What are the key questions that men need to ask themselves these days? It is hard to identify what our identity is in an era of gender fluidity and the MeToo movement, the constant challenge of high male suicide rates, the anxiety of powerlessness and perceived male role failure…there is a lot to consider, and to add to it is the fact that men are typically poor at coming to places where they might talk about themselves, such as the GP surgery and the counselling and therapeutic environment. So, as Matt Englar so nicely puts it, how can I respond to the challenge that he sets “as a man, what are you moving towards, and how do you want to contribute”? (Barry et al, 2019)
I have been pondering this ever since I came across the book Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly in 2002. I read this at a time of real personal challenge and it has helped me since then to define myself as a man. It has been my ‘go to’ whenever I am in doubt about the lived experience of the man. It has been all too true for me that depression can set in if I don’t take active steps to define myself as a man and to consider my unique purpose.
I have, since 2002, always held in mind that I would look to engage other men in a collective effort to consider what a fulfilling life as a man might look like. My contribution to the community has been to offer Men’s Positive Living Groups as a core part of my practice. I ask the question “would you like to enhance your life, improve your health, and be part of a helpful network?”. I suspect it’s hard not to say no to this proposition but even harder is the challenge to meet with a group of strangers to work on your own question. The group is conducted over ten weeks, provides an opportunity for men of all ages to meet others in a similar life situation; to share stories and experiences; and to access information and practical advice in a relaxed, understanding and supportive environment.
I’m offering this small group experience in Bandon and Midleton in Co. Cork at the moment, but would look to offer it in other locations if there was a perceived demand for it. My next idea is a group in Tallaght in Dublin in the autumn.
I look forward to your ideas and feedback at email@example.com.
Barry, J.A., Kingerlee, R., Seager, M. and Sullivan, L. eds., 2019. The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. Palgrave Macmillan.