Learning was never my strong suit; I am dyslexic so that compounded the issue. School and Catholic Catechism taught me what the culture calls ‘learning’ — a top-down approach emphasizing memory and linear thought that I sucked at. Or at least that is what I believed.
In hindsight, I realized that I dealt with my failures by checking out. School was a stressful experience. Now I know that under stress, our cognitive functions are limited. But no one at the time told me anything about that. I developed the belief that, at best, I would survive this life. Being successful or thriving wasn’t even on my radar.
I began unwinding my stress and trauma out of necessity, allowing my physiology to down-regulate. I began to relax. Relaxing had me see other options. Other learning paths became available. As bad as I was at subjects such as math and English, I could succeed at learning and healing by being my own man.
There was no one laying this path out, either. I certainly had excellent teachers, many of them in the flesh, others in books. At least for me, as a man who did not feel like a man, there was no one putting a map together to guide me on my journey. Life had me cobble together makeshift plans for individual treks, which would eventually become a map for my journey.
I realized that a big part of the journey was assembling your own map. Finding the needed companions for the journey was another crucial piece.
In doing all this and sticking with the journey, I realized others were limited by our prevalent model. I discovered that most men and women I worked with were fighting to escape the confines of growing up in our western culture. We were all led to believe the problem was us — not what we are taught or what is done to us.
On my journey, I slowly discovered a sequence that I observed with others as well as with myself:
- We don’t know
- Then we know
- Then we work at doing
- Then, we start to embody (being)
- And then we help others through the process
Men often stall between embodying and helping others. One reason is that we have not fully embodied the process — we do not arrive on the other side of this until we help another.
When you attempt to help another, the person appreciates your caring. Both of you see some change, but often they then revert to their old patterns. Sometimes they have gone as far as they can at that time. When I have guided others, I have sometimes realized that my ability to guide them was limited by how far I traveled. Not seeing a change in another was a mirror for me to lean into more embodiment of parts of myself that I was not owning. We do not deliberately avoid these parts. We are just stuck in the survival strategies that saved us.
The EVRYMAN Method (which combines somatic understanding, emotional physiology, and our biological need for human connection and psychological safety), helps us unpack this process to discern what works. As you learn the method, you discover that a crucial part is the Catalyst Phase, where the facilitator leans in with something that provokes a deeper and possibly unpleasant experience. Offering a question or reflection that takes a man deeper into the pain he had to avoid comes from doing that for yourself.
Learning or relearning the natural process of turning and facing your demons is nothing we learned in school. A growing cohort is choosing courage to face what has taken you out. One of the most powerful teachings I have received from my groups is that we all teach each other this new way of learning and healing.
In your daily meditation/journaling or men’s group, take some time to ponder these questions:
Where do you stumble in your healing journey?
Where do you need help but hesitate to ask?
You may speak about how you learned to hide and not be seen. In being invisible, you protected yourself. The downside was that you were not seen, acknowledged, or connected to others. The upside was that you learned to read people and situations well.
As you lay out your journey to this point, experience what comes up. What is your body doing? What emotions do you have? What are your thoughts?
Finally, unpack an event or a deciding moment when you chose a particular path on your journey.
I remember doing a speech in college about why it was not a good idea to hope. It was the best speech I gave in that class. It also became my code that I committed to living by — until life kicked me with the loss of my first love.
Go from a felt story to a critical event that determined a particular direction or an event that was emblematic of your life.
In a sentence or two, what was your journey about? Is there a movie or novel that would represent it?