I tried to be a good student. I tried to remember the order of things and then execute that order – yet something would always go wrong.
I remember going to catechism, the Catholic religious training, and stressing out because I could not remember all the steps of First Communion. If you were not brought up as a Catholic — at least in the old Church — you do not know there were a series of precise actions you needed to perform. I would stand when I was supposed to kneel and kneel when I was supposed to stand.
The more I tried, the more I screwed up. I got the message that in order to be a good Catholic and a good person, I had to do these things correctly. I started believing I was going to Hell for screwing up. Sounds stupid now, but as a little kid, it made sense to me.
After giving up my pursuit of perfection, I began to step back from tasks to see that results and happiness often come from the relationship of the tasks. I noticed that in between the actions was the relationship of the actions, people, and other variables. I discovered that the relationship that wants to emerge made my life easier.
After a decade of traditional men’s groups, I stepped back to see that more than the trying to understand or control the parts — more than the ‘right order’ — there was a natural pattern. I had enough experience at that time to sense that a deep pattern was attempting to arise. With my years of frustration trying to do it right, I created a model and group that was more about exploring than getting it right.
I tested certain assumptions, such as if men feel safe, they will be vulnerable. Being vulnerable will lead to releasing past restrictions and deeper connections. At the time, I didn’t know of any hard science that backed up my theory. Sure, I had professional training that supported it in different ways, but going for vulnerability was not standard operating procedure.
After a couple of years, it was apparent that what Systems Theory told us held true for men’s groups. It corroborated that how the parts of a system interact matters most — not how they act independently. Working with the interdependency of related parts improves connection and relationships.
Giving men only one way to show up may work some of the time for some men. Invariably, it fails to deepen healing, connection, and relationships. The top-down approach is antithetical to biology and emotions. As men, we may wish that life’s aspects were linear, but they are not.
Being willing to exist in the chaos, fear, or excitement of related parts attempting to create a higher order can be challenging. Not having a user manual that gives us step-by-step instructions is exciting.
What is a set of behaviors that you were told to perform as a kid? Maybe it works for you; maybe it doesn’t. It could be how you greet someone. Or it could be how you come on to a person to whom you are attracted.
When I was young, which was before the whole Pick Up Artist trainings, I read books on how to connect to and pick up women. It all made sense. As you can imagine, I failed miserably at it.
If you were to do that scary behavior YOUR way, what would that be? What is at risk if you fail? What can you get from doing it your way?
What can you do in a week that has you step out of your learned pattern to at least explore a new one?
For some, it may be taking a step to get help. The programs and membership of EVRYMAN are available to all men. Private coaching for men, and yes women, as well as couples, are available. In November, Dalia and I are doing our next Hold Me TightÒ couple’s workshop.
This Thursday, Dalia and I are doing a free 90-minute workshop with Hey Baby, a relationship app for men and women who want to start a relationship with someone who wants or has kids. As a reader of this blog, you are invited to: How to Attract the Partner You Want with Authentic Communication.