In the previous post, we discussed transitions, the second of three stages of change (separation was the first). Here we will move into the third stage: reintegration (a process of integrating someone back into society).
Once you have hit bottom, once you have survived your transition, you enter a process of integration, first with yourself then with your world.
I am like most guys — I move fast when I want something and start going for it. I may hesitate for a long time, but once committed; I want to be done with the process and reap the benefits ASAP. I saw men in my clinic get out of pain fast and not heed our warning – you may feel better, but you are not well yet. It takes time for our bodies and emotions to complete the transition.
The completion is letting the body fully release what was held for so long. You can have a big release with your dark night, but it will not be all that needs to be let go. Your body and emotions also need to recalibrate, and a new normal needs to be assimilated internally and externally.
For years, you perceived yourself and others from who you were; being a new person may take some practice for you and others. Taking time to reintegrate with self-integration gives you a more solid base to stand on as you step out into your new world.
Men often report that their new self has different desires. You may not pursue some of the old activities entirely like you once did. Last week, I laughed with one of my coaching clients; a few of his favorite interests no longer interested him. It is like one day you wake up to realize many of the clothes in your closet no longer fit well or have you looking good.
The integration process will continue to be a process of letting go of what no longer serves you. Again, it does not necessarily mean letting go of a relationship; it probably means letting go of how you used to show up.
As you interact with the world, you are reintegrating yourself into your community. A man will often have a few relationships that do not feel authentic, and with that, his interest in connecting with those people is gone. There may also be people who do not want to connect with this new man or who want the old man to return.
When you change significantly, others can be threatened. It is as if your change challenges others to change – and their fear prevents them from doing so. It becomes easier to shoot the unintended messenger than change, which can be hard when it is a close friend who feels that way. Having your group can make a difference. The men of your group are committed to change, along with supporting and honoring you in your change.
You thought that once you changed, you were done. Sorry, there is more. Reintegration often entails tests and reinforcement of your change. Life will give you opportunities to see if the old you or the new you will show up. Indeed, in the beginning, if only out of habit, the old you can show up. You will fail at fully embodying the change. Part of the change is having compassion for yourself and what you did to survive. That compassion is forgiving yourself — and possibly others — which you can see as more change and integration.
Recovering from your mistakes builds strength and resiliency. It allows your change not to be a rigid “should”, but a new way of being a more authentic self. See your test and possible failure as ways to deepen your change.
Joseph Campbell speaks about the return to your community as an honoring for the journey you traveled. It is being seen and treated as being a new man. Just as we learn self-regulation from being co-regulated as kids, we learn in part who we are as a man by how others engage with us, and by how others reflect who we are.
An additional part of reintegration is to share your new gift or power in some way. It may not be a conscious act. It may be showing up differently with others. For example, your old arrogance and impatience is replaced by compassion and patience.
Over the decades through this work, I have seen hundreds of men want to share what they have received with others. It may be as simple as staying in their group after healing whatever it was that brought them to the group. Or it may be wanting to learn the skills that will help other men experience the change he received from men who were there for him.
There is honor and deep reward in giving to others what you worked hard to get. It is the final stage of reintegration. Growing to give in more powerful ways becomes the driver for some men and an enhancer of change.
A short review of the three steps:
We start with letting go of what limits us internally and/or externally. That death demands grieving which allows us to release what was a limitation so we can move on.
Moving on is diving into what was behind the separation, the deeper, often hidden pains, stress, or trauma. Surrendering to what we previously could not fully experience and release is scary – and liberating.
Taking what is new into what ends up being a new world deepens roots to the new tree you are growing. The fruit from the tree becomes the unique gifts you bring back and your modeling of the journey.
All of this was traditionally done in an established process and with others that support the change. Sure, it can be done alone, yet it is easier, quicker, and more rewarding to have a community behind you.
How do you plan to integrate the changes you experience, be it deep change or the change of being with other committed men every week? Some methods of work and groups have you just do the work and change at their events or in their groups. At EVRYMAN, we want you to bring that change home. Test it, refine it, strengthen it, and share it.
Name at least one challenge or reward of being in your group that you will share with others in your life. In sharing it, what is the stretch – what makes it a challenge for you?
You don’t need to know the picture to share your experience. The first take on our change may not feel pleasant. Feel all you can as you share. Feel the challenge to take an inner experience and share it.
Our partners want more of us. Often, this is what they want – more of our work, challenges, passions, failures, and successes. They want to feel a part of what we are creating.