How do I work with men?
It started by being very curious. I am curious about men. I’ve three adult sons and I’ve had three previous marriages that have been rather dysfunctional. Now I find myself in a relationship with great guy who communicates with me!
When I began a weekend workshop with him that was just for guys, I have to admit I was a little nervous. One of the main feelings I had been that they may not want to take me seriously. Where did that come from I wondered?
One reality I know is that I often have a goal in my work to really draw something out of people. Some times that can make me a bit confrontational and maybe the men in my life have disliked that in me. But I can be a bit like a ‘dog with a bone’ I wont give up until I have it. The ‘it’ for me is the gold, the gold that I see as the emergence of the soul from behind any mask or pretense of being something that the person is not. Of course we all have a pretender, it is one of the ways we grow. As children we pretended to be and imitated our peers and elders in order to discover ourselves. But when this pretense is burying our emotions, then we can start to wear a mask that does not fit so well.
You could question as to if I have been very masked myself? I do not doubt for one minute that I have been and have been blind to it in many different ways, there are still some parts ready to unfold and show themselves. It is only in the taking risks and stepping closer to that cliff edge that will make me find them. Maybe by knowing some of it and exploring it, I have come to recognize what it is and some of the energy it takes to keep it in place. That energy can be exhausting, as the psyche holds on to the very thing that blocks me from speaking out, from finding its true form and freedom. When I witness that energy in myself and others, it reminds me where I have spent some of my time and what I needed myself to see beyond and let go of.
So my own nervousness could possibly lie with wondering if I can get away with trying to look deeper beneath those masks in what could potentially be some scary characters. Maybe Im afraid of seeing myself! It does not mean I don’t want to. What do I know?
But back to working with the guys and what I have been learning from them. I witness in our work that when I give some guidance in an exercise, the men will respond in ways, that after working with women, I do not expect. I can be taken aback by this, not always sure where to go next, but if I follow what ever happens and allow it to simply unfold, then it shows me so much more than if I tried to control it and bring it back to the feminine dance that I am familiar with. Being more literal is a key here, women will interpret what I am saying and form their own dance from it, whereas men will take it literally as I say it and do just that. I love the humor that goes with all of this.
And then we work with trust. I know that in order for me to really trust a man I need him to be very real and honest with me. This is in my relationship as well as work and friendships. If I detect any game playing then I am suspicious. I don’t want to run away from this, I want to discover what is underneath it. As a woman in male company I can sometimes forget that men operate very differently to women, I can find it difficult to understand the ways in which men open up, they have less emotional vocabulary and expression than women, making them harder to read. I know where I stand with women but not always so with men. It is a journey I wish to learn more about.
But in doing that, I have to understand those differences and that ‘other’ language. I believe that this is what I need to learn before I work on deeper levels with men. I have learned the hard way, what it is to open up a man’s anger, particularly his anger towards the feminine. I have learned the hard way that if he is not ready to show it to me then it can have rather disastrous effects if I prod and poke him too much. Yet to really see a mans anger, rather than have it hidden from me is a huge relief. I don’t want to feel his anger directed at me but I do want to see it, I want to know it, because once I know it, then I know him at one of his raw primal levels, I know what he will do if I demand more from him. I cannot always know it at its absolute fullness but once I know he is willing to share some of that with me, then I know he is not afraid of shocking me or making me run for the hills.
Once I know some of this anger then I believe that the primal fear he carries will begin to have its voice, it is in that moment I find we relax more and communicate from a more balanced place between us. The soul begins to emerge and the connection we find, not just between the two of us but within the whole group and the space around us softens and energy flows more easily.
The guys who express very little or the passive aggressor, for want of a better way to describe who I mean here, tend to make me feel very uncomfortable, often I want to strip bare the polite, anxious to please, weakened smile in order to be told the truth about how he really feels. He may cut me to the core and draw tears, but I am better off knowing his truth than finding out later it was all just a con! I find myself wanting to draw on my Kali of the night, the bringer of death to trample that being until it cannot bare its own ‘niceness’ and reveals to me those fangs, those claws and that stale breath that rids this body of putrid past stories. I doubt I will ever trust the ‘nice guy’ who cannot be real with me in every moment. I will search his cupboards and drawers, I will look under his bed, into his pockets and behind his curtains for some glimpse of a cobweb, a dirty sock, a book of lies and filth that rocks my bones and shakes my heart. But any one who wears that mask of niceness or glosses over his passive sword, is going to pull out my suspicion and lack of trust.
