherman for me is that these perspectives are not simply a part of every person's life, they are development stages. We earn greater awareness of our self as an object.

Harvard developmental psychologist Robert Kegan brought to our awareness the subject/object model as the vehicle for the self's transformation into greater levels of complexity over time, as a project of meaning-making.

Here it is in Kegan's own words, from an interview with EnlightenNext:
So what is the "subject-object relationship"? It is a fundamental distinction in the way that we make sense of our experience—a distinction that shapes our thinking, our feeling, our social relating, and our ways of relating to internal aspects of ourselves. The subject-object relationship is not just an abstraction but a living thing in nature. What I mean by "object" are those aspects of our experience that are apparent to us and can be looked at, related to, reflected upon, engaged, controlled, and connected to something else. We can be objective about these things, in that we don't see them as "me." But other aspects of our experience we are so identified with, embedded in, fused with, that we just experience them as ourselves. This is what we experience subjectively—the "subject" half of the subject-object relationship.

What gradually happens is not just a linear accretion of more and more that one can look at or think about, but a qualitative shift in the very shape of the window or lens through which one looks at the world. A given subject-object relationship establishes the shape of the window. Thus, for a certain period of time, a particular distinction between what is object and what is subject persists. Then you know the world through that system, and while your knowing gets increasingly elaborated, it all goes on within the terms of that system. So, for example, when you get to be what we call a "concrete thinker," usually between the ages of six and ten, you are able to learn facts, more and more facts, but you're still just learning the facts. Children at this age and stage collect baseball cards, bugs, leaves from trees—they come to understand the world around them by identifying, naming, and labeling the objects in it. But you have to make a qualitative move to transform the subject-object relationship before you are able to organize these facts into bigger abstract ideas, themes, and values. This, then, becomes the next epistemology. Each qualitative move takes a whole mental structure that had been experienced as subject and shifts it so that it becomes seen as object.

If you study the processes of the forming and re-forming of ways of knowing from childhood right through adulthood, you come to recognize a rhythm in this process. We start from a position, in earliest infancy, where there's absolutely no subject-object distinction at all, because the infant's knowing is entirely subjective. There's no "not me," no internal vs. external. There's no distinction,for example, in the source of the discomfort caused by bright light or hunger in the belly. There's no distinction between self and other.
So, keep this in mind as you read this article from Psychology Today, then I'll come back to how this relates to men.
By Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D.

"I'm tired of being controlled by other people. It's time for me to honor my true self."

The idea of getting in touch with one's true self has become a joke, mostly because people who pledged to do so back in the 1980s were too earnest, and, well, out of touch.

Still, the joke runs deeper than laughing at old fads. There's something fundamentally slapstick about even the most thoughtful search for a true self. No sooner do you pounce on the place where you think your true self's buck stops than you realize the buck must stop somewhere else.

What would you find if you burrowed around inside your mind, looking for your true self? A soul? A little equipment operator who runs your body, perhaps? Does this equipment operator have a body, too? If not, how does it work? If so, what runs it? Does it have an operator's operator inside it? And, then, what runs the operator's operator? Where do the nested Russian dolls of your self end? And who wants to know? Who's the true self behind the part of you searching for your true self? Trying to get to the end of the queue is like trying to eat your mouth.

So, maybe your true self isn't inside at all. Scramble all the way back out and look up in the sky for your true self, a god controlling you like a marionette. But, then, who controls the god? Whether you look inside or out, the true self isn't there. The search is a great, mysterious shell game.

There's a new way of looking at the self that conforms more to what the scientific evidence suggests. We know we evolved, and that our fellow creatures, which also evolved, nevertheless don't seem to engage in searches for their true selves. Flies fly without every wondering why, without ever looking inside for the true source of their flight. Introspection, the ability to picture a true self, seems pretty much new with humans. Even with us, though, it doesn't consume our day. Watching TV, maintaining liver function, or simply breathing -- we have plenty of self-perpetuating habits that don't depend on self-awareness. Still, there's no family of words that roll off our tongues as readily as first-person singulars. "I," "me," "my" -- we speak of these things with great authority. In light of evolution, however, what do these words mean?

To answer this question, it's worth noticing that we humans evolved into word users, creatures with vocabularies so large that we can weave words into intricate mind's-eye pictures of our world, and even worlds beyond. On the slightest verbal suggestion, you can picture a pink rhino with a candy-cane horn even though you've never seen one. You can visit your childhood home, your current house, or a future abode; you can picture your past, present, and future. You can mix the real and the make-believe, picturing, for example, a pink rhino from your childhood, which means that what you envision can diverge more or less from what is real. You can combine pictures into stories -- mental movies, in effect. From what science can tell, this capacity is by far at its most developed in humans, and it's due to our symbolic, or language, capacity.

