Men's Groups: Getting Past the Machismo

A year ago, I began a men’s group with several of my old college singing buddies. Since then, I’ve received a lot of questions from people I talk to about it: What is a men’s group? What gave you the idea to start it? What do you do at meetings? Why do you do it?

I’m glad to share the information because it has brought me and my friends serenity and happiness throughout our lives, and so I thought I’d share it with you as well:

What is a Men’s Group, anyways?

A men’s group is rather simple. It is indeed a group of men who gather somewhat regularly and talk about our lives. We talk about our successes, our goals, our fears, our downfalls, our shortcomings, our pasts and our futures. Some would humorously critique that it is a bunch of guys talking about their feelings, and they wouldn’t be far off.

The idea of a men’s group is for guys to feel safe and secure talking about our lives without needing to cover up with machismo. There is no overcompensating, no bragging, no competition about sexual conquests or how much booze one can drink. Instead, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, focus on the things that are important to us, and offer advice and solace to each other.

What gave you the idea to start a men’s group?

There was a time in my life when I was really low. My physical health was at its worst, I absolutely hated my job, and I was having suicidal thoughts. I was in a rut, feeling the “big empty” (a topic I plan to write about in a future article), and I needed a way out. I began looking for any help. Through my searching, I came across The New Man Podcast, which has turned out to be a huge influence on my life. The host of the podcast also hosts a men’s group and encourages others to do so, too. After over three years of listening to the podcast, I finally followed suit.

What do you do at meetings?

Eat. At least that is what my group does. When we started originally, we would hold meetings at different restaurants every month or so. We’d catch up and exchange niceties, order food, and then begin with the serious talk. Now, we usually meet at someone’s house and either do potluck or order out.

Getting back to business, though, sometimes at a meeting, we may have a concept to focus on. We lead with the concept and go around taking turns talking about it from our own perspectives. Some concepts include: What enables us and what empowers us; Who are you jealous of and why; Level of Happiness; What do you feel deprived of; What can you let go of in your life?

We check in with each other. We take turns talking about where we are in our lives, the important and unimportant matters and events that are going on in our lives. Sometimes group members are on cloud nine while others are in a terrible rut. No matter, the rest of the group listens intently and offers congratulations, condolences, personal advice, or even offers help.

Why do you do it?

In many cultures throughout the world, there is a ceremony or ritual that celebrates the transition from boyhood to manhood. In average American culture, there is no such thing. At what point is a boy viewed as a man in the eyes of their society? At what point does a man truly accept himself as a man?

Too often in modern American culture, we find grown men having boy-like personality traits which can be cute and charming but can also be a sign of immaturity or even self-conflict. This hybrid of traits may be a result of men feeling insecure because they don’t feel "like a man," or may not even know exactly what it means to “be a man." It’s akin to the meaning of life, an idea that has no specific answer, but if you don’t feel like you know the answer, then you’re tormented by the question.

This is where the mask of machismo comes in. Reckless behavior, chauvinism, boasting, showboating and vulgar language cranked to a maximum as a means of “proving one’s manhood,” all common methods of overcompensating for insecurity. Having a group of guys that you can be honest with, and be vulnerable with, is a wondrous means of not only overcoming insecurities but also discovering that you are not alone.

Every guy goes through some level of masculine insecurity. Some of them may have ideas to help you deal with or overcome yours, and you may have ideas for others. If you are interested in starting your own group, find some guys that you think would be interested and talk to them about it. If they show interest, then you know they are worth having on board. If they mock the idea and don’t take it seriously, forget them, they aren’t interested and they likely wouldn’t be an asset to such a group.

In all honesty, I feel that most men would find at least one or two other guys who would be willing to partake in such an event. From there, choose a place, time and location and get your first meeting planned. Don’t feel panicked if you are unsure what to do or how to run a meeting. Start by talking about your recent successes and failures, and you will find that the meeting starts to run itself.

Truth be told, it’s not all serious; there will be joking. We can’t help ourselves, and even in some of the most serious moments we are bound to throw in a joke or two when we can. That’s okay, just make sure that the humor isn’t taking away from the seriousness of the conversation, and that all members appreciate the humor.

In conclusion, I find that being part of a men’s group is spiritually rewarding. It’s therapeutic and is a lot cheaper and more intimate than a shrink. It helps to feel the success of your accomplishments, and overcoming the hard times when they come. It also develops strong bonds with other men that go far beyond the “typical” drinking buddy or teammate.

As a means of ending this article, I’d like to leave you with some reviews from the gentlemen in my men’s group:

“Aside from the obvious therapy of talking about your concerns and struggles with people, this group serves as a reminder that everyone is a complex person with a complex life and a set of concerns, regardless of how they appear.”
“I've found great strength and support simply in knowing that this group understands my concerns and wishes to see me succeed in conquering them.” 
“I've really valued these meetings. Being able to openly express the things I'm feeling and dealing with in an open and understanding environment with peers is such a powerful tool for healing and self-discovery. Not only for myself but to also feel like I can help others is so empowering as well. I've heard that every conversation is a reflection and often times when I'm talking to someone about their issues I see myself and the things I struggle with so as with anything if I speak with someone and share a thought I'm also speaking with myself and reinforcing that idea within myself. So like any exercise we become stronger with repetition and these emotional and spiritual exercises make me stronger and I hope make others stronger.”
“These meetings...A place where our voices are truly heard.” 
“It's been a tremendous help for me to talk about how I'm feeling and what I'm going through with this group. We can all relate to each other in various ways and provide real advice.... not from a magazine or movie [sic], but from real-life experiences that can have a true impact on each of us."
“It has been amazing in how it gives me the chance to really talk about and put forward my struggles and desires on top of the support offered by these great gentlemen. It does what every great group should do by normalizing some of our struggles and well as offering accountability towards our goals.”
“Too often, conversations among men only skim the surface. Rarely do we volunteer our true challenges and victories. But in a men's group, it creates a safe place where we can share truth--about ourselves, one another, and our world. That environment cultivates unmatched honesty, support and, ultimately, growth. My experience has been positive and life-giving in a way I did not expect, and I can't overstate the value it has brought to my journey.”

© Copyright Whatismyhealth, January 15th, 2017