Why join a men’s therapy group in a city like London?
Being a man at this point in time is complex and can be hard to navigate. There are so many pressures we might experience, expectations that we place on ourselves and/or that we take on from outside. This can be regardless of the kind of man we are: our current situation, background, race, class, sexuality; whether we’re neurodiverse or neurotypical. with or without a visible or invisible disability.
As boys and men we are socialised to not be emotional, to suppress our feelings. The only acceptable ‘bad’* feelings for men are anger in all its forms, which in our society are celebrated in popular culture as masculine. Girls and women are socialised to be the emotional ones. We are often — make that usually — not encouraged or allowed by our parents and wider society to experience and express feelings such as sadness and fear (as evidenced in the classic message that ‘boys don’t cry’). Both men, women and our peers do this to boys. We learn young. They do so through shaming us — the primary way in which we as boys and men are socialised. If we experience shame we usually isolate ourselves, relationally, emotionally. That isolation perpetuates shame in a vicious cycle.
Maybe our anger was dismissed or met with an adult’s anger when we were growing up. Yet anger is such an important emotion — it’s telling us something isn’t right for us and it can help us maintain our boundaries with others. If we suppress our anger we compromise ourselves in fundamental ways.
If we suppress such ‘negative’* feelings they don’t go away, they go underground, stay within us. We can end up suppressing all feelings. Unexpressed sadness and fear can stop us living full lives, keeping us stuck, becoming part of our identity, impacting our physical and mental health. Likewise, unexpressed anger can become the symptoms, the experiences that we call anxiety and depression, again affecting both our physical and mental health. Dealing with our historic, unexpressed anger is vital, so that it doesn’t keep resurfacing in us in our daily lives and relationships. Finding ways to express our current anger in ways which don’t harm ourselves and others is imperative if we are to live satisfying, healthy lives.
By joining a men’s therapy group you can find a place to explore who you are and to express and celebrate yourself with other men in an environment where your emotional self, your feelings, are welcome. Share who you are, what you’ve experienced and what you’re experiencing in the moment. Develop your awareness. Discover the impact you have on yourself in how you function. Talk about your identity, your relationship with yourself, your place in the world, and your relationship with others. Get clearer about your priorities in life and your direction. Figure out how you can live the life you want, rather than one that’s about pleasing others.
A men’s therapy group can be a cost-effective way of participating in therapy. Learn from doing your own work (intrapersonal work), by witnessing and engaging with others doing theirs, and by exploring and working through what comes up for you in the group as you relate to the other men present (interpersonal work). Identify and end familiar, redundant patterns and attitudes that no longer serve you; and practise new ones that are right for you now. Join the dots between your past, present and future selves.
Consider joining an ongoing men’s therapy group such as Meeting Ourselves, comprising up to eight men plus me as facilitator. In this space you can engage with yourself, and build relationships with other men on a regular basis, going deeper over time. By engaging with yourself and others in the group you can learn more about yourself and how you function, and become the man you are, rather than the man you think you should be. Fully, wonderfully human.
* I don’t split feelings into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘negative’ and ‘positive’. I welcome them all as they’re information that we can pay attention to. The important thing to distinguish is between feelings and behaviour — how we behave when we have our feelings. For example, anger has a bad reputation because of how people behave when they’re angry.