Moreover, you can picture and tell stories about yourself. The search for the self is less slapstick if regarded not as burrowing around for a master operator but as developing mind's-eye pictures of and stories about yourself from different vantage points. As such, there are four basic kinds of self-nesses -- four I's that make up a mind:

I0 (I to the zeroth power): This is life's basic state, behavior without self-examination, self-awareness, self-consciousness, or self-reflection. It's the closest we get to how the rest of life lives. We call it acting instinctively or intuitively, or putting behavior on autopilot. In humans, I0 behavior can be either innate or learned. Sleeping, wound healing, breathing, and blood circulating are innate examples of operating in an I0 state. Walking, driving, using a spoon, and watching TV are learned activities that typically become second nature. In these states, the self is simply assumed. We lose ourselves into the activity at hand. We act like input-output devices. It is in this state that we become one with all of life. (Anything to the zeroth power equals one.)

I0 is very efficient, though it's dangerous when something bad for us becomes second nature. I0 is a state wonderfully devoid of self-consciousness, but it's also a state troublingly bereft of self-awareness. We're glad gentlefolk have made their habits second nature. We regret that evildoers have done so.

I1 (I to the first power): This is basic introspection, the capacity to picture yourself behaving and to tell stories about that behavior: "I'm a plumber." "I'm a married woman." "I'm an up-and-coming author." "I'm a good Christian." “I meant to do that." The first-person pronoun emerges with this state. All sorts of descriptions and explanations of your self arise naturally and automatically with this capacity. I1 is, you could say, the uniquely human innate ability to construct unexamined narratives on demand about who we are, what we're for, and what we're against.

Why on demand? Most of the time, we just cruise along in an I0 state, our I1 narratives about who we are residing in the vague background, unconscious, simply assumed. They rise to our conscious attention only when we face demands -- when we are confused, challenged, doubtful, or wondering. Then the stories about who we are might arise to consciousness as reminders or guides in our decision making. Whenever we get a little disoriented, we access our I1 descriptions to help us remember what to do and what we're for, but also what we're against. We are defined both by what we do and don't do: "I don't eat onions." "I don't do windows." "I don't fool around." We say what we need to hear in order to keep ourselves on track.

I1 is beneficial when it helps us persist against resistance worth overcoming. ("Darn it, I'm a good person. I can try harder!") It's dangerous when it makes us persist against resistance worth surrendering to. ("Darn it, I am a good Nazi soldier. I can try harder to defeat the enemy!") I1 stories keep us on track, either in a groove or in a rut, depending on which track we're on. We're glad Martin Luther King was so strongly in an I1 state. We're sorry Hitler was.

I2 (I squared): We behave (I0). We can tell stories about our behavior (I1), and we can tell stories about the storyteller (I2). Whereas in an I1 state I might say, "I'm a people person," in an I2 state I might say, "I like to think that I'm a people person," as if talking about that storytelling guy I am that likes to think certain things. Whereas in an I1 state I might say, "I'm going to be a success," in an I2 state I might say, "I keep telling myself I'm going to be a success." At I1 we tell unexamined stories. At I2 we are aware that we are telling stories.

Seeing ourselves telling stories generally increases the distance between us and the stories, thereby reducing the stories' credibility enough that we face a choice about whether the stories are useful, or should be changed for other stories. Noticing the storyteller enables us to see that we are storytellers interpreting reality, not simply reporting it. From I2 I might say, "I have a tendency to be overoptimistic," which is as if to call into question my optimistic interpretations of reality.

I2 is the source of whatever flexibility we have to jump track when we decide we're on the wrong track. However, it's not always enough flexibility to actually succeed in jumping. There are times when we see ourselves telling counterproductive stories about ourselves but can't stop telling those stories anyway. But I2 raises the possibility of jumping. It raises doubt, which can be a great thing if you're telling bad stories ("I'm a good Nazi soldier") or a bad thing if you're telling good stories ("I'm responsible for these children"). We're glad Martin Luther King Jr. didn't spend more time in an I2 state. We wish Hitler had spent more time in one.

I¥ (I to the infinite power, or I-ons, as in, "I on and on and on and on"): For every story that can be told, another story can be told about the storyteller. Just as you can picture yourself picturing yourself behaving (I2), you can continue picturing yourself picturing yourself picturing yourself to the limits of your ability to keep track (which are mercifully low). I-ons is the state in which you recognize that there is no true self, that for every interpretation you make of who you are, another interpretation can be made of the interpreter of that interpretation. I-ons is simply the recognition that no matter how far out I go to get more perspective on myself, there is always another vantage point further out, which means there's no final certainty about who I am after all.

The I-ons state can bring on permanent disorientation, or it can resign you more comfortably to life's uncertainty. It would be lovely to find a true self, an omniscient gut or god that always knows the right thing to do, but since we can't, we can get with the program, choose our grooves, monitor them to make sure they don't become ruts, and then just cruise in them. We don't tend to spend much time in an I-ons state, because it's fairly disorienting, and we have things to do. We need to stay on track. Besides, more layers are simply more than a mind can handle.


