One of the accepted realities about men is that they don’t “do” feelings, reject intimacy, and are not romantic. Based upon my work with thousands of highly accomplished men of all ages, the “reality” is a myth. The myth has become the appearance of reality, for sure, to the point that men have copied external appearances for generations, while living in denial about how they are really created and who they actually are—to the detriment of family, friends and society.
Generations ago, Thoreau wrote accurately that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation” (Walden, 1854). Resignation is a form of giving up, turning in one’s resignation, so to speak, to one’s own struggle of heart. This resignation leads to unnecessary loneliness, isolation of heart, and eventually a sense of apathy. Resignation is a signal of a man’s desperation for the very things he is made to experience and which brings him fulfillment—to the benefit of family, friends and society.
For over 30 years I have worked in the field of addiction and all its symptoms with men who have done much, have the potential to do much, or have come to the end of their careers of doing much. They have attempted to earn their belonging and mattering with achievement. They have become sick with resignation, and in their desperation to keep up the appearance of the myth for the sake of acceptance, are suffering from the very myth that keeps them alone. They have attempted to work for their sense of worth, while squelching their hearts, pushing the fuel of intimacy away from their inborn craving for connection, and running from how heroic or romantic they actually are.
When we introduce men to the realties of how they are created, as emotional and spiritual creatures, created to live fully through relationship with their own hearts, others’ hearts and the heart of God, they usually scoff at first. Or if they are desperate enough, quickly recognize the truths of their own hearts, and often tearfully or angrily ask, “Where has this stuff been my whole life?”
By focusing on one thing, I have seen men reawaken and get moving into the rest of their lives. The one thing is, “What do you feel?” The answer begins the journey of returning to the places of lost connections—“doing” feelings. It begins the journey of telling the truth to others about their internal experience. They find that quite the contrary of being confirmed as “strange,” that other men dare to identify how like each other they are, and how alone they have been. They discover themselves in relationship that connects them to the strength of being known from the inside out, and the power of team and its mission—male intimacy. They also discover how much they wish to be known as caring and passionate, chosen and valued for how much they care and how much they are willing to give all to the ones they love—male romance.
I have seen men reconnect with their own hearts and the dreams they once had about life. I have seen men grieve to the depths about the remorse of lost relationships, and the mistakes they have made. I have seen them celebrate change and joyfully celebrate each other. I have also seen them come back to the romance of life, to the possibility of living the valued life of giving to others joyfully because of the heart’s delight in the delight of others—wives, children, friends, society. I have seen them step back into greatly daring to go against the myth and live the freedom of full participation in the great arena of ideals worth suffering for.
Men who break from the myth find that they are feeling, relational, romantic creatures set free to be who they always were.