When I started the Sandpoint Men’s group in 2005, I remember sitting in my living room asking a man, “What is at risk?” That question came from asking myself to dive into my fear of acting.
I would go into the freeze response (being hyped up but not acting). I would be that deer in the headlights. I knew I needed to act but could not. Sure, at the last moment, I would act, or to be more accurate, circumstances forced met to act. Sometimes it was a business opportunity I kept thinking about. Or a relationship in which I was half in and half out.
Discovering that slowing down and turning to face my fears was initially intense. Yet, when I would allow myself to feel emotions and act while feeling them, it was more challenging. But each time I ended up a little freer. Even if I failed, I was freer.
If you are like me and the men in my groups, your thoughts run in circles around what you do not want to face. Having only your mind for support, it can be difficult at first to escape that cycle of over-analysis.
When asked what is at risk, we are forced to be honest about the consequences of action or inaction. What are your opportunity costs – what opportunities will you miss with or without acting?
Recently as I was teaching a group of therapists, they asked how to compel a man to seek help. My answer was to have him feel what would happen if he did not receive help. For many men, feeling the potential impact on his kids from staying the same gets him to risk seeking help. He does not want to end up being the father he had.
Ask yourself these questions as you stay present to your somatic and emotional experience.
What is at risk if…
I do not change?
I do change?
What are my opportunity costs?
What will I miss out on?
What will not happen?
What are my sunk costs (what have I invested that I might lose)?
Avoid the top-down approach of thinking your way through the process. As you ask yourself these questions, feel your body and emotions respond. Then, feel what is behind your reaction, your standard survival response. What is your vulnerable response?
Check in with the issue, opportunity, or challenge in your life that could use a deep dive. Pick one of the questions — i.e., what is at risk if I do not change? – and write down or speak to it. Then connect to the emotion you feel as you experience what you are communicating.
Dive deeper into what is at risk. As guys, we want to understand and fix – do not do it. It is often better to feel more and be more confused than to have a better understanding and clear plan.
Keep peeling away at what is underneath each answer. For example:
Question: What is at risk if you do not go on vacation with your family?
Man: I will not be with them.
Question: What is at risk of you not being with them?
Man: They will have fun without me.
Question: What happens if they have fun without you?
Man: I am alone.
Question: What does it mean to be alone?
Man: I am not loved.
You see how it works. There is NO script. Just keep asking questions that each answer sets up. Remember, you are going less for a realization, and more for a new felt sense of a deeper driver.
In the New Year
What is at risk of you not just taking on a new resolution but a new way to achieve it?
How do you go from being a voyeur of your life to being engaged in leading it?
What would happen if you did more than have a New Year resolution? How about also focusing on a new means to achieve your resolution? As I mentioned above, I committed to having my group support me to leverage my efforts.
What will you do to leverage your efforts? If you want to get in shape – get a trainer. If you’re going to eat better – get a nutritionist. If you want a better life – work with us in some compacity. You can take the fast-track coaching or a slower but equally powerful path that joining EVRYMAN has to offer.
Go beyond addressing the effect; address what caused you not to have achieved what you wanted in the past. Have this New Year resolution do more than deliver a new success. Have it create a new way to achieve what you want.