A few final comments:

  • "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it." This popular phrase illustrates the I-levels and the moves we make between them. The first half ("That's my story") is spoken in an I2 state. It stands outside the story. If it were in the story, it would say, "This is my story." The second half ("and I'm sticking with it") is spoken from the I1 state. It's spoken as though one is popping out of one's routine story for the briefest moment and then popping right back into it. It's an ironic statement because it recognizes that it's just a story but then commits to it anyway -- a very human and humble gesture: "I know I'm just guessing, and still I'm going to stick with my bet."
  • In searching for a true self, one always gets trapped with the nested-Russian-doll problem. With the four I's story, there is a kind of nesting, too, but it's different; the layers are impressions, thoughts that could be thought, no more necessarily solid than pink rhinos with candy-cane horns. They are self-impressions from different levels, conceptions of the self, not real, in-the-world selves.
  • I-level chauvinists abound. I0 chauvinists say, "Stop thinking, and just be." I1 chauvinists say, "Live a purpose-driven life." I2 chauvinists say, "Doubt everything." I¥ chauvinists say, "You can't know anything with certainty, so don't even try." Despite all this advice, few of us dwell at one level alone. The trick is to become multilevelheaded, taking advantage of the benefits and avoiding the costs of each I-level. Introspective intelligence is like mastering golf, knowing which I-ron is best for which shot. Cultivate good habits, not bad ones (I0). Tell unexamined stories that grow you in the right directions, and not the wrong ones (I1). Examine your counterproductive stories but not your productive ones (I2). And remember that there's no true self to tell you for sure what's good and what's bad (I¥).

Four I's: first there's unconscious being,

Then there's me with my stories agreeing,

then I'm catching me at it

which reduces dogmatics,

next, a bigger schematic that's freeing.

So, OK, this all sounds like some nice Buddhist thing or some-such, yes? BUT . . . this is relevant to our work as men.

What are them stories you tell about yourself? Who are you when you say, "I . . . ." Do you only see the "me" the looks out through those eye sockets? Do you see yourself as an object of your awareness? Do you identify the various "I-s" and "me-s" that show up in your life? Do you see yourself as a socially constructed self, giving you the freedom to be any of those other perspectives?

All of these are developmental perspectives (highly simplified, and in doing so removing much of their subtlety and complexity.

The point is that in moving beyond worn out ways of being masculinity, we need to be able to hold all of our assumptions, beliefs, ideals, and values as objects in our awareness - and we need to be able to see all the various ways we enact those assumptions, beliefs, ideals, and values in our lives.

Only then can we have the freedom to choose what is the best fit for us as individuals. Only then can choose from all of the available forms of masculinities to construct the one that fits us as unique human males.

The Evolving Men’s Conference - Boulder, CO

Evolving Men's Conference

I made it to Boulder - taking a little breather from travel before meeting up with a non-EMC friend for tea and maybe some food.

The discussion that maybe should have happened before the conference about expectations and other issues has been happening today by email. Very interesting - some men have different ideas about this weekend than do others - and I don't know how closely anyone's vision is with what Jayson and the planning team had in mind.

One of the big issues is women attending any or all of the weekend - some men are seriously opposed to this. They want a space to be men without any sense of "restraint," which is my word, not theirs.

I am not opposed to having women present, but then I have never done the male only thing except for my therapy group, and that's a much different environment.

This was my comment to the exchange:
When Jayson pitched this weekend to me, it was about setting a course for the future of an evolving men's agenda, bringing together diverse voices in the community to examine issues, needs, values, and where we want to go as a community of men.

One of the areas I work in is academic - transforming hegemonic masculinity from a static ism into fluid masculinities, plural - there are all kinds of men, and all kinds of ways to be masculine. With that truth, there are going to be many perspectives on our work and what we want from the weekend.

I am glad to have some women involved - without the feminine we cease to be masculine. Masculinity is a relational construct, we exist as human beings in relationships. BUT, I understand that some men are not as comfortable with that for a lot of very valid reasons.

My hope is that we can listen to each other with compassion - and I have heard some less than compassionate voices in this exchange. We can be better.

I look forward to how this exchange will develop and shape the discussion this weekend, since it feels to me to be foundational to our work.
On the flight here - I read an article about relational masculinity - and one of the big issues for many men appears to be "relational dread" - feeling on the spot, not able to adequately communicate, fears of failure or shame - all of which revolve around talking about feelings in the presence of women. The author of this particular article, "Men's Psychological Development: A Relational Perspective," Stephen J. Bergman, outlined 10 qualities of relational dread:
1. Inevitability - nothing good will come of this
2. Timelessness - this will last forever
3. Damage - this is going to be BAD
4. Closeness - the more I love her, the greater my dread
5. Precariousness - even if it goes well, it will get bad again
6. Process - I have no idea how to navigate this
7. Guilt - I have effed this up before, I will again, and I feel guilty about that
8. Denial and fear of aggression - I am afraid that if pushed too much I might snap and become violent
9. Incompetence and shame - I do NOT feel competent doing this - she is better at this than I am
10. Paralysis - when each or any of the previous 9 items comes up, my dread doubles
I'm not saying this is what is going on for the men who do not want women at this weekend, but this seemed relevant to me as I read the essay.

Men are relational - and I am sure it helps to get comfortable being with and talking to other men to make us more comfortable with this element of ourselves that we were never taught by our mothers or fathers - it's no wonder we have such a challenge talking about our feelings.