Sometimes I think that that is what some men think we women want and need. It’s a mistake and can lead to all kinds of trouble. Women are naturally very curious, they want to know everything. Tell me if I am wrong girls, is it just me? But how many of us are rooters, snuffling in the grime looking and searching for those bones of intentions, those smells of something not being quite right. Seeking out the treasure boxes of hidden jewels, the collections in the cupboards and the piles of documents and stories called life.
Even in the searching we know there is a possibility that we will find something and it may hurt us, but on we look daring ourselves even more to take that risk, for the wild woman in us is a risk taker and hunter and gatherer of the truth. Even if that same truth will cut us to the core, we still want to know it and then only then if we find nothing can we rest in the knowledge of trust, forgiveness and gratitude for simply being who we are.
Every building I know needs good foundations and those foundations are built in mud and on rock. They are buried in the dark and murky places. I do not need to know all they are made of but I do need to know they are there. I also need to know that he knows they are there, that they are strong and that they are the foundations of his own work. Once I know this, then I know that we can begin to explore what has grown up from these foundations.
So when I work with men particularly, I want to begin at this base line, these foundations. With women we may work in many different directions all at once, circling around drawing on many life experiences and following threads of our lives here there and everywhere. Energy spiraling, but always coming back to core issues. The male issues begin at the foundation and rise to find its peak, softening again as he reaches that climax and allowing some vulnerability seep through. I cannot work with men in the way I work with women and vice versa. We are different. So even writing this I am realizing, how do I even begin to explain what it is I do. Does it all come back to sex?
At a primal level it does. At a more sophisticated level it is an energetic journey that involves connections to hormones and cellular structures, verbalizing through reactions and bodily sensations.
When those sensations are mirrored in my own body and heart and I begin to resonate with some of what I am connecting too, then I can begin to understand what I am working with and how best to further the experience. At the end of that day it is not so much what has been said but the vibrancy between us that can speak a multitude of languages, exploring many terrains and landscapes.
But my journey continues, working with men and with women. As I work with women with a little more ease, I need to remember those masculine souls I am addressing too and remember the difference in our languages. I need to reach to the souls of each. If I do not make that one of my missions then I will only attract those men who have lost the masculine fire in their bellies and have stepped into the feminine space for safety and belonging. I want to meet all these different men and share what medicine I have that they may find useful and helpful. What do they need to know about femininity, what would serve them on their own journeys?
When we bring out the camera, I realize there is a safety net, we can delve and prod and poke and search for the truth because there is a witness, a powerful witnessing tool. Extreme care needs to be taken with this, it is not for fun we do this exercise, my own intentions have to be acknowledged, my going for gold and the magic of the moment is my need as much as what they are looking for themselves. But can they then trust me. If I do not let them know this then I wear a mask too. I sit in the safety of the camera, the witness and unknown to them I satisfy my own curiosity and fascination.
So I unashamed admit, I am searching and looking for the authentic male, the one who shines beneath his masks, the soul in his heart and glint of spirit in his eye. The truth that he is prepared to show up with and the beautiful free dancing graceful being that shows every part of himself both with passion, fire, integrity and grit. And as Steiner said “show me the boy at 7 years old and I will show you the man” I want to see that young vulnerability and that magic. At 7 it is the time we women need to let go of our sons, send them off with their fathers into the world. At this magic moment we say good-bye we witness their fears but must step back and hold that boyhood energy no more. A lot depends on the father, is he even there? How do we let go of our boys if he is not?
But if we have done our work well then we will witness clearly their ability to be vulnerable to this passage way. Send them naked to the world without a shield and sword and let their hearts and souls be that protective energy, let nature engulf them and swallow them into its abundance, let them be cleansed in the oceans of time and the wind lift their wings above mundanity and suffering. Let the fire challenge them to expand their muscles and psyche. Then when they meet us women as lovers we will know they no longer need the mother’s breast, they left it long ago but that they are ready to speak us the truth about who they are and what they ‘really’ need from us.
And when those endless voices of women saying “where are the men” in workshops and therapy sessions that I hear continually, we can turn around and say, we left that part of them years ago, they have no need to be here, but we know that they are still doing their own work, they just do not need to do it in the same way that we do, because we speak different languages. Yet our souls meet on the dance floor through movement and expression, here we can understand each other intimately and truthfully.