As a child growing up, I remember feeling emotions such as sadness or fear deeply, and always crying. I was told at school and home that I was “too sensitive” and shouldn’t allow my feelings to be hurt so easily. While it was a message of emotional resilience that perhaps was trying to be instilled in me at the time, I was also learning that as a growing boy it was not acceptable to be overly expressive with emotions and that I needed to be “tough.” This message continued to be taught as the years progressed in more extreme matters. The more aggressive and less “soft” you were, the more you were respected and validated. I was learning that in order to be accepted by others I literally needed to alter who I authentically was and essentially become a character. This character became so ingrained in my everyday life, that at a certain point I could barely differentiate between who I truly was and who I learned how to be. I had conformed to society’s ideal role of what a man should be, but had abandoned the kid who felt his emotions and expressed them regardless of judgement. I taught myself to become numb.
It wasn’t until later in life that I began to reassess what it meant to me to be a man and challenge the norms and expectations of others. While working in a treatment program for substance abuse, I encountered numerous other men with similar stories. They had years of unresolved pain, and stuffed emotions they held in and had turned to drugs to cope with. They would come into treatment and begin to talk about situations and feelings they had never expressed. There would be tears and anger and shame, as this was not anything they were used to. However, eventually I noticed a sense of relief in a lot of them, and a willingness to take their mask off. While working in addiction treatment, I also ran a group specifically for men, which is where I truly saw the power of what happens when we feel safe to be vulnerable and not restricted by the judgement and expectations of others. I witnessed a group of men coming together and going underneath the surface, sharing their true emotions, discussing past trauma and allowing themselves to be free.
At Wholehearted Healing Collective, I was beyond excited to continue facilitating a men’s group, which I named “Man 2 Man.” Based on previous experience and research, I developed a 6 week curriculum that focuses on identifying our sense of selves, core belief system, emotional vulnerability, interpersonal relationships and intimacy. The mantra I created for the group is “rewriting the rules,” which resonates deeply with my own life experience. I can attribute a majority of my life to living by the “rules” that were taught to me, but didn’t always correlate with who I was. As an adult now, I have learned the freedom of being able to write my own “rules” of what it means to be a man, and no longer living by the ones that do not serve me. “Man 2 Man” is open to men of all ages who are open to looking at and rewriting their own rules, and discussing other factors of what it means to be a “man.” If you or someone you know are interested in exploring your own experience, feel free to reach out to us via e-mail or our office line to learn more! You can also visit our Man 2 Man group page for more information.